Published in the USA in 1934 and the UK in 1935, Burmese Days was George Orwell’s first novel. An examination of the debasing effect of empire on occupied and occupier, the novel follows John Flory, a timber-merchant in 1920s Burma (where Orwell himself served as an imperial policeman). Disillusioned by imperial life at the European Club, hope apparently arrives in the female form of Elizabeth Lackersteen. Meanwhile, the magistrate U Ko Phin sets out to smear Dr Veraswami, Flory’s best friend.
As a magistrate his methods were simple. Even for the vastest bribe he would never sell the decision of a case, because he knew that a magistrate who gives wrong judgements is caught sooner or later. His practice, a much safer one, was to take bribes from both sides and then decide the case on strictly legal grounds. This won him a useful reputation for impartiality.