Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Travel Southeast

Under the Dragon

A Journey Through Burma

by (author) Rory MacLean

Bloomsbury USA
Initial publish date
Sep 2008
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2008
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


The memory of a brief visit to Burma had haunted Rory MacLean for years. A decade after the violent suppression of an unarmed national uprising, which cost thousands of lives and all hopes for democracy, he seized the chance to return. Travelling from Rangoon to Mandalay and Pagan, into the heart of the Golden Triangle, he hears stories of freedom fighters, government censors, basket weavers, farmers and lovers -- ordinary people struggling to survive under one of the most brutal and repressive regimes in the world.Under the Dragon is a perceptive and heartbreaking portrayal of contemporary Burma, a country that is shot through with desperation and fear, but also blessed – even in the darkest places -- with beauty and courage.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Rory MacLean's books, including best-sellersStalin's Nose andUnder the Dragon, have challenged and invigorated travel writing, and -- according to the late John Fowles -- are among works that 'marvellously explain why literature still lives'. He has won the Yorkshire Post Best First Work prize and an Arts Council Writers' Award, was twice shortlisted for the Thomas Cook/Daily Telegraph Travel Book Prize and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a regular contributor to BBC Radio 3 and 4.Born and educated in Canada, he lives with his family in Dorset.

Editorial Reviews

“A work of great political commitment, powered above all by the authors’ outrage at the injustices, brutalisation and mass violation of human rights that he witnessed in Burma. Yet for all its pain,Under the Dragonis a beautiful book. It remains his masterpiece; and in the light of the continuing tragedy in Burma is now more relevant than ever.” --William Dalrymple

“I cannot imagine a better book on the beauty and terror of Burma. Rory Maclean is more than a gifted writer. He is a man whose artistry is underpinned by a powerful moral sensibility. Read it. Read it. Read it.”--Fergal Keane,writer and broadcaster

“Exceptional insight and sensitivity, beautifully crafted and poignant… Maclean is a maverick among travel writers, his talent is multifaceted… Until the Burmese are free to determine their own lives then the pages of this wonderful book are as close as I will be getting to Burma.”--Sunday Times (UK)

“Shines with an almost unbearable poignancy...a beautiful insight into this unhappy land…a book which marvellously extends the conventional confines of travel writing.”--The Times (UK)

“It will make you cry and it will give you hope. It travels through modern decayed Rangoon, into the hills with warlords of their tribes, to the heart of government at its most sinister, and to the place where the best books go - inside you. It is astonishingly good.”-- Jeanette Winterson, author and journalist

“A triumphant exploration of a country brutalised by dictatorship.”--Independent

“I couldn’t put it down. It made me cry.”Guardian

“After readingUnder the Dragon, one can never again see Burma’s masses as faceless hordes. Maclean shows Burma to be a country of repression and fear, but also one of great individual kindness and passion.”--Independent on Sunday

“This is an important book, and an essential book.”--New Internationalist magazine


 “Maclean takes the reader to the root of the problems of the country. [He] shows rather than tells his reader what it is like to live in Burma. He does it with humour and honesty. He expresses his feelings of a cowed and crushed people who can’t find words to express their sufferings.”-- Pascal Khoo-Thwe, Spectator


 “Easily the travel book of the year…” – Wanderlust travel magazine


“Such an extraordinary book… a stunner.”-- Charles Foran, Far Eastern Economic Review


 “This is a timely, fluent, passionate book about Burma which ought to be read by all who value the right of a courageous people to their freedom.”-- John Pilger, journalist


“A slim, beautifully written travel book.”-- Newman Noggs, Daily Telegraph


“Maclean gives an extraordinary sense of individual hopelessness and radical disorientation under a system of organised absurdity mixed with terror that is contemporary Burma.”-- John Casey, Evening Standard



“More than a travel book, this is an impassioned plea on behalf of a tragic nation… Beautifully written, with a powerful sense of involvement.”-- Sunday Express


“A sensitive portrayal of a people who must soon be allowed to emerge from the brutal and senseless repression of decades. It should be widely read.”-- Michael Tillotson, Country Life


“Immensely impressive.”-- John Boorman, Magill magazine

Other titles by Rory MacLean

Related lists