James Mawdsley - The Iron Road

I only made it through less than 2 dozen pages of The Iron Road before I realized I could go no further. The author's attitude was too abrasive, cocky, and juvenile for my continued interest. Who knows? Maybe the rest of the book is great. I couldn't stomach any more. I needed a different author, different story, or, preferably, both.

from the publisher:

"The blindfold smelt of petrol, which immediately saps your resolve. It was no longer a question of a dreamer wondering: Could I hold out under torture? Now there was a stark choice: Shall I tell them my name or risk having my face burnt off?"

"How does torture work? It is not all brutality and pain. Half the task of a torturer is to make you feel irrational for holding out. And sure enough, when you are thoroughly exhausted and desperate for food or sleep, it is hard to think clearly." -- from The Iron Road

Twent-nine-year-old James Mawdsley spent much of the past five years in grim Burmese prisons. The Iron Road is his story, and the story of the regime that jailed him the way it jails, tortures, and kills hundreds of Burmese each day.

Mawdsley was working in New Zealand when he learned about the struggle of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Nobel laureate being kept under house arrest. Outraged, he went to Burma, staged a one-man protest, and was jailed.

There his own amazing story begins. He is tortured, interrogated, released, jailed again. He turns his incarceration into a contest of wits -- going on a hunger strike, toasting the year 2000 with a cigar and "prison champagne," requesting "1 packet of freedom, 1 bunch of human rights, and 2 bottles of democracy." At the same time, he asks himself: What leads those of us in peaceful democracies to ignore others' suffering just because it is happening "over there," to "them"?

James Mawdsley is a hero in a generation said to lack heroism. The Iron Road -- named for a torture in which skin is scraped from bone with a piece of iron -- is an urgent call for an end to human rights abuses in Burma and a keen analysis of the totalitarian mindset. And it is the story, at once moving and terrifying, of how one person can further the cause of justice through sheer will and determination.

James Mawdsley, born in England in 1973, left university in 1993 to work and travel. he lives in London, and plans to enter British politics.