The Lizard Cage

The Lizard Cage

Book - 2007
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Set during Burma's military dictatorship of the mid--1990s, Karen Connelly's exquisitely written and harshly realistic debut novel is a hymn to human resilience and love.

In the sealed-off world of a vast Burmese prison known as the cage, Teza languishes in solitary confinement seven years into a twenty-year sentence. Arrested in 1988 for his involvement in mass protests, he is the nation's most celebrated songwriter whose resonant words and powerful voice pose an ongoing threat to the state. Forced to catch lizards to supplement his meager rations, Teza finds emotional and spiritual sustenance through memories and Buddhist meditation. The tiniest creatures and things-a burrowing ant, a copper-coloured spider, a fragment of newspaper within a cheroot filter-help to connect him to life beyond the prison walls.

Even in isolation, Teza has a profound influence on the people around him. His integrity and humour inspire Chit Naing, the senior jailer, to find the courage to follow his conscience despite the serious risks involved, while Teza's very existence challenges the brutal authority of the junior jailer, perversely nicknamed Handsome. Sein Yun, a gem smuggler and prison fixer, is his most steady human contact, who finds delight in taking advantage of Teza by cleverly tempting him into Handsome's web with the most dangerous contraband of all: pen and paper.

Lastly, there's Little Brother, an orphan raised in the jail, imprisoned by his own deprivation. Making his home in a tiny, corrugated-metal shack, Little Brother stays alive by killing rats and selling them to the inmates. As the political prisoner and the young boy forge a cautious friendship, we learn that both are prisoners of different orders; only one of them dreams of escape and only one of them achieves it.

Barely able to speak, losing the battle of the flesh but winning the battle of the spirit, Teza knows he has the power to transfigure one small life, and to send a message of hope and resistance out of the cage.

Shortlisted for both the Kiriyama Prize for Fiction and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, The Lizard Cage has received rave reviews nationally and internationally.
Publisher: Toronto : Vintage Canada, 2007, c2005.
ISBN: 9780679313281
Characteristics: 430 p. ;,21 cm.


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WVMLStaffPicks Feb 01, 2015

Teza, a young Burmese man, has been sentenced to 20 years in solitary confinement for writing protest songs against the military regime. Set almost entirely within the prison, this is a vivid, often poetic, recreation of a community full of contradictions. It is a community where passionate life-affirming ideals co-exist with brutality, deprivation and cruelty. Teza develops a strong relationship with a young orphan boy who also lives within the prison walls. Riveting, sad, and disturbing, but ultimately a hopeful read.

Jul 30, 2014

If you like a book that leaves an impression on you then you must absolutley read this book. Very touching and informative story. I really loved this one.

Oct 07, 2013

Karen Connelly won the Govenor General's Award for Non-Fiction in 1993 for Touch the Dragon. The Lizard Cage a 2005 novel is a book to read if you are a person who would like to know more about Burma or Buddhism should read.

Here is a pretty good summary of the story:

My favourite quote " ..the power beyond the body is the spirit. "

May 20, 2013

This is a very soulful story. It is about a political prisoner in Burma by the name of Teza. The story deals a lot with the horrors of life in the prison but the real story is the effect that Teza's presence has on several different characters in the book. The author makes quite a political statement about the state of affairs in Burma, but was able to wrap it all up in a sensitive and touching story line. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this beautiful book and highly recommend it. Guaranteed to touch your heart.

Jul 27, 2012

Everyone should read this book.

Feb 26, 2012

This story was excellent. Moving and agonizing. I highly recommend this book.

Goober1950 Jun 25, 2011

Best one yet! One to own!


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Oct 07, 2013

I think this is a pretty good summary available at the Good Reads site:


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Oct 07, 2013

" ..the power beyond the body is the spirit. "

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