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George Orwell's collected nonfiction, written in the clear-eyed and uncompromising style that earned him a critical following One of the most thought-provoking and vivid essayists of the twentieth century, George Orwell fought the injustices of his time with singular vigor through pen and paper. In this selection of essays, he ranges from reflections on his boyhood schooli George Orwell's collected nonfiction, written in the clear-eyed and uncompromising style that earned him a critical following One of the most thought-provoking and vivid essayists of the twentieth century, George Orwell fought the injustices of his time with singular vigor through pen and paper. In this selection of essays, he ranges from reflections on his boyhood schooling and the profession of writing to his views on the Spanish Civil War and British imperialism. The pieces collected here include the relatively unfamiliar and the more celebrated, making it an ideal compilation for both new and dedicated readers of Orwell's work.


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George Orwell's collected nonfiction, written in the clear-eyed and uncompromising style that earned him a critical following One of the most thought-provoking and vivid essayists of the twentieth century, George Orwell fought the injustices of his time with singular vigor through pen and paper. In this selection of essays, he ranges from reflections on his boyhood schooli George Orwell's collected nonfiction, written in the clear-eyed and uncompromising style that earned him a critical following One of the most thought-provoking and vivid essayists of the twentieth century, George Orwell fought the injustices of his time with singular vigor through pen and paper. In this selection of essays, he ranges from reflections on his boyhood schooling and the profession of writing to his views on the Spanish Civil War and British imperialism. The pieces collected here include the relatively unfamiliar and the more celebrated, making it an ideal compilation for both new and dedicated readers of Orwell's work.

30 review for A Collection of Essays

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Update - this just like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get next. As the dark war-torn year of 1940 begins, what does Orwell begin the year with? Why, a 50 page dissection of the work of Charles Dickens... and expressed with such breathtaking authority too : in spite of his generosity of mind, he is not free from the special prejudices of the shabby-genteel. It is usual to claim him as a "popular" writer, a champion of the "oppressed masses"... but there are Update - this just like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get next. As the dark war-torn year of 1940 begins, what does Orwell begin the year with? Why, a 50 page dissection of the work of Charles Dickens... and expressed with such breathtaking authority too : in spite of his generosity of mind, he is not free from the special prejudices of the shabby-genteel. It is usual to claim him as a "popular" writer, a champion of the "oppressed masses"... but there are two things that condition his attitude. In the first place, he is a south-of-England man, a Cockney at that, and therefore out of touch with the bulk of the real oppressed masses, the industrial and agricultural labourers. It is interesting to see how Chesterton, another Cockney, always presents Dickens as a spokesman of "the poor", without showing much awareness of who "the poor" really are. To Chesterton, "the poor" means small shopkeepers and servants. ... The other point is that Dickens's early experiences have given him a horror of proletarian roughness... ********************** I never read Orwell! Ok, Animal Farm back in school. That’s all. And he must be one of the most banged-on-about authors in the history of the written word. So it really became incumbent upon one to give him a go. I wasn’t looking forward that much. Wasn’t he just going to be spouting the received centre-left opinion of his day and waxing on about Spain and The Beano and Greta Garbo and the lost ha’penny sherbet dib-dabs of 1938? Anyway I browbeat myself into giving him a go so I got this big beast, the almost complete non-fiction. 1369 pages. The complete edition includes all known laundry and shopping lists. Well, I was wrong. Now I get it. And now I’m a fan. He’s so easy to read, and so interesting. He becomes your very slightly know-it-all friend. It will take me a couple of years to chew through this substantial volume but it’s so full of stuff right from the first page that I thought it deserved to be reviewed section by section, starting with the first which is catchily named “1928-37”. * The first of several surprising ideas was in essay number one – that in 1928 there were such things as almost-free newspapers. They cost a farthing then, which was a quarter of a penny. The loss they incurred was made up entirely by advertising. So, the same economic model as the online versions of every newspaper now (except those behind a paywall). And of course there are many actual free actual newspapers around. Well, I thought this was a recent-ish phenomenon, just a little bit older than the internet itself. How wrong I was. Number two – holy crap! In an essay called “Clink” (August 1932) he’s using the f AND the c words to demonstrate the kind of language used by the common criminals of England. Was this essay ever published? Surely not. But it’s a good one… so I’m confused. Number three – “Bookshop Memories” – ha, remember that popular thing Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops? This is the 1936 version. People were saying pretty much the same things then. In those days some bookshops also ran lending libraries, and here Orwell turns his spotlight on another interesting question : In a lending library you see people’s real tastes, not their pretended ones, and the one thing that strikes you is how completely the “classical” English novelists have dropped out of favour. It is simply useless to put Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austen, Trollope, etc, into the ordinary lending library; nobody takes them out… Yet it is always fairly easy to sell Dickens I would say the same thing now, of course – no one reads anything from say before 1950… oh, EXCEPT Jane Austen! Number four – in a review of a forgotten prison memoir called Walls Have Mouths Orwell reveals the ubiquity of homosexual activity up to and including male rape in a paragraph which must have stunned his readers – we were still getting used to this kind of reality in the work of James Gilligan and in movies like American History X . But hear Orwell : In a convict prison homosexuality is so general that even the jailors are infected by it, and there are actual cases of jailors and convicts competing for the favours of the same nancy-boy Well, we may dislike the homophobic terms Orwell uses but still, again, I was amazed at this subject being given any attention in public in 1936. Number five – reading one of his acknowledged hits “Shooting an Elephant”, and finding out that it was Orwell who shot the elephant! (“I did not want to shoot the elephant”). This was when he was a colonial police officer in Burma. He had a chequered career. Onward to part two.

  2. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Numerous inadequate volumes of Orwell’s superlative essays are available from legit presses and bootleggers, bundled together under thematic pretences or skinnied down to the longer more ‘essential’ writings. This monolithic hardback includes the famous and forever pleasurable classics ‘Shooting an Elephant’ (best thing written on Burma ever), ‘Charles Dickens’ (best criticism of Dickens ever), ‘Bookshop Memories’ (best thing written on bookshops ever), and so on. Included here are the ‘As I Ple Numerous inadequate volumes of Orwell’s superlative essays are available from legit presses and bootleggers, bundled together under thematic pretences or skinnied down to the longer more ‘essential’ writings. This monolithic hardback includes the famous and forever pleasurable classics ‘Shooting an Elephant’ (best thing written on Burma ever), ‘Charles Dickens’ (best criticism of Dickens ever), ‘Bookshop Memories’ (best thing written on bookshops ever), and so on. Included here are the ‘As I Please’ columns (all 80), presenting the more relaxed and conversational side of George, along with the magnificent book reviews (George’s fondness for Henry Miller and Joyce on show). The longer essays include, to name some more, ‘Such, Such Were the Joys’ (perhaps the finest encapsulation of Orwell’s politics and outlook), ‘Books v. Cigarettes’ (the greatest guilt-trip about not buying books ever), ‘Politics and the English Language’ (the finest handbook for journalists ever). And so on. No bookshelf is complete without a volume of these essays. (Preferably this one).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    You would think that essays about politics and culture written in the 1940s might feel dated. But Orwell brings a clear immediacy to his writing. A few of these essays are brilliant. All are relevant.

  4. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    The best collection of essays that I’ve read so far. 14 well-written essays by Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950) also known as George Orwell. It covers a wide range of topics from his childhood, Spanish Civil War, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Jewish religion, politics, etc to his shooting of an elephant while serving as a police in Burma. Perfectly-written in his trademark direct, clear and taut writing the style that I first encountered in his political satirical sci-fi 1984 and The best collection of essays that I’ve read so far. 14 well-written essays by Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950) also known as George Orwell. It covers a wide range of topics from his childhood, Spanish Civil War, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Jewish religion, politics, etc to his shooting of an elephant while serving as a police in Burma. Perfectly-written in his trademark direct, clear and taut writing the style that I first encountered in his political satirical sci-fi 1984 and political fable Animal Farm.The only difference is that these are non-fiction. The essays made me understand what kind of a man George Orwell was: a lover of equality, justice and free will. Such, Such Were the Joys 5 stars - Amazing! A very moving memoir of Orwell’s stay at Crossgates, a school for the rich students in England. He only afforded to go to that school because he was a bright boy. The school kept him because he had a good chance of passing entrance exams in the prestigious universities later and that would help maintaining the image of the school. The one part that I found so sad was that the little George did not have a cake year after year during his stay at that school because his parents could not afford it and this was just one of the ways for a poor but bright pupil could be discriminated. This boyhood memoir is better than Roald Dahl’s Boy: A Story of Childhood as this is more inspiring and meatier. Charles Dickens 5 stars -Amazing! David Copperfield and A Tale of the Two Cities are my two novels that I first read when I was in a fresh college graduate in the mid-80s. That’s why they will always be among my favorite classic works. In this essay, Orwell analyzes the works of Dickens in a way that is very easy to understand and will help you appreciate Dickens as a writer. Orwell said that Dickens is a moralist: he wanted to correct the wrongs that are perpetuated by either those in power or those who were rich in England during his time. However, there are a couple of his works that do not belong to this so-called social propagandist drama and they are A Tale of the Two Cities and Hard Times. All the works, including David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, Martin Chuzzlewit and Our Mutual Friend follow a certain formula and fall into the same morality theme. Orwell just made me want to line up next all the other books by Dickens that are in my to-be-read (tbr) file. The Art of Donald McGill 3 stars- I liked it! Donald McGill (1875-1962) was a cartoonist whose comic strips were very popular in England during Orwell’s time. Prior to this, I did not know that Britons would love daily comic strips in a way that I and my friends used to read Baltic and Co. on the dailies when we were growing up. Orwell examined the comic strips over the years and wrote a detailed analysis of its main theme and McGill’s outlook on marriage, sex, gender equality and drunkenness. He did not say that he was McGill’s fan but he would not be able to write his conclusion of this long-running comic strip had he not been a fan. Orwell, a comic strip’s fan?! Rudyard Kipling 4 stars - I really liked it! Orwell gave his view on T. S. Eliot’s defense of Kipling being branded as a “Fascist.” This label seemed to be triggered by Kipling’s written article regarding a white British soldier beating a “nigger” (yes, during that time this “n” word was still printable). Orwell tends to disagree with Eliot by saying that ”there is a definite strain of sadism in him, over and above the brutality which a write of that type has to have. Kipling is a jingo imperialist, he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting.” Juicy, rght? Considering that they were both Englishmen and highly esteemed classic novelists. However, the essay is not all negative about Kipling in Orwell’s point of view. He says that Kipling was the only English write of their time who has added phrases to the language and they all became popular like: East is East and West is West; The white man’s burden; What do they know of England who only England know?; The female of the species is more deadly than the male; Somewhere East of Suez; and Paying the Dane-geld. Raffles and Miss Blandish 4 stars - I really liked it! Detailed comparison between a 501-mystery book, No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939) by James Hadley Chase and the book that Orwell said to be the book that inspired it, Raffles. I have been looking for a copy of this Miss Blandish book. What Orwell basically gave the plot of the story (about a girl who was raped for a long period of time and she fell in love with her rapist) but I did not take it as a spoiler. Rather, he made me want to order the book via Amazon so I can read it right away. Well, maybe in my next Amazon horde! Shooting the Elephant 5 stars - Amazing! Very short yet I guess this is the best essay in the book. It talks about Orwell’s stay in Burma as a policeman. He hated his job because he feels that the Burmese people do not like English people as they are the colonizers, i.e., oppressors. In this particular essay, there is a runaway elephant that has killed a native. Being a policeman, Orwell is asked to kill the elephant. I will not tell you the rest as it is too much of a spoiler. If you have no time to read the whole book, just read this while standing in the bookstore. I assure you that it will be worth the time and the pressure on your legs. You will get a glimpse – a good glimpse – of what kind of man the young Orwell was that probably drove him to write his books that are said to be anti-totalitarianism. Politics and the English Language 4 stars - I really liked it! Orwell criticizing the way school professors expressed themselves in written form. He even gave excerpts of these English professors’ formal passages. He said that the decline of the English language is brought about by the foolish thoughts of the writers. These thoughts were made possible because of the slovenliness of the English language. Hence, the situation was similar to a man drinking because he feels himself to be a failure and he becomes a complete failure because he drinks. He gamely offered these pieces of advice for writers:(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. (ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do. (iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. (iv) Never use the foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. (v) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. Reflections of Gandhi 4 stars - I really liked it! Orwell hailed Gandhi and his non-violence but he emphasized that the old man did not do anything without personal ambitions. If E. M. Forster’s Passage to India was about British hypocrisy, there were also a hint of hypocrisy in Gandhi’s stance and writings. For example, when Gandhi was asked what should be done with the Jews in Europe, Gandhi allegedly said that German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.” After the war, Gandhi justified himself: the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly. Marrakech 3 stars - I liked it! Before Hitler rose in power in 1931, Jewish jokes were common in Europe. This explained he negative Jewish references that turned me off when I read my first book by Orwell a couple of years back: Down and Out in Paris and London. Now I know better. The Jews have that distinctive look (that was also intimated by Howard Jacobson in his Booker-award winning book, The Finkler Question that was my first book read this year) but they are cunning as they are gutsy in business and fond of money-lending with interest. Well, that was according to Orwell. Looking Back on the Spanish War 3 stars - I liked it! The resistance of the working class against Franco. British, France and Russia sided with the urban trade union members while the Nazis Italy and Germany sided with Franco. However, Orwell questioned the intent of Russia in the war. This should have been an interesting essay but I found that war to have of little impact on me compared to WWII in the Pacific. All I know is that American novelists like Hemingway or Cummings volunteered during this period as ambulance drivers. This was because there was the Great Depression in the States so job was scarce. Inside the Whale5 stars - Amazing! This is about the feeling of claustrophobia that must have been similar to what the prophet Jonas felt while inside the whale. Orwell used as a springboard Henry Miller and his opus The Tropic of Cancer. Orwell praised Miller for his courage of writing something that belong to the 20’s and not in fashion. ”When Tropic of Cancer was published the Italians were marching into Abyssinia and Hitler’s concentration camps were already bulging. The international foci of the of the world were Rome, Moscow, and Berlin. It did not seem to be a moment at which a novel of outstanding value was likely to be written about American dead-beats edging drinks in the Latin Quarter (France). Of course a novelist is not obliged to write directly about contemporary history, but a novelist who simply disregards the major public events of the moment is generally either a footler or a plain idiot.” Orwell went on explaining why he found this Miller book outstanding:”When I first opened Tropic of Cancer and saw that it was full of imprintable words, my immediate reaction was a refusal to be impressed. Most people’s would be the same, I believe. Nevertheless after a lapse of time, the atmosphere of the book, besides innumerable details, seemed to linger in my memory in a peculiar way. Together with his other book, Black Spring, these two books “created a world of their own” as the saying goes. The books that do this are not necessarily good books, they maybe good bad books like Raffles or the Sherlock Holmes stories, or perverse and morbid books like Wuthering Heights or The House of the Green Shutters… Read him (Miller) for five pages, ten pages, and you feel the peculiar relief that comes not so much from understanding as from being understood. ” He knows all about me,” you feel; “he wrote this especially for me.” It is as though you could hear a voice speaking to you, a friendly American voice, with no humbug in it, no moral purpose, merely an implicit assumption that we are all alike.” England Your England 3 stars - I liked it! An essay that he wrote while Nazi airplanes were flying on the British skies dropping bombs. Contains his many complaints about Britain’s political system, its stand during the war, its alliances, its expanding middle class, etc. Boys’ Weeklies 4 stars - I really liked it! Orwell sold newspaper dailies when he was a young boy and this essay includes his analysis of the dailies during his time. I don’t know of any newspapers in Britain so I was not able to relate to this one. However, I also sold newspapers in the province when I was a young boy. Why I Write 5 stars - Amazing! From the tender age of 5 or 6, Orwell already knew that he wanted to become a writer. He was the only boy in the family of 4 that includes his mother and two sisters , older and younger. He was a lonely boy probably because he did grow up with a father and he found comfort in books: reading stories and novels and and writing poetry. At the age of 16, he read Milton’s Paradise Lost that made him realized that the beauty of the English language. He gave the following as motivations the drive writers to write: (1) Sheer egoism (2) Esthetic enthusiasm (3) Historical impulse (4) Political purpose Orwell did not say it but I think the last one was what drove him to write 1984 and Animal Farm. He wanted “to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. No book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” (p. 313). Sorry for the long review. I was just carried away by this book. I did not know that reading essays could be as exciting and enriching as reading works of fiction.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. George Orwell is one of the inescapable writers of the last century. Far from becoming irrelevant, his works seem to become more significant with each passing year (as most recently evidenced by the present administration’s strained relationship with the truth). Orwell himself said that the “final test of any work of art is survival,” and his works seem on track to pass this final test. His d What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. George Orwell is one of the inescapable writers of the last century. Far from becoming irrelevant, his works seem to become more significant with each passing year (as most recently evidenced by the present administration’s strained relationship with the truth). Orwell himself said that the “final test of any work of art is survival,” and his works seem on track to pass this final test. His dystopian novel recently became a surprise best-seller, almost seventy years after its initial publication. That is more than mere survival. And yet it isn’t for his political insights that I opened this collection of essays. It was rather—and I feel somewhat silly saying this—for his writing style. Orwell’s writing is, for me, a model of modern prose. His style can accommodate both the abstract and the concrete, the homely and the refined, the pretentious and the vulgar; his prose can satisfy both the academic and the artist, the intellectual and the layperson, the Panurge and the parish priest. It is unmistakably modern, even sleek, while obviously informed by the tastes and standards of the past. It is fiery, angry, and political, while remaining intimate, human, and honest. Something that repeatedly struck me while reading this collection was an inner conflict in Orwell’s worldview. There are two sides of the man, sometimes in harmony, and sometimes at odds: the writer and the activist. Orwell the writer is captivated by the rhythms of words, the sounds of sentences; he loves ruminating on a strange personality or a memorable story; he is enchanted by the details of daily life. Orwell the activist is outraged at injustice and uncompromising in his moral sense; he sees people as a collection of allies and enemies, taking part in a grand struggle to bring about a better society, or a worse one. Orwell himself discusses this tension in his little essay, “Why I Write.” In a more peaceful age, he thinks, he could have been an entirely aesthetic writer, perhaps a poet, not paying much attention to politics. It was his firsthand experience of imperialism, poverty, and fascism that activated his political conscience. Specifically, it was the Spanish Civil War that “tipped the scale” for him: “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.” Be that as it may, Orwell seems to have repeatedly struggled to reconcile this aim with his more humanistic side. In his brilliant essay on Dickens, for example, he spends page after page trying to analyze Dickens as a kind of social philosopher, examining Dickens's views on work, on the state, on education, and so on. Since Dickens was anything but a philosopher—as Orwell himself admits—this repeatedly leads to frustrating dead ends, and fails completely to do justice to Dickens’s work. It is only in the last section, where Orwell drops this pretense and treats Dickens as a novelist, that the essay becomes deeply insightful. Indeed, it soon becomes clear—it seems clear to me, at least—that Orwell likes Dickens for his writing, and not his activism, however much he may wish to think otherwise. Other essays exhibit this same tension. In his essay on vulgar postcard art, for example, he notes how backward is the social worldview expressed in the cards; but he is obviously quite fond of them and even ventures to defend them by likening their humor to Sancho Panza’s. His essay on boy’s magazines follows an identical pattern, exposing their conservative ideology while betraying a keen interest in, even a warm fondness for, the stories. In his appreciative essay on Rudyard Kipling’s poems, he even goes so far as to defend Kipling’s political views, at least from accusations of fascism. It is largely due to Orwell’s influence, I think, that nowadays it is uncontroversial to see the political implications in a movie cast or a Halloween costume. In all of these essays, Orwell worked to undermine the naïve distinction between politics and everyday life, showing how we absorb messages about standards, values, and ideologies from every direction. He did not merely state that “All art is propaganda,” but he tried to show it, both in his analyses and his own fiction. At least half the time, he is utterly convincing in this. (And indeed, Orwell was such a brilliant man that, even when I think he’s involved in a pointless exercise, he makes so many penetrating observations along the way— incidentally, parenthetically—that his writing fully absorbs me. ) We owe a tremendous debt to Orwell for this insight. Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking that there is something terribly limiting about this perspective. All art may be propaganda, but it is not only propaganda; it is not even primarily so. There needs to be room in criticism, as in life, for the non-political. We need to be able to enjoy a novelist because of his characters and not his views on the state, a poet for his lines rather than his opinions, a dirty joke or a trashy magazine just because we want a laugh and a break. Orwell would agree with me up to a point, I think, but would also say that every decision to be “non-political” implicitly accepts the status quo, and is therefore conservative. This may be true; but it is also true that such "non-political" things are necessary to live a full life. Where I most disagree with Orwell is his conviction that the media we consume—magazines, post cards, popular novels, television—nefariously and decisively shape our worldview. For my part, I suspect that people absorb their opinions more from their community, face-to-face, and then seek out media that corresponds with their pre-existing views: not the reverse. Media may reinforce these views and give them shape and drive, but I don’t think it generates them. All this is besides the point. I admire Orwell, for his fierce independence, for his sense of outrage and injustice, for his facility with words, for his attempt to blend art and truth. In other words, I admire both the writer and the activist, and I think his work should be read until judgment day.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah (Presto agitato)

    This is an enormous doorstop of a book, with over 1,300 pages of George Orwell’s essays. Of course that doesn’t cover everything he wrote, but it’s an awful lot. While best known for his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell was probably a better essayist than a novelist. This volume contains Orwell’s best and most famous essays, printed many places (including online), like “Such, Such Were the Joys,” “Shooting an Elephant,” and “Politics and the English Language." It also includes This is an enormous doorstop of a book, with over 1,300 pages of George Orwell’s essays. Of course that doesn’t cover everything he wrote, but it’s an awful lot. While best known for his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell was probably a better essayist than a novelist. This volume contains Orwell’s best and most famous essays, printed many places (including online), like “Such, Such Were the Joys,” “Shooting an Elephant,” and “Politics and the English Language." It also includes other thought-provoking but harder to find essays like “A Hanging,” and “Notes on Nationalism,” as well as the excellent and still very relevant preface to the first edition of Animal Farm, “The Freedom of the Press.” As you would expect, there’s plenty here of Orwell’s favorite topics, totalitarianism, fascism, communism, and imperialism, but also much about the little details of everyday life, from how to make the perfect cup of tea to his concept of an ideal pub. This collection has all 80 of the “As I Please” columns that Orwell wrote for the Tribune, a column that can be political but just as often addresses grammar and word choice, attacks clichéd writing, and bemoans the lack of technological advancement in activities such as washing dishes. Orwell wrote many book reviews as well, most of which serve more as a format for him to express his opinions than as a discussion of the books themselves. Sometimes these are on surprising but intriguing topics, such as Orwell's criticism of Tolstoy's criticism of Shakespeare. There are also some funny little gems, like a rant of a letter Orwell wrote in response to a questionnaire he was sent about the Spanish Civil War that begins, “Will you please stop sending me this bloody rubbish” and escalates from there. This book is organized chronologically, which makes sense, but unfortunately suffers from the lack of an index. Still, for those who want to go beyond the same 10-15 essays that are printed in most anthologies, this edition will provide as many Orwell essays as just about anyone could possibly want to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nick Black

    man, this book is such a great old friend. ---- Orwell is skyrocketing up my list of major 20th century writers with every one of the 255 pages I've thus far read of this 1300+ page behemoth. The man was amazingly prescient, at a deep, detailed level. This was one of the best collections of essays I've ever read, probably second only to Freeman Dyson's The Scientist as a Rebel. Across 1363 pages of essays from 1928-1949 (the vast majority of them coming from 1938-1946), written for a wide gamut of man, this book is such a great old friend. ---- Orwell is skyrocketing up my list of major 20th century writers with every one of the 255 pages I've thus far read of this 1300+ page behemoth. The man was amazingly prescient, at a deep, detailed level. This was one of the best collections of essays I've ever read, probably second only to Freeman Dyson's The Scientist as a Rebel. Across 1363 pages of essays from 1928-1949 (the vast majority of them coming from 1938-1946), written for a wide gamut of publications, Orwell manages to repeat himself only a few times (usually clearly-relished zingers) -- a fine show of editing, as each annoying bit of repetition is found within an essay that simply couldn't have been left out due to other unique, interesting points. Having read it, I feel far more conversant with the politics of the pre-war years, the Fabian Society-inspired English breed of socialism, the demise of realpolitik as Fascism's yoke was affixed, battled and finally thrown off...Orwell is one of the most intelligent, aware and just amazingly foresighted authors of the twentieth century, and this book will find itself a place near my mattress for some time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Some of these I'd come across in other Orwell books, so only read the essays I hadn't. What can I say, he was simply a great writer of non-fiction. Whatever the subject, he is always just so interesting to read. He could write about doing the washing up and it would probably be good. Some of these I'd come across in other Orwell books, so only read the essays I hadn't. What can I say, he was simply a great writer of non-fiction. Whatever the subject, he is always just so interesting to read. He could write about doing the washing up and it would probably be good.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    Given the 70+ years that have passed since the publication of most of these essays, I've weighted my evaluation of this collection toward those essays that still retain some relevance. And granted, there is some seriously anachronistic stuff here. Some real snoozers that are stuck so firmly in time and place that only the most devoted anglophiles or Orwellians would be interested ('The Art of Donald McGill', 'England Your England', 'Boys' Weeklies'). But the majority of essays are written with ter Given the 70+ years that have passed since the publication of most of these essays, I've weighted my evaluation of this collection toward those essays that still retain some relevance. And granted, there is some seriously anachronistic stuff here. Some real snoozers that are stuck so firmly in time and place that only the most devoted anglophiles or Orwellians would be interested ('The Art of Donald McGill', 'England Your England', 'Boys' Weeklies'). But the majority of essays are written with terrific clarity and foresight, carried by Orwell's power of observation and knack for capturing insight in pithy, memorable sentences. Indeed, this is probably one the most quotable books I've read in a long while. Some examples: "...you can only create if you care." "...when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom he destroys." "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity." "No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth are things a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing human beings must avoid." This command of the sentence is reminiscent of Emerson's best work. But unlike Emerson, Orwell retains full command of the essay in form and function as well. Even the most anachornistic essays in this collection are still focused and rooted in finely observed detail. For this alone, 'Marrakech' and 'Such, Such Were the Joys' are worth reading. But Orwell's sharpest and most relevant commentary can be found in the essays about the nature of political power, language, and writing ('Shooting an Elephant', 'Politics and the English Language', 'Why I Write'). In these he articulates the interplay of language and power--the way words can conceal as well as clarify. No surprise that he's thought so deeply about what would be at the heart of his masterpiece. Even the critical pieces on Dickens and Rudyard Kipling offer insights about those authors that I hadn't considered before ('Charles Dickens', in particular, is both savage and enlightening). Worth reading for the political essays alone and if you're an impatient reader, pick and choose what interests you from the rest.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    A few years ago I read a study about Bette Davis by someone or other. I cannot recall the name of the author or of the book but I remember very clearly how at the end I admired the skill of Davis as an actor more than I had before reading but admired her as an actual person a good deal less. You probably never thought that Bette Davis, drama queen and 'movie siren' would sit comfortably alongside George Orwell in a review and perhaps they don't, (though I have heard George did a mean Joan Crawfo A few years ago I read a study about Bette Davis by someone or other. I cannot recall the name of the author or of the book but I remember very clearly how at the end I admired the skill of Davis as an actor more than I had before reading but admired her as an actual person a good deal less. You probably never thought that Bette Davis, drama queen and 'movie siren' would sit comfortably alongside George Orwell in a review and perhaps they don't, (though I have heard George did a mean Joan Crawford impression), but at the end of this series of essays I think I have a similar reaction to him and his craft. The essays and articles span the last 20 years of his life and include the prose for which he is famous such as his account of taking part in the execution of a rebel in Burma and of the shooting of a rogue elephant down through his accounts of sleeping rough or his being hospitalized in a mediocre hospital in France and then on through his clarion calls for the ending of the inequality and oppression of the state, the hypocrisy and obfuscation of varying Governments' 'doublespeak' and then more lilting and amusing reflections on the power of a nice cup of tea, the draw of the bookshop and the unlikely herald of spring, the toad. The articles and essays are fascinating and are emminently quotable but I will restrain myself, to a large extent, but the most interesting aspect I found was the way you saw the plots and theories that were to dominate Orwell's fiction and more extended factual work being brought to birth as it were in these shorter reflections. His loathing of hypocrisy, his joining of battle against the forces of totalitarianism wherever they are found, his intense loathing for the lack of principled thought in so much poltical life, his hatred of the mealy mouthed use of words in which meanings and understandings are blurred and warped; all of them weere seen growing and developing. His flashes of humour and sarcastic wit can be found in the most unexpected of places and his honing in on one little detail to make his point is a regular occurrence. Speaking at one point of the patriotism present in most people in times of conflict he defends this and points it out as natural but then says (of England) 'It is a family. It has its private language and its common memories, and at the approach of an enemy it closes its ranks. A family with the wrong members in control...' that sentence captures the genius, as I see it, of Orwell. A man fighting, always fighting for justice but with a great use of prose to make his point. At another point, whilst criticizing the hypocrisy of the leftist politicians between the wars, 'It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true, that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ' God save the King' than of stealing from a poor box' or again of truth and history 'I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonnment of the idea that history could be truthfully written......the implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, 'it never happened' - well, it never happened. ' He deals with quite apposite questions for our own day, certainly here in Britain; political correctness, the freedom of the press cf The Leverson Enquiry as of today still investigating phone hacking and persecution of innocent private lives by the press, the misuse of league tables and the like in Schools and cramming just for short term exam success and not for a lifetime of educated and balanced people. This is all fascinating and intriguing but the negative aspect of Orwell lurks in the background. That he had a hard and difficult life is not to be denied, that there was much for him to become embittered about cannot be ignored and recognizing the differences of 1930 and 40's mores or outlooks then his pejorative descriptions of 'Jews ', his disgust of homosexuality and his rather dismissive outlook towards women might be understandable even if not welcomed but it is his underlying lack of respect for the 'working class' that is so off-putting. His feelings that they should have a better standard of living, and there is no doubting his sincerity concerning the need for a radical overhaul and redistribution of wealth and opportunity, does not seem to extend to his actually liking them. He speaks incredibly high-handedly of their grossness and ugliness and stupidity, of course he recognizes the individual strengths of individual examples but, as a group, he is wholly unimpressed. Maybe this is inevitable as the two sided coin of the chasm between classes in the first half of the 20th Century alongisde Orwell's own miserable persona but it makes for uncomfortable reading. On a lighter side to finish. Orwell was intelligent, clear thinking, insightful and perceptive but he still thought that by the 1970's there would only be about 13 milion people in the UK...yeah right Georgie

  11. 4 out of 5

    Pink

    I've said it before. I'll say it again. It's Orwell. It's fantastic. I actually read a free Gutenberg version of his 50 essays, but it's much the same as this edition. A few of the essays were too political and only relevant to certain past events. A few were quite boring or about very obscure subjects. Yet the vast majority were absolutely fantastic, topical, relevant for today and incredibly well constructed. Essential reading for Orwell fans. Otherwise a condensed version of his best pieces m I've said it before. I'll say it again. It's Orwell. It's fantastic. I actually read a free Gutenberg version of his 50 essays, but it's much the same as this edition. A few of the essays were too political and only relevant to certain past events. A few were quite boring or about very obscure subjects. Yet the vast majority were absolutely fantastic, topical, relevant for today and incredibly well constructed. Essential reading for Orwell fans. Otherwise a condensed version of his best pieces might be the way to go. Several of them should be required reading for school students.

  12. 5 out of 5

    William2

    Selected essays. I thought the essays here on Dickens and Kipling were revelations. About ninety percent of the essays cited by other authors that I have read are included here. I also particularly liked "Inside the Whale," a paean to Henry Miller's masterpiece, Tropic of Cancer. Selected essays. I thought the essays here on Dickens and Kipling were revelations. About ninety percent of the essays cited by other authors that I have read are included here. I also particularly liked "Inside the Whale," a paean to Henry Miller's masterpiece, Tropic of Cancer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Luís

    This work is a strange collection which brings together short stories that I appreciated, at the beginning of the book with "A hanging" and "How I Killed an Elephant", autobiographical pieces, literary reviews and political texts. I had enjoyed 1984 and The Animal Farm very much, and I wanted to continue my reading of George Orwell, but this book is not the right one, there are some exciting things, but the whole is an uneven patchwork and with parts that do not match. On the other hand, I found This work is a strange collection which brings together short stories that I appreciated, at the beginning of the book with "A hanging" and "How I Killed an Elephant", autobiographical pieces, literary reviews and political texts. I had enjoyed 1984 and The Animal Farm very much, and I wanted to continue my reading of George Orwell, but this book is not the right one, there are some exciting things, but the whole is an uneven patchwork and with parts that do not match. On the other hand, I found it very interesting to see Orwell's very anarchist and leftist views.

  14. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Having discussions lately about the topic that keeps academics in business, I guess: what is literature as opposed to other forms of fiction, I'd like to give access to this Orwell essay as a meaningful point of departure. I feel like I keep talking and arguing without any lines/definitions/meanings in place. Good bad books. Essay by George Orwell. First published 2 November 1945. Not long ago a publisher commissioned me to write an introduction for a reprint of a novel by Leonard Merrick. This pu Having discussions lately about the topic that keeps academics in business, I guess: what is literature as opposed to other forms of fiction, I'd like to give access to this Orwell essay as a meaningful point of departure. I feel like I keep talking and arguing without any lines/definitions/meanings in place. Good bad books. Essay by George Orwell. First published 2 November 1945. Not long ago a publisher commissioned me to write an introduction for a reprint of a novel by Leonard Merrick. This publishing house, it appears, is going to reissue a long series of minor and partly-forgotten novels of the twentieth century. It is a valuable service in these bookless days, and I rather envy the person whose job it will be to scout round the threepenny boxes, hunting down copies of his boyhood favourites. A type of book which we hardly seem to produce in these days, but which flowered with great richness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is what Chesterton called the "good bad book": that is, the kind of book that has no literary pretensions but which remains readable when more serious productions have perished. Obviously outstanding books in this line are RAFFLES and the Sherlock Holmes stories, which have kept their place when innumerable "problem novels", "human documents" and "terrible indictments" of this or that have fallen into deserved oblivion. (Who has worn better, Conan Doyle or Meredith?) Almost in the same class as these I, put R. Austin Freeman's earlier stories--"The Singing Bone" "The Eye of Osiris" and others--Ernest Bramah's MAX CARRADOS, and, dropping the standard a bit, Guy Boothby's Tibetan thriller, DR NIKOLA, a sort of schoolboy version of Hue's TRAVELS IN TARTARY, which would probably make a real visit to Central Asia seem a dismal anticlimax. But apart from thrillers, there were the minor humorous writers of the period. For example, Pett Ridge-but I admit his full-length books no longer seem readable--E. Nesbit (THE TREASURE SEEKERS), George Birmingham, who was good so long as he kept off politics, the pornographic Binstead ("Pitcher" of the PINK 'UN), and, if American books can be included, Booth Tarkington's Penrod stories. A cut above most of these was Barry Pain. Some of Pain's humorous writings are, I suppose, still in print, but to anyone who comes across it I recommend what must now be a very rare book--THE OCTAVE OF CLAUDIUS, a brilliant exercise in the macabre. Somewhat later in time there was Peter Blundell, who wrote in the W.W. Jacobs vein about Far Eastern seaport towns, and who seems to be rather unaccountably forgotten, in spite of having been praised in print by H.G. Wells. However, all the books I have been speaking of are frankly "escape" literature. They form pleasant patches in one's memory, quiet corners where the mind can browse at odd moments, but they hardly pretend to have anything to do with real life. There is another kind of good bad book which is more seriously intended, and which tells us, I think, something about the nature of the novel and the reasons for its present decadence. During the last fifty years there has been a whole series of writers--some of them are still writing--whom it is quite impossible to call "good" by any strictly literary standard, but who are natural novelists and who seem to attain sincerity partly because they are not inhibited by good taste. In this class I put Leonard Merrick himself, W.L. George, J.D. Beresford, Ernest Raymond, May Sinclair, and--at a lower level than the others but still essentially similar--A.S.M. Hutchinson. Most of these have been prolific writers, and their output has naturally varied in quality. I am thinking in each case of one or two outstanding books: for example, Merrick's CYNTHIA, J.D. Beresford's A CANDIDATE FOR TRUTH, W.L. George's CALIBAN, May Sinclair's THE COMBINED MAZE and Ernest Raymond's WE, THE ACCUSED. In each of these books the author has been able to identify himself with his imagined characters, to feel with them and invite sympathy on their behalf. with a kind of abandonment that cleverer people would find it difficult to achieve. They bring out the fact that intellectual refinement can be a disadvantage to a story-teller, as it would be to a music-hall comedian. Take, for example, Ernest Raymond's WE, THE ACCUSED--a peculiarly sordid and convincing murder story, probably based on the Crippen case. I think it gains a great deal from the fact that the author only partly grasps the pathetic vulgarity of the people he is writing about, and therefore does not despise them. Perhaps it even - like Theodore Dreiser's An AMERICAN TRAGEDY - gains something from the clumsy long-winded manner in which it is written; detail is piled on detail, with almost no attempt at selection, and in the process an effect of terrible, grinding cruelty is slowly built up. So also with A CANDIDATE FOR TRUTH. Here there is not the same clumsiness, but there is the same ability to take seriously the problems of commonplace people. So also with CYNTHIA and at any rate the earlier part of Caliban. The greater part of what W.L. George wrote was shoddy rubbish, but in this particular book, based on the career of Northcliffe, he achieved some memorable and truthful pictures of lower-middle-class London life. Parts of this book are probably autobiographical, and one of the advantages of good bad writers is their lack of shame in writing autobiography. Exhibitionism and self-pity are the bane of the novelist, and yet if he is too frightened of them his creative gift may suffer. The existence of good bad literature - the fact that one can be amused or excited or even moved by a book that one's intellect simply refuses to take seriously - is a reminder that art is not the same thing as cerebration. I imagine that by any test that could be devised, Carlyle would be found to be a more intelligent man than Trollope. Yet Trollope has remained readable and Carlyle has not: with all his cleverness he had not even the wit to write in plain straightforward English. In novelists, almost as much as in poets, the connection between intelligence and creative power is hard to establish. A good novelist may be a prodigy of self-discipline like Flaubert, or he may be an intellectual sprawl like Dickens. Enough talent to set up dozens of ordinary writers has been poured into Wyndham Lewis's so-called novels, such as TARR or SNOOTY BARONET. Yet it would be a very heavy labour to read one of these books right through. Some indefinable quality, a sort of literary vitamin, which exists even in a book like IF WINTER COMES, is absent from them. Perhaps the supreme example of the "good bad" book is UNCLE TOM'S CABIN. It is an unintentionally ludicrous book, full of preposterous melodramatic incidents; it is also deeply moving and essentially true; it is hard to say which quality outweighs the other. But UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, after all, is trying to be serious and to deal with the real world. How about the frankly escapist writers, the purveyors of thrills and "light" humour? How about SHERLOCK HOLMES, VICE VERSA, DRACULA, HELEN'S BABIES or KING SOLOMON'S MINES? All of these are definitely absurd books, books which one is more inclined to laugh AT than WITH, and which were hardly taken seriously even by their authors; yet they have survived, and will probably continue to do so. All one can say is that, while civilisation remains such that one needs distraction from time to time, "light" literature has its appointed place; also that there is such a thing as sheer skill, or native grace, which may have more survival value than erudition or intellectual power. There are music-hall songs which are better poems than three-quarters of the stuff that gets into the anthologies: Come where the booze is cheaper, Come where the pots hold more, Come where the boss is a bit of a sport, Come to the pub next door! Or again: Two lovely black eyes Oh, what a surprise! Only for calling another man wrong, Two lovely black eyes! I would far rather have written either of those than, say, "The Blessed Damozel" or "Love in the Valley". And by the same token I would back UNCLE TOM'S CABIN to outlive the complete works of Virginia Woolf or George Moore, though I know of no strictly literary test which would show where the superiority lies.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    4.5 Only some of these have lost their relevancy. All of them are brilliant.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    An Orwellian Feast This truly is a feast of writing from a prescient man who claimed to be an atheist yet chose to live a Christ-like existence among the downtrodden, who battled through a life of illness, yet fought and suffered the scars of Fascism and could articulate frightening visions of the dangers of Totalitarianism, images that remain our guideposts to this day. This collection of 39 essays written in the last 18 years of his life cover a diversity of subjects set in different milieu: fro An Orwellian Feast This truly is a feast of writing from a prescient man who claimed to be an atheist yet chose to live a Christ-like existence among the downtrodden, who battled through a life of illness, yet fought and suffered the scars of Fascism and could articulate frightening visions of the dangers of Totalitarianism, images that remain our guideposts to this day. This collection of 39 essays written in the last 18 years of his life cover a diversity of subjects set in different milieu: from his colonial sojourn as a policeman in Burma to his peregrinations through workhouse shelters as a tramp, from visiting mines in the impoverished north of England to spending time in a public hospital in France where more people die than recover, from working in bookshops and observing reading tastes of the time to his wartime exploits in the Spanish Civil War and WWII, and his post-war work as a journalist, Orwell exercises his incisive powers of observation and judgment that takes no prisoners. He is at times in conflict with himself when he says that his best writing is political and yet later declares that a person’s literary activities and political activities should remain separate: “When a writer engages in politics he should do so as a citizen, as a human being, but not AS A WRITER. Just as much as anyone else, he should be prepared to deliver lectures in draughty halls, to chalk pavements, to canvass voters, to distribute leaflets, even to fight in civil wars if it seems necessary. But whatever else he does in the service of his party, he should never write for it. He should make it clear that his writing is a thing apart.” He takes on the literary greats of his time, mainly in the role of a book reviewer (His essay “Confessions of a Book Reviewer” is worthy of a separate review, for it has so many gems for readers on this forum, and eerily rings true with what is happening today). Some of his prize quotes to whet your appetite: - “He (Twain) even for a period of years deserted writing for business; and he squandered his time on buffooneries.” - “He (Yeats) is a great hater of democracy, of the modern world, science, machinery, the concept of progress — above all, of the idea of human equality.” - “The most immoral of Wodehouse’s characters is Jeeves, who acts as a foil to Bertie Wooster’s comparative high-mindedness and perhaps symbolizes the widespread English belief that intelligence and unscrupulousness are much the same thing.” - “Tolstoy was capable of abjuring physical violence, but he was not capable of tolerance or humility, and even if one knew nothing of his other writings, one could deduce his tendency towards spiritual bullying.” - “Shakespeare was not a systematic thinker, his most serious thoughts are uttered irrelevantly or indirectly.” Orwell stands as a respected outsider in the literary establishment, without allegiance to anyone. His comment on the Spanish Civil War sums up his position: “Wherever there is an enforced orthodoxy — or even two orthodoxies, as often happens — good writing stops.” Indeed, no good local writing came out of that conflict, Hemingway notwithstanding. Through this collection of essays, a portrait of Orwell emerges. A frightened schoolboy sent off to public boarding school at age eight; he was humiliated in front of his peers for bedwetting and soundly thrashed until the “bad habit” was cured. He followed his father at the age of 19 into the British overseas civil service and witnessed the underbelly of colonialism, resigning his cushy job after five years in Burma. Orwell chose thereafter to mix with the downtrodden even though he could have gone home at the end of the day to a warm bed in middle-class England. He joined the Spanish Civil War to fight Fascism and Communism which he saw as existential threats to Democratic Socialism. His prescience resulted in Animal Farm and 1984, books that ensured him literary immortality. Interestingly, those two books are the least mentioned in these essays which cover a broader swath of life, history, literature and politics, and present a more comprehensive picture of the author’s breath and depth. Upon finishing this collection, I had a sudden thought. I would like to have spent time with this man, despite him dying a few years before I was born. Given our mutual colonial upbringing, and having had to spend life as outliers in the literary field, we would have had a lot to talk about, I’m sure. In particular, I would liked to have asked him, given the great literary gifts he was bestowed with, why did he choose the squalor?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sookie

    George Orwell was probably one of the most important social critique of his times. Being in the army, he traveled the world, became part of a society he was alien to and provided well thought out feedback on various issues. He was outspoken about British imperialism during his trip to India and Burma, criticized willful ignorance of liberals during Spanish war and wrote about writers, artists and their works. His body of work is vast and this one large volume doesn't cover it entirely. George Orw George Orwell was probably one of the most important social critique of his times. Being in the army, he traveled the world, became part of a society he was alien to and provided well thought out feedback on various issues. He was outspoken about British imperialism during his trip to India and Burma, criticized willful ignorance of liberals during Spanish war and wrote about writers, artists and their works. His body of work is vast and this one large volume doesn't cover it entirely. George Orwell as an essayist has more impact as a writer than as a novelist. As an essayist he displays an edge, a harshness towards the (British) society that doesn't bat an eye at the world that is on fire. It is a time when there is chaos in Europe and the empire is warring in several parts of geographies. It isn't dissimilar to the world today. His observations is heavily laced with socialism and he isn't one to disagree when asked. There is an unpublished letter that is essentially Orwell telling off a publisher to stop sending him rubbish questionnaire. His book reviews include works by Oscar Wilde, Mukul Raj Anand, T S Elliot, Graham Greene, Sartre, H.G.Wells, D.H.Lawrence, to name a few. Orwell was incredibly well read and followed world politics closely. Orwell's essay collection gives a glimpse of the world through his eyes. A fierce social critique, his opinions isn't limited to everyday politics but extends to war elsewhere, literature in different countries and art. This collection shows evolution of a man and how he changes as a person as he faces new challenges in new places and gains new experiences. Must read for any who love to see the world from the point of view of an author who believed that a dystopian future was humanity's legacy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David

    Orwell writes so well you want to give him a standing ovation. This collection contains several classic essays -- "Shooting an Elephant", "Politics and the English Language", "Such, Such were the Joys" (memories of his schooldays) -- as well as amazing pieces on Dickens, Kipling, and the state of literature in the 1930s ("Inside the Whale"). Whether writing about the English national character, analyzing the content and effect of popular comics for boys, or explaining his own compulsion to write Orwell writes so well you want to give him a standing ovation. This collection contains several classic essays -- "Shooting an Elephant", "Politics and the English Language", "Such, Such were the Joys" (memories of his schooldays) -- as well as amazing pieces on Dickens, Kipling, and the state of literature in the 1930s ("Inside the Whale"). Whether writing about the English national character, analyzing the content and effect of popular comics for boys, or explaining his own compulsion to write, Orwell is always engaging and writes in clear, crisp prose that most essayists can only aspire to. These extraordinary essays will sweep away any niggling resentment of Orwell you might feel because you were forced to read "Animal Farm" and/or "1984" in high school, and inspire you to seek out more of his work.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I don't have much to add about Orwell, his prescience, his style, etc. I did find something that I confess made me wonder whether Orwell is quite as egalitarian, or as strict about avoiding bad rhetoric, as the people who talk about him now would like him to be. These lines come from "Inside the Whale," a review of Tropic of Cancer: "In mid-nineteenth-century America men felt themselves free and equal, were free and equal, so far as that is possible outside a society of pure Communism. There was I don't have much to add about Orwell, his prescience, his style, etc. I did find something that I confess made me wonder whether Orwell is quite as egalitarian, or as strict about avoiding bad rhetoric, as the people who talk about him now would like him to be. These lines come from "Inside the Whale," a review of Tropic of Cancer: "In mid-nineteenth-century America men felt themselves free and equal, were free and equal, so far as that is possible outside a society of pure Communism. There was poverty and there were even class-distinctions, but except for the Negroes there was no permanently submerged class." With all due respect, you're either not thinking very hard or thinking way too hard when you write something like that. (Look at that "except" again.) His commitment to his argument—that people, all people, had more of a license to be themselves, back in the old days—brings him this close to trying to make the entire levels-deep institution of American white-on-not-white racism disappear. It's pretty awkward. The guy who wrote "Politics and the English Language," Mr. Tell It Like It Is, wouldn't have written it, except that he did.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Farah Firdaus

    I know I’ve said this so many times before but George Orwell was a very brilliant and perceptive author. I have read and loved his best known works (Animal Farm & 1984) but I have to admit that while his novels are good, his essays are definitely WAY better. It took me 3 months but I finally finished this exceptional collection of essays ranging from complex topics like politics, literature and history to simple matters such as writing, nature and scrutiny of everyday life. With his keen and tim I know I’ve said this so many times before but George Orwell was a very brilliant and perceptive author. I have read and loved his best known works (Animal Farm & 1984) but I have to admit that while his novels are good, his essays are definitely WAY better. It took me 3 months but I finally finished this exceptional collection of essays ranging from complex topics like politics, literature and history to simple matters such as writing, nature and scrutiny of everyday life. With his keen and timely observation, Orwell explores a plethora of subjects, which includes; his personal journey to becoming a writer, reminiscence of his time working in a bookshop, examination of Charles Dickens’ writings and politics, smutty postcards as a sign of rebellion against society, dangers of nationalism, good and bad books, facts and wisdom about toads, spring and capitalism, his experiences in a public hospital, how politicians utilize language to confuse people and his concerns with freedom of thought and expression. Anyway, this is my top 5 favourites from this collection: 📖 Why I Write 📖 Charles Dickens 📖 The Prevention of Literature 📖 Politics and the English Language 📖 Politics vs Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels Some honourable mentions: 📖 The Spike 📖 Marrakech 📖 How the Poor Die 📖 Confessions of a Book Reviewer 📖 Some Thoughts on the Common Toad “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society - can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable.” All in all, this collection of essays is astonishingly prescient and more relevant than ever. Highly recommended.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Salam Almahi

    Okay so, let's get one thing straight: My review is not of this particular book, but I've read a collection of Orwell's essays and didn't know how to mark them. The essays I read are: - Politics and The English Language: It was what intrigued me to read these bunch of essays in the first place. I got the idea that it was what gave birth to the idea of Newspeak (the language used in 1984), but upon reading it, it was very different.. More like a critique of changes in writing styles. Orwell was ve Okay so, let's get one thing straight: My review is not of this particular book, but I've read a collection of Orwell's essays and didn't know how to mark them. The essays I read are: - Politics and The English Language: It was what intrigued me to read these bunch of essays in the first place. I got the idea that it was what gave birth to the idea of Newspeak (the language used in 1984), but upon reading it, it was very different.. More like a critique of changes in writing styles. Orwell was very "bitter? lol" in his criticism, though. - Some Thoughts on the Common Toad: This was, I think, my favorite of the collection. It basically sends the message that: even though the world is crumbling around us, doesn't mean that we can't appreciate the little beautiful things surrounding us. - Shooting An Elephant: This essay, was the most thought-provoking of them all. It made me think of colonization in a deeper way. It was very interesting to see the point of view of someone among the colonizers. - You and the Atomic Bomb: I could see many ideas that ended in the book in 1984 forming in this essay, and like 1984 it was somewhat prophetical. - Confessions of a Book Reviewer: I thought I'd relate more to this essay but it was in fact, more like a description of how a life of a professional book reviewer is (someone who does it as a job). So naturally- did not relate. But George Orwell did build a realistic, almost tangible setting and atmosphere. - Poetry and the Microphone: Reminded me of what we now call Podcasts. Orwell would've been proud that this thing exists now. But the dilemma of the image of poetry, and its accessibility is still unfortunately, present. - Books Vs. Cigarettes: THE BEST ARGUMENTS AGAINST BOOK-BUYING HATERS! In conclusion, I can say with confidence, that I prefer Orwell's nonfiction, over his fiction.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    A brilliant set of essays, providing great insights into Orwell's world -- the end of colonialism, the rise of fascism and Stalinism, the evolution of British society. I read Orwell's essays in college (in fact, I may have read some in high school), and have usually carried a volume around with me since. Orwell has been one of the most influential people in the shaping of my own world view. So many great essays -- in "Politics and the English Language," Orwell talks about why so many political t A brilliant set of essays, providing great insights into Orwell's world -- the end of colonialism, the rise of fascism and Stalinism, the evolution of British society. I read Orwell's essays in college (in fact, I may have read some in high school), and have usually carried a volume around with me since. Orwell has been one of the most influential people in the shaping of my own world view. So many great essays -- in "Politics and the English Language," Orwell talks about why so many political tracts are badly written -- because people actually want to conceal what they are trying to say (advocating violence sounds so much better when dressed up in patriotic cliches). In "Shooting an Elephant," Orwell discusses one particular day when he was on the police force in Burma, and what the events of that day taught him about the nature of imperialism. In "Reflections on Gandhi," Orwell described why he disliked the man. When first I read the essay I was shocked -- how could ANYONE dislike Gandhi? But Orwell says that Gandhi was trying to be a saint, and that saints are different in nature from other people. To be a saint, you must love everyone equally. But to be human means to love some people -- your family, your friends -- more than others. Orwell sees that as the more worthwhile goal. Plus essays on Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Tolstoy's take on King Lear, boy's stories, dirty postcards (Orwell loves reading and analyzing everything), his own school days, the Spanish civil war, etc. All written in clear, accessible prose.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lanko

    The most impressive thing of the book was how Orwell himself changed some of his views over time, specially some he was very adamant early on. The book spans essays over decades, and Orwell is really good at giving a clear picture of the situation of the time, but intentionally or not, giving hints of himself as a person. While it's clear Orwell has an obvious preference for an economic system, over time he changed views on some of the things he endorsed early, but better yet, and what gives him The most impressive thing of the book was how Orwell himself changed some of his views over time, specially some he was very adamant early on. The book spans essays over decades, and Orwell is really good at giving a clear picture of the situation of the time, but intentionally or not, giving hints of himself as a person. While it's clear Orwell has an obvious preference for an economic system, over time he changed views on some of the things he endorsed early, but better yet, and what gives him a lot of respect, is how that he also never looked the other way about the wrongdoing, corruption and mistakes of his own side as well. Better yet, he also called his side on it loud and clear, often incurring the wrath of people (political parties, biased journalists and so on) who decided to simply pretend to be blind. In times where political discussion can ridiculously escalate, and when bias often make people extremely partial, it's refreshing to see someone who clearly has his own preferences, but always called the bullshit his own side was doing as well. After all, blind following is exactly what people in power want. It's practically a free pass for corruption, abuse and other things, which makes for a worse government for all.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    Includes "Shooting the Elephant" and "Politics and the English Language". Genius. Includes "Shooting the Elephant" and "Politics and the English Language". Genius.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Smiley

    In fact I read most of these essays in this handsome hardcover some 13 years ago during my gloomy days due to my unsatisfactorily productive academic pursuit at UQ. However I recalled vaguely I had written some ideas, reflections, views, etc. regarding his inspiring essays since I always admire his writing style with good, witty points he has long mentioned and urged the world to have a look or take action as appropriate then and beyond. Therefore, I have resumed reading those unread as my second In fact I read most of these essays in this handsome hardcover some 13 years ago during my gloomy days due to my unsatisfactorily productive academic pursuit at UQ. However I recalled vaguely I had written some ideas, reflections, views, etc. regarding his inspiring essays since I always admire his writing style with good, witty points he has long mentioned and urged the world to have a look or take action as appropriate then and beyond. Therefore, I have resumed reading those unread as my second round hoping to complete this mission as soon as time and enjoyment are available; it is my delight whenever I see some Goodreads readers reading his scintillating messages to the elite somewhere as well as his readers, I think, to ponder and act wisely in the name of democracy, integrity and scholarship.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Yosef the Heretic

    I honestly have no clue how I forgot to catalog this. Two renewals twice as many summers past. Nine golden weeks. Makes for a good weapon in the case of a mugging as well, also good on the arm muscles. Indispensable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Philipp

    Highly recommended, I only wish I could write this clearly, or even think this clearly. A lot about politics, propaganda and modern life (both haven't really changed since then it seems), the most impressive thing to me is that even though he nowadays counts as a socialist, he can impartially describe the follies of both left and right without falling for the lies and (self-)deceptions of either side. I don't know any "modern" (as in, currently alive) writers who can do this. As a sidenote, one c Highly recommended, I only wish I could write this clearly, or even think this clearly. A lot about politics, propaganda and modern life (both haven't really changed since then it seems), the most impressive thing to me is that even though he nowadays counts as a socialist, he can impartially describe the follies of both left and right without falling for the lies and (self-)deceptions of either side. I don't know any "modern" (as in, currently alive) writers who can do this. As a sidenote, one can find many "famous" formulations of Animal Farm or 1984 in these essays before they appeared in the books. If you read one essay of his, choose this one: Politics and the English Language, probably the most relevant to contemporary times. I've underlined about a hundred insightful passages which I'm just going to paste here so that you can get a general idea. All others can stop here. (Keep in mind that most of these essays are written 1938-1949) It seems to me a safe assumption that the disease loosely called nationalism is now almost universal. Antisemitism is only one manifestation of nationalism, and not everyone will have the disease in that particular form. A Jew, for example, would not be antisemitic: but then many Zionist Jews seem to me to be merely antisemites turned upside-down, just as many Indians and Negroes display the normal colour prejudices in an inverted form. But that antisemitism will be definitively CURED, without curing the larger disease of nationalism, I do not believe. Political or military commentators, like astrologers, can survive almost any mistake, because their more devoted followers do not look to them for an appraisal of the facts but for the stimulation of nationalistic loyalties. In 1927 Chiang Kai Shek boiled hundreds of Communists alive, and yet within ten years he had become one of the heroes of the Left. The re-alignment of world politics had brought him into the anti-Fascist camp, and so it was felt that the boiling of the Communists ‘didn’t count’, or perhaps had not happened. PACIFIST: Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool. If you hate and fear Russia, if you are jealous of the wealth and power of America, if you despise Jews, if you have a sentiment of inferiority towards the British ruling class, you cannot get rid of those feelings simply by taking thought. But you can at least recognise that you have them, and prevent them from contaminating your mental processes. But what this scene, and much else that I saw in Germany, brought home to me was that the whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish daydream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also. Who would not have jumped for joy, in 1940, at the thought of seeing S.S. officers kicked and humiliated? But when the thing becomes possible, it is merely pathetic and disgusting. It is said that when Mussolini’s corpse At the international level sport is frankly mimic warfare. But the significant thing is not the behaviour of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these absurd contests, and seriously believe — at any rate for short periods — that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national virtue. Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting. However, it appears from President Truman’s remarks, and various comments that have been made on them, that the bomb is fantastically expensive and that its manufacture demands an enormous industrial effort, such as only three or four countries in the world are capable of making. This point is of cardinal importance, because it may mean that the discovery of the atomic bomb, so far from reversing history, will simply intensify the trends which have been apparent for a dozen years past. But suppose — and really this the likeliest development — that the surviving great nations make a tacit agreement never to use the atomic bomb against one another? Suppose they only use it, or the threat of it, against people who are unable to retaliate? In that case we are back where we were before, the only difference being that power is concentrated in still fewer hands and that the outlook for subject peoples and oppressed classes is still more hopeless. If you plant a walnut you are planting it for your grandchildren, and who cares a damn for his grandchildren? Every writer, in any case, is rather that kind of person, but the prolonged, indiscriminate reviewing of books is a quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job. It not only involves praising trash — though it does involve that, as I will show in a moment — but constantly INVENTING reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feelings whatever. People talk about the horrors of war, but what weapon has man invented that even approaches in cruelty some of the commoner diseases? “Natural” death, almost by definition, means something slow, smelly and painful. This business of people just dying like animals, for instance, with nobody standing by, nobody interested, the death not even noticed till the morning — this happened more than once. Machiavelli and his followers taught that in politics decency simply does not exist, and, by doing so, Burnham claims, made it possible to conduct political affairs more intelligently and less oppressively. A ruling class which recognised that its real aim was to stay in power would also recognise that it would be more likely to succeed if it served the common good, and might avoid stiffening into a hereditary aristocracy. Socialism, until recently, was supposed to connote political democracy, social equality and internationalism. There is not the smallest sign that any of these things is in a way to being established anywhere, and the one great country in which something described as a proletarian revolution once happened, i.e. the USSR, has moved steadily away from the old concept of a free and equal society aiming at universal human brotherhood. In an almost unbroken progress since the early days of the Revolution, liberty has been chipped away and representative institutions smothered, while inequalities have increased and nationalism and militarism have grown stronger. Political predictions are usually wrong, because they are usually based on wish-thinking, but they can have symptomatic value, especially when they change abruptly. Such a world-picture fits in with the American tendency to admire size for its own sake and to feel that success constitutes justification, and it fits in with the all-prevailing anti-British Burnham at least has the honesty to say that Socialism isn’t coming; the others merely say that Socialism is coming, and then give the word “Socialism” a new meaning which makes nonsense of the old one. If I had to make a prophecy, I should say that a continuation of the Russian policies of the last fifteen years — and internal and external policy, of course, are merely two facets of the same thing — can only lead to a war conducted with atomic bombs, which will make Hitler’s invasion look like a tea-party. But at any rate, the Russian régime will either democratise itself, or it will perish. The huge, invincible, everlasting slave empire of which Burnham appears to dream will not be established, or, if established, will not endure, because slavery is no longer a stable basis for human society. The question only arises because in exploring the physical universe man has made no attempt to explore himself. Much of what goes by the name of pleasure is simply an effort to destroy consciousness. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of WORDS chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of PHRASES tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house. PRETENTIOUS DICTION. Words like PHENOMENON, ELEMENT, INDIVIDUAL (as noun), OBJECTIVE, CATEGORICAL, EFFECTIVE, VIRTUAL, BASIS, PRIMARY, PROMOTE, CONSTITUTE, EXHIBIT, EXPLOIT, UTILIZE, ELIMINATE, LIQUIDATE, are used to dress up simple statements and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgments. MEANINGLESS WORDS. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. * Words like ROMANTIC, PLASTIC, VALUES, HUMAN, DEAD, SENTIMENTAL, NATURAL, VITALITY, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly even expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, “The outstanding feature of Mr. X’s work is its living quality,” while another writes, “The immediately striking thing about Mr. X’s work is its peculiar deadness,” the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion In the case of a word like DEMOCRACY, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — BESTIAL ATROCITIES, IRON HEEL, BLOODSTAINED TYRANNY, FREE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD, STAND SHOULDER TO SHOULDER— one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called PACIFICATION. The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years as a result of dictatorship. He has an extraordinarily clear prevision of the spy-haunted “police State”, with its endless heresy-hunts and treason trials, all really designed to neutralize popular discontent by changing it into war hysteria. If one is capable of intellectual detachment, one can PERCEIVE merit in a writer whom one deeply disagrees with, but ENJOYMENT is a different matter. Supposing that there is such a thing as good or bad art, then the goodness or badness must reside in the work of art itself — not independently of the observer, indeed, but independently of the mood of the observer. In one sense, therefore, it cannot be true that a poem is good on Monday and bad on Tuesday. But if one judges the poem by the appreciation it arouses, then it can certainly be true, because appreciation, or enjoyment, is a subjective condition which cannot be commanded. In Communist literature the attack on intellectual liberty is usually masked by oratory about “petty-bourgeois individualism”, “the illusions of nineteenth-century liberalism”, etc., and backed up by words of abuse such as “romantic” and “sentimental”, which, since they do not have any agreed meaning, are difficult to answer. In this way the controversy is maneuvered away from its real issue. From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened. Then again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and a revelation of prominent historical figures. There is no such thing as a genuinely non-political literature, and least of all in an age like our own, when fears, hatreds, and loyalties of a directly political kind are near to the surface of everyone’s consciousness. Even a single taboo can have an all-round crippling effect upon the mind, because there is always the danger that any thought which is freely followed up may lead to the forbidden thought. It follows that the atmosphere of totalitarianism is deadly to any kind of prose writer, though a poet, at any rate a lyric poet, might possibly find it breathable. And in any totalitarian society that survives for more than a couple of generations, it is probable that prose literature, of the kind that has existed during the past four hundred years, must actually come to an end. Literature has sometimes Some, at least, of the English scientists who speak so enthusiastically of the opportunities to be enjoyed by scientists in Russia are capable of understanding this. But their reflection appears to be: “Writers are persecuted in Russia. So what? I am not a writer.” They do not see that any attack on intellectual liberty, and on the concept of objective truth, threatens in the long run every department of thought. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. One’s real reaction to a book, when one has a reaction at all, is usually “I like this book” or “I don’t like it”, and what follows is a rationalisation. But “I like this book” is not, I think, a non-literary reaction; the non-literary reaction is “This book is on my side, and therefore I must discover merits in it”. To accept an orthodoxy is always to inherit unresolved contradictions. Take for instance the fact that all sensitive people are revolted by industrialism and its products, and yet are aware that the conquest of poverty and the emancipation of the working class demand not less industrialisation, but more and more. Or take the fact that certain jobs are absolutely necessary and yet are never done except under some kind of coercion. Or take the fact that it is impossible to have a positive foreign policy without having powerful armed forces. One could multiply examples. In every such case there is a conclusion which is perfectly plain but which can only be drawn if one is privately disloyal to the official ideology. The normal response is to push the question, unanswered, into a corner of one’s mind, and then continue repeating contradictory catchwords. One does not have to search far through the reviews and magazines to discover the effects of this kind of thinking. To yield subjectively, not merely to a party machine, but even to a group ideology, is to destroy yourself as a writer. We feel this dilemma to be a painful one, because we see the need of engaging in politics while also seeing what a dirty, degrading business it is. And most of us still have a lingering belief that every choice, even every political choice, is between good and evil, and that if a thing is necessary it is also right. We should, I think, get rid of this belief, which belongs to the nursery. In politics one can never do more than decide which of two evils is the lesser, and there are some situations from which one can only escape by acting like a devil or a lunatic. It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the régime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bloodorange

    Orwell the novelist did not particularly impressively me, but when I was reading his essays I had the impression that my IQ soars towards the realm of 200s, and plunges as soon as I close the book. He writes clearly and elegantly, beautifully constructing the argumentation and paragraph structure. A note: whoever is responsible for the font size in this edition (ISBN 9780141395463, Modern Classics Essays) is an utter idiot. This is definitely a compressed version of a book in a large format - the Orwell the novelist did not particularly impressively me, but when I was reading his essays I had the impression that my IQ soars towards the realm of 200s, and plunges as soon as I close the book. He writes clearly and elegantly, beautifully constructing the argumentation and paragraph structure. A note: whoever is responsible for the font size in this edition (ISBN 9780141395463, Modern Classics Essays) is an utter idiot. This is definitely a compressed version of a book in a large format - the librarian who ordered it was inconsolable. A list of essays I particularly enjoyed and/or could use at work (these are in bold): MARRAKECH (1939)(view spoiler)[ ...people who work with their hands are partly invisible, and the more important the work they do, the less visible they are. Still, a white skin is always fairly conspicuous. In northern Europe, when you see a labourer ploughing a field, you probably give him a second glance. In a hot country, anywhere south of Gibraltar or east of Suez, the chance is that you don't even see him. I have noticed this again and again. In a tropical landscape one's eye takes in everything except the human beings.. It takes in the dried-up soil, the prickly pear, the palm-tree and the distant mountain, but it always misses the peasant hoeing at his patch. He is the same colour as the earth, and a great deal less interesting to look at. It is only because of this that the starved countries of Asia and Africa are accepted as tourist resorts. No one would think of running cheap trips to the Distressed Areas. But where the human beings have brown skins their poverty is simply not noticed. (hide spoiler)] BOYS’ WEEKLIES(1940) for stereotyping (classes, nationalities) ans propaganda (why is there no left-wing weekly for boys?)(view spoiler)[ It is that the characters are so carefully graded as to give almost every type of reader a character he can identify himself with. Most boys' papers aim at doing this, hence the boy-assistant (Sexton Blake's Tinker, Nelson Lee's Nipper, etc.) who usually accompanies the explorer, detective or what-not on his adventures. But in these cases there is only one boy, and usually it is much the same type of boy. In the Gem and Magnet there is a model for very nearly everybody. (...) If a Chinese character appears, he is still the sinister pigtailed opium-smuggler of Sax Rohmer; no indication that things have been happening in China since 1912 — no indication that a war is going on there, for instance. If a Spaniard appears, he is still a ‘dago’ or ‘greaser’ who rolls cigarettes and stabs people in the back; no indication that things have been happening in Spain. (hide spoiler)] INSIDE THE WHALE (1940)"If the keynote of the writers of the twenties is ‘tragic sense of life’, the keynote of the new writers is ‘serious purpose’." THE LION AND THE UNICORN: SOCIALISM AND THE ENGLISH GENIUS (1941) "The lady in the Rolls-Royce car is more damaging to morale than a fleet of Goering's bombing planes." THE ART OF DONALD MCGILL (1941)(view spoiler)[ One of the few authentic class-differences, as opposed to class-distinctions, still existing in England is that the working classes age very much earlier. They do not live less long, provided that they survive their childhood, nor do they lose their physical activity earlier, but they do lose very early their youthful appearance. This fact is observable everywhere, but can be most easily verified by watching one of the higher age groups registering for military service; the middle- and upper-class members look, on average, ten years younger than the others. It is usual to attribute this to the harder lives that the working classes have to live, but it is doubtful whether any such difference now exists as would account for it. More probably the truth is that the working classes reach middle age earlier because they accept it earlier. For to look young after, say, thirty is largely a matter of wanting to do so. This generalization is less true of the better-paid workers, especially those who live in council houses and labour-saving flats, but it is true enough even of them to point to a difference of outlook. And in this, as usual, they are more traditional, more in accord with the Christian past than the well-to-do women who try to stay young at forty by means of physical-jerks, cosmetics and avoidance of child-bearing. The impulse to cling to youth at all costs, to attempt to preserve your sexual attraction, to see even in middle age a future for yourself and not merely for your children, is a thing of recent growth and has only precariously established itself. It will probably disappear again when our standard of living drops and our birth-rate rises. (hide spoiler)] RUDYARD KIPLING (1942) "It is notable that Kipling does not seem to realize, any more than the average soldier or colonial administrator, that an empire is primarily a money-making concern. Imperialism as he sees it is a sort of forcible evangelizing." LOOKING BACK ON THE SPANISH WAR (1942) Seems to be a germ of 1984(view spoiler)[ I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written. In the past people deliberately lied, or they unconsciously coloured what they wrote, or they struggled after the truth, well knowing that they must make many mistakes; but in each case they believed that ‘facts’ existed and were more or less discoverable. And in practice there was always a considerable body of fact which would have been agreed to by almost everyone. If you look up the history of the last war in, for instance, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, you will find that a respectable amount of the material is drawn from German sources. A British and a German historian would disagree deeply on many things, even on fundamentals, but there would still be that body of, as it were, neutral fact on which neither would seriously challenge the other. It is just this common basis of agreement, with its implication that human beings are all one species of animal, that totalitarianism destroys. Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as ‘the truth’ exists. There is, for instance, no such thing as ‘Science’. There is only ‘German Science’, ‘Jewish Science’, etc. The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’ — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs — and after our experiences of the last few years that is not a frivolous statement. (...) But is it perhaps childish or morbid to terrify oneself with visions of a totalitarian future? Before writing off the totalitarian world as a nightmare that can't come true, just remember that in 1925 the world of today would have seemed a nightmare that couldn't come true. Against that shifting phantasmagoric world in which black may be white tomorrow and yesterday's weather can be changed by decree, there are in reality only two safeguards. One is that however much you deny the truth, the truth goes on existing, as it were, behind your back, and you consequently can't violate it in ways that impair military efficiency. The other is that so long as some parts of the earth remain unconquered, the liberal tradition can be kept alive. (hide spoiler)] BENEFIT OF CLERGY: SOME NOTES ON SALVADOR DALI (1944) Oh, this is GOOD. Just pronounce the magic word ‘Art’, and everything is O.K.: kicking little girls in the head is O.K.; even a film like L'Age d'Or is O.K. It is also O.K. that Dali should batten on France for years and then scuttle off like rat as soon as France is in danger. So long as you can paint well enough to pass the test, all shall be forgiven you. RAFFLESS AND MISS BLANDISH (1944)(view spoiler)[ Since cricket takes up a lot of time and is rather an expensive game to play, it is predominantly an upper-class game, but for the whole nation it is bound up with such concepts as ‘good form’, ‘playing the game’, etc., and it has declined in popularity just as the tradition of ‘don't hit a man when he's down’ has declined. ... Early in the war the New Yorker had a picture of a little man approaching a news-stall littered with paper with such headlines as ‘Great Tank Battles in Northern France’, ‘Big Naval Battle in the North Sea’, ‘Huge Air Battles over the Channel’, etc., etc. The little man is saying ‘Action Stories, please’. That little man stood for all the drugged millions to whom the world of the gangster and the prize-ring is more ‘real’, more ‘tough’, than such things as wars, revolutions, earthquakes, famines and pestilences. From the point of view of a reader of Action Stories, a description of the London blitz, or of the struggles of the European underground parties, would be ‘sissy stuff’. On the other hand, some puny gun-battle in Chicago, resulting in perhaps half a dozen deaths, would seem genuinely ‘tough’. This habit of mind is now extremely widespread. ... He is a popular writer — there are many such in America, but they are still rarities in England — who has caught up with what is now fashionable to call ‘realism’, meaning the doctrine that might is right. The growth of ‘realism’ has been the great feature of the intellectual history of our own age. Why this should be so is a complicated question. The interconnexion between sadism, masochism, success-worship, power-worship, nationalism, and totalitarianism is a huge subject whose edges have barely been scratched, and even to mention it is considered somewhat indelicate. (hide spoiler)] NOTES ON NATIONALISM (1945) By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality. GOOD BAD BOOKS (1945) The existence of good bad literature — the fact that one can be amused or excited or even moved by a book that one's intellect simply refuses to take seriously — is a reminder that art is not the same thing as cerebration.. THE SPORTING SPIRIT (1945) Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting. ... In a rustic community a boy or young man works off a good deal of his surplus energy by walking, swimming, snowballing, climbing trees, riding horses, and by various sports involving cruelty to animals, such as fishing, cock-fighting and ferreting for rats. In a big town one must indulge in group activities if one wants an outlet for one's physical strength or for one's sadistic impulses. THE PREVENTION OF LITERATURE (1946)(view spoiler)[ There is no such thing as a genuinely non-political literature, and least of all in an age like our own, when fears, hatreds, and loyalties of a directly political kind are near to the surface of everyone's consciousness. ... During a period of three hundred years, how many people have been at once good novelists and good Catholics? ... Prose literature as we know it is the product of rationalism, of the Protestant centuries, of the autonomous individual. And the destruction of intellectual liberty cripples the journalist, the sociological writer, the historian, the novelist, the critic, and the poet, in that order. (hide spoiler)] SOME THOUGHTS ON THE COMMON TOAD (1946) A GOOD WORD FOR THE VICAR OF BRAY (1946)But to come back to trees. The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil. CONFESSIONS OF A BOOK REVIEWER (1946) Until one has some kind of professional relationship with books one does not discover how bad the majority of them are. ... The best practice, it has always seemed to me, would be simply to ignore the great majority of books and to give very long reviews — 1,000 words is a bare minimum — to the few that seem to matter. Short notes of a line or two on forthcoming books can be useful, but the usual middle-length review of about 600 words is bound to be worthless even if the reviewer genuinely wants to write it. HOW THE POOR DIE (1946) Brings Foucault to mind. Orwell described his stay in a really bad hospital in Paris; people as objects, parallel between the hospital and the prison.(view spoiler)[ One wants to live, of course, indeed one only stays alive by virtue of the fear of death, but I think now, as I thought then, that it's better to die violently and not too old. People talk about the horrors of war, but what weapon has man invented that even approaches in cruelty some of the commoner diseases? ‘Natural’ death, almost by definition, means something slow, smelly and painful. Even at that, it makes a difference if you can achieve it in your own home and not in a public institution. ... A thing we perhaps underrate in England is the advantage we enjoy in having large numbers of well-trained and rigidly-disciplined nurses. No doubt English nurses are dumb enough, they may tell fortunes with tea-leaves, wear Union Jack badges and keep photographs of the Queen on their mantelpieces, but at least they don't let you lie unwashed and constipated on an unmade bed, out of sheer laziness. ... If you look at almost any literature before the later part of the nineteenth century, you find that a hospital is popularly regarded as much the same thing as a prison, and an old-fashioned, dungeon-like prison at that. A hospital is a place of filth, torture and death, a sort of antechamber to the tomb. No one who was not more or less destitute would have thought of going into such a place for treatment. And especially in the early part of the last century, when medical science had grown bolder than before without being any more successful, the whole business of doctoring was looked on with horror and dread by ordinary people. (hide spoiler)] LEAR, TOLSTOY AND THE FOOL (1947) SUCH, SUCH WERE THE JOYS (1947) Broadly, you were bidden to be at once a Christian and a social success, which is impossible.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Arcand

    I just loved this book. I gave it 4.5 stars because I never give 5 stars to any book on a first reading but I intend to buy it and go thru it over again and it could very well earn its last star. Not only do I want to buy this book but I yearn for a whole collection of Orwell’s work even though I already own “1984”, “Animal Farm” and “Down and Out in Paris”. This volume is a series of essays written by Orwell between 1928 and 1949 on war, economy, literature and day to day living. Some of the ess I just loved this book. I gave it 4.5 stars because I never give 5 stars to any book on a first reading but I intend to buy it and go thru it over again and it could very well earn its last star. Not only do I want to buy this book but I yearn for a whole collection of Orwell’s work even though I already own “1984”, “Animal Farm” and “Down and Out in Paris”. This volume is a series of essays written by Orwell between 1928 and 1949 on war, economy, literature and day to day living. Some of the essays that I appreciated the most fall in the latest category such as the longer one called “Such, Such Were the Joys”, one of his last texts, where he tells his life at a boarding school, St Stephen. A harsh environment where boys were thought some the worst behaviours at a very young age: cowardice, class distinction and fascism. His experience feels universal. I could relate to it even though I am a woman, in a different time, in a different country who never went to a boarding school. He’s putting words to some of my own experiences that I could not express. About being punished: “I was crying partly because I felt that this was expected of me, partly from genuine repentance, but partly also because of a deeper grief which is peculiar to childhood and not easy to convey: a sense of desolate loneliness and helplessness; of being locked up not only in a hostile world but in a world of good and evil where the rules were such that it was actually not possible for me to keep them.” George Orwell is well read, an excellent writer, compassionate and true to himself. He never follows the crowd. Orwell’s talent is such that his essays felt contemporary and pertinent even though they were written almost 100 years ago. Whether it is comments on economic disparities, on war or religion, what he had to say then is still valid now. War in the 21st century continues to be old rich men sending poor young men to the battlefield; we are still debating whether or not we should accept refugees. About pacifism he said that we should not forget that we can be pacifists because someone else is fighting on our behalf. It was true then when we were fighting the Nazis it’s still true now that we are fighting ISIS. As a teenager, I was violently anti-military. Not so much anymore. It’s a mark of old age to have one’s position evolve, to show more grey zone, be subtler in one’s opinion. My younger self would call it “coping out”. I don’t have to ask such question about Orwell whose moral compass always pointed thru North. Since he lived during two world wars, it’s to be expected that a lot of his essays would touch on that subject. And, because he participated in the Spanish war he knew what he was talking about. “All wars are the same. The essential horror of army life (whoever has been a soldier will know what I mean by the essential horror of army life) is barely affected by the nature of the war you happen to be fighting in. Discipline, for instance, is ultimately the same in all armies. Orders have to be obeyed and enforced by punishment if necessary, the relationship of the officer and their soldiers has to be the relationship of superior and inferior. The picture of war set forth in books like “All Quiet on the Western Front” is substantially true. Bullets hurt, corpses stink, men under fire are often so frightened that they wet their trousers… (People forget that a soldier anywhere near the front line is usually too hungry, or frightened, or cold or, above all, too tired to bother about the political origins of the war.) …a louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb, although the cause you are fighting for happens to be just. As far as the mass of people go, the extraordinary swings of opinions which occur nowadays, the emotions which can be turned off and off like a tap, are the result of newspaper and radio hypnosis. In the intelligentsia I should say they result rather from money and mere physical safety. At a given moment they may be pro-war or anti-war but in either case they have no realistic picture of war in their minds…We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don’t take the sword perish by smelly diseases. “ The soldiers often have more in common between them than with the civil back home. “…I had come here to shoot at “Fascists”; but a man who is holding up his trousers isn’t a “Fascist”, he is visibly a fellow creature, similar to yourself, and you don’t feel like shooting at him.” His literary criticism of books I have not read, made me want to discover new authors (new to me) or rediscover authors I already know. The question, “Should a good book also be a moral book," is one I’ve been asking myself. For example, I hesitate to read Michel Houellebecq’s “Submission” because I’m afraid that it’s an anti-Muslim pamphlet, even though it’s one of the 100 notable books of the New-York Time for 2015. Orwell answer to this question is “Yes, we can appreciate the literary quality of a book, even give the author a literary prize, but we should not sweep under the rug the author’s political and moral position." Even when he writes about authors I have never heard of – and there are many of those – he’s still interesting. Some of his essays have a more philosophical bent: “…conscious futility is something only for the young. One cannot go on “despairing of life” into a ripe old age.” About T.S. Elliot “Can Socialist be happy?” (1943) “All efforts to describe permanent happiness, on the other hand, have been failures, from earliest history onwards. Utopia…has been common in the literature of the past three of four hundred years, but the “favourable” ones are invariably unappetizing, and usually lacking in vitality as well.” “As I Please 14” (1944) “I do not want the belief in life after death to return, and in any case it is not likely to return. What I do point out is that its disappearance has left a big hole, and that we ought to take notice of that fact. Reared for thousands of years on the notion that the individual survives, man has got to make a considerable psychological effort to get used to the notion that the individual perishes. He is not likely to salvage civilization unless he can evolve a system of good and evil which is independent of heaven and hell…when one’s belly is empty, one’s only problem is an empty belly. It is when we have got away from drudgery and exploitation that we shall really start wondering about man’s destiny and the reason for his existence.” In a long essay, “Politics and the English Language”, written in 1945, he denounces meaningless words, or words that hide the truth which he called “Newspeak” in “1984”. “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. The debased language…is in some ways very convenient.” In this essay, his own language is far from debased. He uses great images “…his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.” While I was reading his essays, he was my friend. I found myself talking to him; explaining what had happened since he died; how the world had changed sometime for the best, sometimes for the worse. For example, he would have been happy to hear of the invention of the dishwasher which came as a result of the war and women’s liberation and, also, because technology allowed it. Here is what he wrote on the subject of dishes in 1945 in “As I Please”, his chronicle in the “Tribune” a British left-wing paper: “Every time I wash up a batch of crockery I marvel at the unimaginativeness of human beings who can travel under the sea and fly through the clouds, and yet have not known how to eliminate this sordid time-wasting drudgery from their daily lives.” I tried to look at current events with his eyes wondering what he would have thought. When I finished the book on December 2, I felt as if a friend had died. Of course I knew that he had died in 1950 – too soon – but reading his essays, I had the impression that he was alive and that he had been my companion for the last few months – it’s a big book. A companion that was wise, compassionate, and humorous; a companion who wrote well.

  30. 5 out of 5

    LindaH

    I went for Orwell's six-part essay on Dickens first since I am rereading Bleak House right now. I've decided to get down these thoughts, and break GR's rules, before reading the rest of the book. In the first paragraph of the fifth section, Orwell's got my number. He is aware, says he, that any fan of Dickens is by now angry at him. I am a fan of Dickens, I was annoyed by his assessment of Dickens' status as nothing but a "moralist". “Dickens's criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. He I went for Orwell's six-part essay on Dickens first since I am rereading Bleak House right now. I've decided to get down these thoughts, and break GR's rules, before reading the rest of the book. In the first paragraph of the fifth section, Orwell's got my number. He is aware, says he, that any fan of Dickens is by now angry at him. I am a fan of Dickens, I was annoyed by his assessment of Dickens' status as nothing but a "moralist". “Dickens's criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. Hence the utter lack of any constructive suggestion anywhere in his work” I can appreciate Orwell's arguments but does he have to be so dismissive of Dickens' genius? Orwell's judgments are so colored by his politics. “Dickens's views on the servant question do not get much beyond wishing that master and servant would love one another” Still, I have to admit, I was seeing Dickens' work in a whole new way. And every now and then he sweeps me off my feet with his prescience. “Without a high level of mechanical development, human equality is not practically possible; Dickens goes to show that it is not imaginable either.” All in all, I was/am fascinated by Orwell's take on Dickens, which feels only slightly dated. It was written in 1940. Indeed, he is bringing up stuff we In the 21st century ought to revisit and consider. “Wonderfully as he can describe an APPEARANCE, Dickens does not often describe a process....“Everything is seen from the consumer-angle....“When he speaks of human progress it is usually in terms of MORAL progress–men growing better; probably he would never admit that men are only as good as their technical development allows them to be." Having gone into example after example of actual work NOT being described, Orwell throws us fans a bone. “No modern man could combine such purposelessness with so much vitality.” This is the very line that precedes the "I know you're angry" (dear Reader) sop at the beginning of Part V. But he goes on to make me realize I have grown a bit (in the direction of reality) in my appreciation of Dickens. After going into Dickens' negatives at length, Orwell gets around to his numero uno stroke of brilliance, his use of the "UNNECESSARY DETAIL". By now, his summaries set well. I am a convert. “Dickens is obviously a writer whose parts are greater than his wholes. He is all fragments, all details–rotten architecture, but wonderful gargoyles–and never better than when he is building up some character who will later on be forced to act inconsistently.” Isn't this what a great essayist does? He slides effortlessly into a subject close to the reader's heart, wrenches him around with logic for awhile, and leaves him gasping but edified, at the final period? [Orwell sees in Dickens] "a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is GENEROUSLY ANGRY–in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.” Now for the other forty nine essays.

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