A selection of George Orwell's politically charged essays on language and writing that give context to his dystopian classic, 1984
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Whether puncturing the lies of politicians, wittily dissecting the English character or telling unpalatable truths about war, Orwell's timeless, uncompromising essays are more relevant, entertaining and essential than ever in today's era of spin.
About the Author
Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. The family moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 Orwell entered Eton, where he contributed regularly to the various college magazines. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England, where he worked successively as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant, and contributed reviews and articles to a number of periodicals. Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933.
In 1936, he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a powerful description of the poverty he saw there. At the end of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded, and Homage to Catalonia is his account of the civil war. He was admitted to a sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. As literary editor of the Tribune he contributed a regular page of political and literary commentary, and he also wrote for the Observer and later for the Manchester Evening News. His unique political allegory, Animal Farm, was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame.
George Orwell died in London in January 1950. A few days before, Desmond MacCarthy had sent him a message of greeting in which he wrote: 'You have made an indelible mark on English literature . . . you are among the few memorable writers of your generation.'
Read an Excerpt
Why I Write
From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.
I was the middle child of three, but there was a gap of five years on either side, and I barely saw my father before I was eight. For this and other reasons I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my schooldays. I had the lonely child's habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life. Nevertheless the volume of serious - i.e. seriously intended - writing which I produced all through my childhood and boyhood would not amount to half a dozen pages. I wrote my first poem at the age of four or five, my mother taking it down to dictation.
Table of Contents
Why I WriteWhy I Write
The Lion and the Unicorn
Politics and the English Language
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It is interesting that I would read this book the day after reading Thomas Paine's Common Sense; nearly two-hundred-years separate both of these works, yet they both skewer the imperialistic island of England. Both encompass war - one brewing, the other under way. Each man drafts an outline of how best to change their circumstance: centuries ago, Mr. Paine provides a rough sketch of an American republic; just over half-century ago, Mr. Orwell attempts to solidify British socialism.So many of Mr. Orwell's observations regarding the liberal of yesteryear aptly epitomize today's Leftist - in my estimation. George Orwell appears to be the hub of a wagon wheel of political philosophies he detests: the pseudo-capitalism of Great Britain; European watered down socialism; burgeoning national socialism (a.k.a. the Nazi Party); Italian Fascism; American influenced republican democracy; and imperial Britain. He can not be considered a moderate, exactly because he is clear and adamant about his desire - his ideal political situation is no hybrid of many systems, it is purely democratic socialism.While I tend to subscribe to a completely opposite political philosophy, I still enjoy his writing. I find it informative and entertaining. Current history, at the time of his writing, is always instrumental in understanding his environment and how he arrives at his conclusions.
The works contained remain timelessly and strikingly relevant, compelling and lucid, in Orwell's own unmistakably direct yet radical style, often amusing and eminent in his stand to "face" in unshaking political principle. For study on propaganda, the movements of the past century, British society, socialism and standard of journalism, this is foundational.
Absolutely fabulous read, especially the Lions and Unicorns essay written as England was getting into war. The book is subtitled "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Take that, combine it with Orwell's six rules for writers and you have a masterpiece!
An interesting perspective on Orwell's motivation, but more interestingly he describes his political philosophy concerning the socialization of major industries. It's an interesting WWII-era perspective that I didn't expect to find in this particular book. As a result, it's a bit dry in places, but the mix of political and personal motivation for his writing is interesting.
Although I grew tired of ¿The Lion and the Unicorn,¿ the two essays and the one short story made up for it and then some. It's a fantastic example of good writing and makes clear the reason why George Orwell, who died in 1950, is still a relevant writer today.