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Modern Classics Penguin Essays Of George Orwell [Paperback]

George Orwell , Bernard Crick
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 29 2000 0141183063 978-0141183060
These essays, reviews and articles illuminate the life and work of one of the most individual writers of this century - a man who created a unique literary manner from the process of thinking aloud and who elevated political writing to an art.

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Review

“Orwell is the most influential political writer of the twentieth century…He gives us a gritty, personal example of how to engage as a writer in politics.” –New York Review of Books

“[Orwell] evolved, in his seemingly offhand way, the clearest and most compelling English prose style this century…But of course he was more than just a great writer. We need him today because [of] his passion for the truth.” –The Sunday Times (London)

“Had Orwell lived to a full term, he might well have gone on to become the greatest modern literary critic in the language. But he lived more than long enough to make writing about politics a branch of the humanities, setting a standard of civilized response to the intractably complex texture of life.” –The New Yorker

“The real reason we read Orwell is because his own fault-line, his fundamental schism, his hybridity, left him exceptionally sensitive to the fissure–which is everywhere apparent–between what ought to be the case and what actually is the case. He says the unsayable.” –Financial Times

“Orwell was the conscience of his generation.” –V. S. Pritchett --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

"Orwell is the most influential political writer of the twentieth century . . . He gives us a gritty, personal example of how to engage as a writer in politics." –New York Review of Books

"[Orwell] evolved, in his seemingly offhand way, the clearest and most compelling English prose style this century . . . But of course he was more than just a great writer. We need him today because [of] his passion for the truth." –The Sunday Times (London)

"Had Orwell lived to a full term, he might well have gone on to become the greatest modern literary critic in the language. But he lived more than long enough to make writing about politics a branch of the humanities, setting a standard of civilized response to the intractably complex texture of life." –The New Yorker

"The real reason we read Orwell is because his own fault-line, his fundamental schism, his hybridity, left him exceptionally sensitive to the fissure—which is everywhere apparent—between what ought to be the case and what actually is the case. He says the unsayable."
Financial Times

"Orwell was the conscience of his generation." —V. S. Pritchett


--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, accessible and meaningful essays Feb. 24 2005
Format:Paperback
The essays of George Orwell are model essays: concise, meaningful and accessible. And they haven't dated, for the most part. Obscure and lazy writing is still to be found everwhere, making an essay like "Politics and the English Language" very relevant.

Orwell shows an eye for detail worthy of a poet in essays based on his foreign service experience, like "Shooting an Elephant," and his piece on watching the hanging of a man during the British occupation of India. Some of his experiences with the Spanish Civil War and Second World War are related here, as well as pieces as light as "Books vs Cigarettes" where he considers how much he spends on both. In short, as enjoyable to read as they are meaningful, and model essays.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Elegantly written, instructive, amusing. George Orwell is better known for his novels, but his essays are works of art. If you are serious about writing, this belongs in your personal literary canon.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, penetrating, and relevant Feb. 2 2012
By Peter Monks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The paperback edition of George Orwell's Essays has long been a favorite - this review refers to the Kindle edition, which is identical in content with a suitably accessible index, etc, to make it easily navigable on the Kindle. To those readers most familiar with 1984 and Animal Farm, the descriptive power, clarity of argument, intellectual honesty and relevance of this collection of essays may come as a surprise, but this single volume contains some outstanding writing that is of immense value in understanding the human condition in general and the first half of the twentieth century in particular. While many essays such as the early 'A Hanging' or 'Shooting an Elephant' (which, incidentally, illuminates a few truths about the exercise of responsibility and power) or the late 'Such, Such Were the Joys', demonstrate a mastery of descriptive power, it is his later works that demonstrate a capacity for independent critical analysis and thought, whether this reader was inclined to agree with him ('The Sporting Spirit') or not ('In Defence of PG Wodehouse), or even when I felt like the type of person he describes as being politically opposite but still having common ground and values (such as Orwell's '6 pound a week to 2000 pound a year class of technical experts, airmen', etc in 'The Lion and the Unicorn').

While I don't think Orwell was ever right about economics (although there was plenty of injustice to be aggrieved about), over the years his views on the relative balance of individual liberty against economic equality or any other collective good became sharper and more highly developed, whether demonstrated in a serious work such as 'The Prevention of Literature' or gently implied in a more whimsical 'A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray'. His sophisticated interpretation of the problems of liberty, war and economic injustice, together with his independence of thought can be seen in his willingness to criticize his notional political ally HG Wells and defend the work and thought of apparent imperialist and reactionary Rudyard Kipling.

In summary, George Orwell's `Essays' is an excellent collection of powerful, informative, occasionally whimsical and thought provoking essays which in many cases remain provocative and relevant today. What's more, had it not been for this collection of essays I may never have been discovered Arthur Koestler or Henry Miller for myself, which I have to remain grateful for.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the 20th Century Nov. 26 2012
By Alex - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
George Orwell is known widely for his two renowned novels (1984 and Animal Farm), but he might be at his best as an essayist. This collection is superb; and Orwell's essays will endure not only for his insight, but also as historic pieces that reflect on critical events and people of the 20th Century. His Notes on Nationalism is the best piece, perhaps, ever written on the topic; his views on Gandhi and Yeats are revealing. And for those who are Dicken's fans, his essay on the great author may be worth the price of the entire volume. Any aspiring writer or literary critic must read "Politics and the English Language"--it should be mandatory for any college level English major or professor. One may not always agree with Mr.Orwell's socialist political views, but these essays are extremely well-written, very thoughtful, and ultimately moving. Highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fearless honesty Jan. 4 2013
By Zolaesque - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
These are clearly the essays of a remarkable man, a serious thinker who is driven to report the truth as he finds it, even if - especially if - it challenges or contradicts his own political loyalties. That takes rare courage and Integrity. In our world, where politics has become depressingly partisan and adversarial - witness the adolescent Yah-Boo exchanges every day in 'the mother of Parliaments' - we desperately lack the clear-sightedness and maturity that characterises these essays written more than half a century ago, and as apt today as they were then. When,oh when, will we see his like again?
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell at his lucid best March 19 2009
By Sirin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Orwell was a stellar essayist. His collected essays are must reads as exemplars of clean, crisp prose, augmenting powerful arguments amidst the turbulent international circumstances of Orwell's life. As Timothy Garton Ash comments on the blurb of my edition, to understand the 20th Century, one must read Orwell.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Political writing as art; all art is propaganda March 11 2008
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In these by times highly emotional essays written in the 1930s and 1940s George Orwell gives us with in depth analyses his personal viewpoint on the literary, political and socio-economic scene.

In literature, he sees the novel as `a Protestant form of art, a product of the free mind, of the autonomous individual.' Orwell's aim was to `push the world in a certain direction: a battle against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism.'
In his criticism he searches for the essential (hidden) message of the author.
Dickens's rather naïve creed is: `If man would behave decently, the world would be decent.' His ideal is `a hundred thousand pounds, a quaint old house, a sweetly womanly wife, a horde of children and no work.'
Henry Miller's books are `a passive acceptance of decay and evil.'
H.G. Wells dreams of a utopian World State.
R. Kipling is a jingo imperialist, but he didn't understand that `an empire is primarily a money-making concern'.
W.B. Yeats is in essence a defender of feudalism, `a great hater of democracy and of human equality, of the modern world, science, technology and the concept of progress.'
A. Koestler's main theme is `the decadence of revolutions owing to corrupting effects of power.'
P.G. Wodehouse's real sin is to present the English upper classes as much nicer than they are.
In `Gulliver's Travels', J. Swift delivers a frontal attack on totalitarianism and shows that he is a disbeliever in the possibility of happiness.

Orwell's view on world matters is rightly `no Law, only Power'.
Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power.
The concentration of the media in the hands of a few rich men puts the freedom of the press and intellectual liberty under attack. The `very concept of objective truth' is lost.
The Spanish war showed him the essential horror of army life.
He is extremely severe for the British establishment: `The British ruling class thought that Fascism was on their side.' For them, `it is better to inherit, than to work.' `In an England ruled by stupidity, to be `clever' was to be suspect.'

But his solution is also naïve: `common ownership of the means of production. The State, representing the whole nation, owns everything, and everyone is a State employee.' In other words, he pleads for a massive bureaucracy.
But he contradicts himself when he complains that `everything in our age conspires to turn the writer into a minor official!'

These essays contain also vivid memories of his public school life (`irrational terror') and of his Indian life ('Shooting an elephant'). He comments on sports (`war without shooting), detective stories (J.H. Chase), poetry (`the most hated art form'), mildly pornographic comic postcards (`a harmless rebellion against virtue') and ends with a superb portrait of Ghandi.

These remarkable essays, written by a fearless superb free mind, a fighter for justice and a true `révolté' (A. Camus), are a must read.
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