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Coming Up for Air by George Orwell

Coming Up for Air (original 1939; edition 1969)

by George Orwell

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Title:Coming Up for Air
Authors:George Orwell
Info:Mariner Books (1969), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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Coming Up for Air by George Orwell (1939)


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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
This is one of Orwell's comic novels, but with a serious undertone. It's 1938, and there are hints that England may soon be at war again. "Fatty" Bowling is a middle-aged suburban insurance salesman. He feels oppressed by his wife--"She's one of those people who get their main lack in life out of forseeing disasters. Only petty disasters of course." Disasters such as the price of butter going up, the gas bill being enormous, the kids needing new shoes. His children are monsters: "The truth is that kids aren't in any way poetic, they're merely savage little animals, except an animal is a quarter as selfish." His life is stultifying, and his street "a prison with all the cells in a row. A line of semi-detached torture-chambers."

When Fatty has to get false teeth--a landmark: "When your last natural tooth goes, the time when you can kid yourself that you're a Hollywood sheik is definitely at an end. And I was fat as well."--he decides to stop and run away for a week--to come up for air--to reflect on his life. He returns to his childhood village in an attempt to recapture his idyllic pre-WWI youth. Of course he finds the village irrevocably changed, and the impending war with Germany intrusive. There are even hints of 1984 here:

"The world we're going down into, the kind of hate-world, slogan-world. The coloured shirts, the barbed wire, the rubber truncheons. The secret cells where the electric light burns night and day, and the detectives watching you while you sleep. and the processions and the posters with enormous faces, and the crowds of a million people all cheering the leader till they deafen themselves into thinking that they really worship him..."

We all know that you can't go home again--can't recapture the Edenic past. So while there is plenty of humor in this book, it is ultimately a downer, and even Fatty recognizes this:

"I'm finished with this notion of getting back into the past. What's the good of trying to revisit the scenes of your boyhood? They don't exist! Coming up for air! But there isn't any air. The dust bin that we're in reaches up to the atmosphere." ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 19, 2017 |
Not the greatest of Orwell, and definitely doesn't follow that 'typical Orwell' feel to it. I love how the quote on the cover says its a "Charming, cheerful, minor masterpiece" when the entirety of the novel is pessimistic and about how horrible suburban life is, how bad married life is, with kids, and nothing but bills, and how the future (and not just WWII but the after-war) will be likewise horrible if not worse. Definitely not a 'charming and cheerful' novel. Not a BAD novel.... but slow, plodding, pessimistic, and altogether forgettable. ( )
  BenKline | Oct 29, 2015 |
ספר נוסטלגי וכועס על היעלמותה של אנגליה של לפני מלחמות העולם. מעורר הרבה הדים ומחשבות ( )
  amoskovacs | Dec 10, 2014 |
Orwell drops the simpering sensibilities and experimental narration of the earlier novels, developing here the vigorous delivery of plain words and thoughts so effective in his later essays and in 'Animal Farm' and '1984'. A suburban clerk everyman looks back nostalgically to an already distant Edwardian golden age, and too to the timeless pleasures of boyhood; but also prefigures the war and upheaval that's round the corner (the book came out in 1939). A memorable portrayal, and a snapshot of the bullish spirit of the English, as well as their chippiness, the latent fear and tension within the bland calm and continuity of the age (that reliable and comforting social order still familiar in the satirical world of Profesor Branestawm's stories, which I note were written in this period too). ( )
1 vote eglinton | Nov 9, 2013 |
Received from Vasha, to send on to another member of the 1001-library. It is still a book I want to read.
Today I got another copy.
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Komrij, GerritTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156196255, Paperback)

Insurance salesman George "Fatty" Bowling lives with his humorless wife and their two irritating children in a dull house in a tract development in the historyless London suburb of West Bletchley. The year is 1938; doomsayers are declaring that England will be at war again by 1941.

When George bets on an unlikely horse and wins, he finds himself with a little extra cash on his hands. What should he spend it on? "The alternatives, it seemed to me, were either a week-end with a woman or dribbling it quietly away on odds and ends such as cigars and double whiskeys." But a chance encounter with a poster in Charing Cross sets him off on a tremendous journey into his own memories--memories, especially, of a boyhood spent in Lower Binfield, the country village where he grew up. His recollections are pungent and detailed. Touch by touch, he paints for us a whole world that is already nearly lost: a world not yet ruled by the fear of war and not yet blighted by war's aftermath:

1913! My God! 1913! The stillness, the green water, the rushing of the weir! It'll never come again. I don't mean that 1913 will never come again. I mean the feeling inside you, the feeling of not being in a hurry and not being frightened, the feeling you've either had and don't need to be told about, or haven't had and won't ever have the chance to learn.
Alas, George finds that even Lower Binfield has been darkened by the bomber's shadow.

Readers of 1984 will recognize Orwell's desperate insistence on the importance of the individual, of memory, of history, and of language; and they will find in Fatty Bowling one of Orwell's most engaging creations--a warm, witty, thinking, remembering Everyman in a world that is fast learning not to think and not to remember, and thus swiftly losing its mind. --Daniel Hintzsche

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:01 -0400)

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Middle-aged George Bowling perceives the true condition of the world when he visits his childhood home in the late 1930's

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Penguin Australia

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