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Essays by George Orwell


by George Orwell

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Some of these are as good as any essays I've ever read. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 21, 2016 |
"Shooting an Elephant" is the best narrative essay I have ever read. He surpasses what most fiction writers could ever aspire to evoke in their writing, and he does so in a few pages... "A Hanging" & "Marrakech" are other highlights. His sense for place, his choice of the perfect concrete detail to impress on the reader, is astounding... "Inside the Whale" should also be required reading for fiction writers.
( )
  pessoanongrata | Mar 30, 2013 |
Some essays no longer relevant except to students of era, some classics, such as "A Hanging" and "Shooting an Elephant". Reflects Orwells fear of totalitarian government and disappointment with English socialists.
  ritaer | Mar 14, 2013 |
It's a little unfair to try and assign a grade to a life-spanning collection of essays like this one. By its very nature it has to run the gamut from Orwell's five-star smash hits like 'How the Poor Die', 'Politics versus Literature', and, of course, 'Politics and the English Language', through light, whimsical pieces such as 'Good Bad Books' or 'A Nice Cup of Tea', all the way to mechanical hackwork or tedious, failed conceits. (In the latter case I am thinking particularly of Orwell's 'Imaginary Interview' with Jonathan Swift, a style which has never, to my knowledge, been well done.) One can't very well assess the book as a whole, because it isn't. On the other hand, there is this to say: when Orwell is good, he is very good, and even when he is bad, he remains highly readable.

The collection, as a collection, is not as good. I do not want it thought that I am saying this is not a worthwhile book: it is. Simply by being an easily obtainable hardcover collection of Orwell's short and medium-length prose, it does a valuable service. Before this book came out, the only way to get a comprehensive collection of Orwell's essays in hardcover was to find a set of the four-volume "Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters" on the second-hand market, and the price demanded for that grows more exorbitant every year.

However, there are three major problems with the compilation. One is only slightly irritating, but the other two genuinely harm the utility of the book.

1. No page headings— This has been mentioned by other reviewers. The page headers say only "Essays", where in most other collections they would make mention of the essay you are currently reading. (This is true even of other Everyman's Library titles.) Because most of the pieces are short, you can easily flip back a page or two to find the title, but this grows tiresome fairly quickly, all the more so for the fact that the omission is so pointless.

2. No index of titles— This, to be fair, is not a fault of this one book. Rather, it is common to all Everyman's Library prose collections; I own volumes by Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde, otherwise excellent, with the same problem. Because all the pieces are arranged chronologically, it is frustratingly hard to locate a specific essay; one has to guess where it fell in Orwell's career, turn to the table of contents, and run one's finger down the pages until one finds it. As the table of contents is seven pages long, this is inexcusably poor book design. My copy now sports Post-It notes sticking out the top for easy location of the major essays.

3. Footnotes— Orwell's footnotes have been converted into endnotes, and moved to the back of the book. This is not merely a case of editing for no good reason: it is plain wrong. Orwell's footnotes were invariably parenthetical, comprising asides from and elucidations of the main text; moreover, there are only thirty-eight of them in the book. There is no excuse for not putting them at the bottom of the page, where they belong. There they can be seen in the context of the essays, without requiring you to stop in mid-paragraph and flip to the back of a two-and-a-half-inch-thick book.

Other reviewers and the book's own publicity hype tout this as "the best one-volume collection of Orwell available". It is nothing of the sort. It is certainly the most comprehensive. However, the best one-volume Orwell is the "Collected Essays" which was first published in 1961 and has subsequently been reprinted many times. It is inexplicably hard to obtain in the U.S., but can be had from amazon.co.uk under the title "George Orwell: Essays". (ISBN 0141183063.) It gathers all of Orwell's major pieces without the ephemera; for the already dedicated Orwellphile, it is a delight to have all 80 numbers of 'As I Please' in one place, but for the reader new to Orwell, they are clutter.

Instead, this is the book you buy to keep on your bookshelf for the rest of your life and wear out with frequent consultation. It is a reference volume; the only time one might try to read it cover-to-cover would be on a very long flight. (I have done this, with great success.)

The most frustrating thing about this collection is how close it came to indispensibility. Had it been slightly better designed and edited, it would have been the collection of Orwell's essays, required purchasing for every serious Orwell fan. (Save, perhaps, the manic completists who will settle for nothing less than the twenty-volume "Collected Works.") It is still worth your money, but so little effort would be required to make even more valuable that one must wonder why that effort was not invested. ( )
3 vote spanishmanners | Oct 7, 2007 |
Orwell, George. George Orwell: Essays. Knopf: Everyman's Library, New York, 1968. Life under the current Bush administration reminds me more and more of Orwell's 1984. This growing feeling, coupled with a vague recollection of liking Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language caused me to buy this book. Orwell, I believe, has never lost his relevance. His direct writing is refreshing, and his direct confrontation of large social and political issues will always be good for provoking clear thought and debate. This isn't a book I'm going to read cover-to-cover. However, I think I will turn to the book frequently for wisdom and inspiration. Politics and the English Language is as good as I remembered, and I'm applying its precepts to work. Like political speech, the way we talk about everything at work -- ranging from shipping technologies such as DFS to yet-to-be developed technologies like WinFS -- is mired in vagueness and impairs clear thought. Orwell's literary criticism is refreshingly clear. And he also gives clear advice on how to make a good pot of tea! ( )
  BrianDewey | Jul 30, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375415033, Hardcover)

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

A generous and varied selection–the only hardcover edition available–of the literary and political writings of one of the greatest essayists of the twentieth century.

Although best known as the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell left an even more lastingly significant achievement in his voluminous essays, which dealt with all the great social, political, and literary questions of the day and exemplified an incisive prose style that is still universally admired. Included among the more than 240 essays in this volume are Orwell’s famous discussion of pacifism, “My Country Right or Left”; his scathingly complicated views on the dirty work of imperialism in “Shooting an Elephant”; and his very firm opinion on how to make “A Nice Cup of Tea.”

In his essays, Orwell elevated political writing to the level of art, and his motivating ideas–his desire for social justice, his belief in universal freedom and equality, and his concern for truth in language–are as enduringly relevant now, a hundred years after his birth, as ever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:18 -0400)

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First published under title: The Penguin essays of George Orwell - 1984

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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