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A Collection of Essays by George Orwell

A Collection of Essays (original 1946; edition 1970)

by George Orwell (Author)

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1,24299,947 (4.25)30
In this bestselling compilation of essays, written in the clear-eyed, uncompromising language for which he is famous, Orwell discusses with vigor such diverse subjects as his boyhood schooling, the Spanish Civil War, Henry Miller, British imperialism, and the profession of writing.
Title:A Collection of Essays
Authors:George Orwell (Author)
Info:Mariner Books (1970), Edition: First, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:library, to-read

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A Collection of Essays by George Orwell (1946)



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The writing of George Orwell, specifically his foreboding novel 1984 (aren’t we now living that nightmare of doublespeak?) very much shaped my vision of the future as a teen growing up in the 60’s. It was only when the year 1984 passed and life continued to roll on that I realized to what extent his writing had cast a spell over me.
At the time I knew he was also an essayist. As a youth I started to read The Road to Wigan Pier, but soon set it aside and it was forgotten. How things have changed. I recently discovered his “A Collection of Essays” and found it all but impossible to put down. From his opening (and many today say embellished) recollections of his treatment as a young boy in and English public school to his final essay title “Why I Write”, I found his writing clear and insightful.
These essays were written between 1936-1949 and cover a variety of topics, from his look back on his memory of his early schooling to his tortured memory of his involvement in the Spanish civil war. He shares his views on Gandhi, Dickens and Kipling. There are also essays on some of the more mundane aspects of living in the thirties in England. Although not particularly relevant to life in the 21st century these discussions on such topics as the “Boys Weeklies” provided a fascinating insight into what was shaping some of my English ancestors as they came of age.
George Orwell was a brilliant essayist. I am very glad to have rediscovered him. 4 ½ stars. ( )
  Leonardo747 | Aug 17, 2019 |
Excellent. I recommend this review for detailed descriptions of each. There are 14 in all here. I chose a few to match my interests, I suggest the same for those who are interested in some of the wide-ranging topics more than the author (a celebrity in his own right).

Such, Such Were the Joys - 5/5 - Describes George Orwell's schooling as a scholarship student. Focuses on harsh and archaic practices. Issues covered include corporal punishment, prescriptive teaching of classics, unsatisfactory meals, bullying, class differentiation. In addition, we learn about his personal interaction with fellow pupils and teachers, as well as his views looking back on his experiences.

Rudyard Kipling - 2/5 - A political rather than literary exposition on Kipling. I confess to skimming over this one, as I have at this time limited interest in politics or poetry. Some thoughts about colonialism and T.S. Eliot.

Shooting the Elephant - 5/5 - A very readable account of Orwell's experience as a policeman in Burma when called to face an unruly elephant. Covers his interaction with the locals and further thoughts on colonialism.

Politics and the English Language - 5/5 - Loved it. Post-modernists should take note of this study. Gives specific examples of poor language and its use in politics. Learn how politicians obfuscate the truth to support their extremist agendas. Also gives some good guidelines on how to write. In essence, the idea should drive the writing, not vice versa.

Reflections of Gandhi - 4/5 - Limited praise for Gandhi, mixed thoughts on his satyagraha mission advocating non-violence and sacrifice for the greater good. Some disturbing thoughts on the Jews. A balanced impression, in that it was not one-sided, but sidesteps elements such as religion and contemporary influences which were fundamental to Gandhi's world view.

Marrakech - 5/5 - A short but powerful anecdote on what people choose to see and subconsciously ignore. Thoughts on colonialism, racism, poverty. Relevant as much then as it is today. I won't spoil this one by saying more.

England Your England - 3/5 - Covers some stereotypes on what it means to be English. I felt a bit let down when he says, "It's not English to exile your criminals." Seems to have forgotten penal transportation during the 18th century.

Why I Write - 4/5 - Another honest account, this time on selfish and unselfish motivations for writing. Of particular interest if you are interested in Orwell the writer (let's face it, who is not?), this essay offers generalisations which put in words what many people think.

For the future, after background reading:-
Charles Dickens
Looking Back on the Spanish War

No interest:-
The Art of Donald McGill
Raffles and Miss Blandish
Inside the Whale
Boys’ Weeklies ( )
  jigarpatel | Feb 27, 2019 |
Right up front I have to admit this book was mostly a slog. Except for a few of the essays, on Dickens, on Gandhi, on Politics and the English Language, and Why I write at the very end, my attention wobbled. Orwell was a political being from head to toe and his concerns in these essays are entirely focussed on issues of boys, men, men in power, literature by men and for men -- all with the assumption, yes, that nothing else matters much other than who wields the power and what form it takes. No mention at all of a single woman writer other than, in an essay on Henry Miller, Anais Nin of all people. It's a very inward (as in Britishly inward) turning book and the essays are mostly written in the period between 1935 and 1941. At the same time, Orwell is such a good writer that even when I was feeling gnawingly irritated or bored I was far too appreciative of his attempts to be clear and direct and as honest about himself and his limitations as he could be, to put it down. He writes better than almost anybody, even about subjects that I simply cannot get excited about. The final essay, short, about "Why I Write" did not disappoint. The best essay, still entirely relevant, which tells you something about humans, and which should be required reading in high schools, was the one about Politics and the English Language. ****

"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." It goes on in that vein, but those are the two best sentences. ( )
1 vote sibyx | Sep 16, 2018 |
Orwell, by all accounts, was a tremendously interesting person who could talk - or write - about any topic. These excellent essays bear out that theory. Each one is fascinating whether it is about politics, nature, literature, or anything else. Orwell's writing is eloquent and articulate. In my opinion these essays are flawless. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | May 20, 2018 |
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. Also particularly liked "Inside the Whale," a paean to Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. ( )
1 vote William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
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