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Here is Orwell’s work in all its remarkable range and variety. The selections in this anthology show how Orwell developed as writer and as thinker; inevitably, too, they reflect and illuminate the history of the time of troubles in which he lived and worked. “A magnificent tribute to the probity, consistency and insight of Orwell’s topical writings” (Alfred Kazin). Here is Orwell’s work in all its remarkable range and variety. The selections in this anthology show how Orwell developed as writer and as thinker; inevitably, too, they reflect and illuminate the history of the time of troubles in which he lived and worked. “A magnificent tribute to the probity, consistency and insight of Orwell’s topical writings” (Alfred Kazin). Introduction by Richard H. Rovere.


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Here is Orwell’s work in all its remarkable range and variety. The selections in this anthology show how Orwell developed as writer and as thinker; inevitably, too, they reflect and illuminate the history of the time of troubles in which he lived and worked. “A magnificent tribute to the probity, consistency and insight of Orwell’s topical writings” (Alfred Kazin). Here is Orwell’s work in all its remarkable range and variety. The selections in this anthology show how Orwell developed as writer and as thinker; inevitably, too, they reflect and illuminate the history of the time of troubles in which he lived and worked. “A magnificent tribute to the probity, consistency and insight of Orwell’s topical writings” (Alfred Kazin). Introduction by Richard H. Rovere.

30 review for The Orwell Reader: Fiction, Essays, and Reportage

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ariadna73

    Several stories in this book stick forever. For example the description about the dance performed by an Indian girl. The interesting detail is that the description comes from the eyes of a person that strongly dislikes the scene. The miracle is that although the words are of disgust; the beauty of the dance is still intact in the story. I don't know how he does it; but he does. A hanging Wonderful history on how they executed a prisoner and then went on with their lives. An article about his Several stories in this book stick forever. For example the description about the dance performed by an Indian girl. The interesting detail is that the description comes from the eyes of a person that strongly dislikes the scene. The miracle is that although the words are of disgust; the beauty of the dance is still intact in the story. I don't know how he does it; but he does. A hanging Wonderful history on how they executed a prisoner and then went on with their lives. An article about his experiences when he was poor in Paris. About the horrors of being poor; hungry and cold; but also the comfort of not having any worries at all; because you have nothing to lose. That was incredible. Also I read that famous article that he wrote while the planes were bombarding him in London during a war. I wonder how somebody can write with so much clarity while bombs are falling all around; but he managed to do it. He is admirable!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This is just a necessary...excellent...always-useful book to have. Orwell is a fine corrective (not to say tonic) for one's mind and moral imagination. This greatest-hits collection pretty much has it all. Excerpts from his fiction (including his sparkling but lesser-read works, like "Wigan Pier" and "Down and Out...") mixed with his journalism and essays ("Catalonia" and "Shooting An Elephant", both absolutely essential texts for getting a grip on the 20th Century) and his assessments of This is just a necessary...excellent...always-useful book to have. Orwell is a fine corrective (not to say tonic) for one's mind and moral imagination. This greatest-hits collection pretty much has it all. Excerpts from his fiction (including his sparkling but lesser-read works, like "Wigan Pier" and "Down and Out...") mixed with his journalism and essays ("Catalonia" and "Shooting An Elephant", both absolutely essential texts for getting a grip on the 20th Century) and his assessments of Kipling, Swift, Tolstoy, Wodehouse and pulp mysteries. Also, don't by any means forget his "Why I Write", which is not only a statement of purpose but also an essential apologia pro vita sua for one of the decent, articulate, self-critical, humane voices of the 20th Century... What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, 'I am going to produce a work of art.' I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and I do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress this side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities this age forces on all of us.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leland LeCuyer

    I've got to find the time to sit down and actually give my attention this book. My copy was given to me by Dorothy Day upon the occasion of my twenty-second birthday, where she noted "I read and enjoyed this so much. I wanted you to have it." An author could not have hoped for nor received a better endorsement.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah

    Blah Blah, 1984, blah blah, Animal Farm... read his essays! Really his best work. If you don't think you'll tackle them all, then at least read the biggies- Politics and the English Language, The Hanging, Shooting an Elephant. And I remember liking something about Rudyard Kipling, although I can't say I anymore remember why.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Review: August 2006 Homage to Orwell The honesty and realism of Orwell never ceases to amaze. He opens 'Shooting an Elephant', the first story in this collection, by telling us that he was hated by many people. He will spend the rest of the essay showing us why. The pointless death of an animal no longer harmful becomes the legal murder we witness in 'A Hanging'. In both cases we see people becoming their jobs, counting doing one's duty more important than being human. He sees "the dirty work of Review: August 2006 Homage to Orwell The honesty and realism of Orwell never ceases to amaze. He opens 'Shooting an Elephant', the first story in this collection, by telling us that he was hated by many people. He will spend the rest of the essay showing us why. The pointless death of an animal no longer harmful becomes the legal murder we witness in 'A Hanging'. In both cases we see people becoming their jobs, counting doing one's duty more important than being human. He sees "the dirty work of Empire at close quarters" and knows that " imperialism is an evil thing" but continues to do his duty as both imperialist and colonist would see it. The amazing thing is that he is not alone in this. In "A Hanging" the hangman is a convict and after the deed is done we see both Europeans and natives laughing and drinking together. In "Shooting an Elephant" he is stuck between "hatred of the empire" and "rage against the evil-spirited little beasts" that made his job impossible. But again, we witness crowds of natives expecting him to be a Sahib. Orwell's stories show us the demoralizing duties, the pompous gravitas of Imperialism. It dehumanizes both rulers and ruled, turning them into the role they play rather than allowing them to become who they might have been. Both fortunately and unfortunately, he also knows that, "the British Empire is dying [...] it is a great deal better than the younger Empires that are going to supplant it." This collection is pure Orwell. His unsentimental love of ordinary people, coupled with the easy, natural, sympathetic description of complex characters, relationships and motivations, reveal Orwell as a man who was genuinely at home with ordinary people. Only he could write movingly of how imperialism traps (freezes!) both rulers and ruled into roles and duties, of the daily humiliations of colonialism, and the little lies that keep the system going, and still show the oppressors as human beings. Even people we might miss. The only one I have ever read who comes close is Camus on Algeria. In '1984' (only excerpted in this collection), a prophesy of what the Empires destined to replace the British empire could become, it was his ear for the corruption of language by permanent war that struck me, when I first read it well over three decades ago, as the perfect lens for viewing the lies spoken daily by both sides during the Vietnam War. Also, Orwell's insight into the political necessity of continual crises to keep the people both frightened and grateful for protection explained rather nicely how the communists (or Islamic Fundamentalists today) could work with us (and we with them) whenever it was politically convenient to do so. In the collection of literary pieces what surprises is that a man of the left like Orwell, who was always a socialist, could appreciate authors as patriotic and conservative as Dickens and Kipling. We should always measure men by whether they can appreciate the strengths of their enemies. To my mind it is the height of civility in our twisted world to be able to admire an enemy whom someday you may have to kill. We need to remember that there always is, or at least always should be, something beyond (and above) politics. But much of Orwell's posthumous fame comes from his writing on communism. As well it should, he was among the very few famous intellectuals (Camus and Koestler also come to mind) who forthrightly criticized the Soviet dictatorship. But he always remained a man of the left. It was during the cold war that this admirer of decency, virtue, and honesty; to say nothing of socialism, was dishonestly dragooned into being a cold warrior by, among others, Commentary magazine. They went so far as to call him a neo-conservative, twenty-five years before the fact! They should learn how to read. And `Homage to Catalonia', also excerpted in this collection, is an excellent place to start. Yes, the critique of totalitarian communism is there, perhaps expressed better than anywhere else. Here he is interacting directly with the type of Monster dimly limned in 1984. He didn't need to read about the communist's mania to dominate every coalition they enter into, he lived through it. He saw in Barcelona the destruction of a genuine working class movement by the disgraceful collusion of liberals and communists. When Franco led much of the Spanish army into revolt it was the workers who spontaneously resisted. They formed workers' committees to run the factories and workers' militias to win the war. In Catalonia, the anarchists, the radical wing of the worker's movement, were stronger than the socialist parties. In Madrid, a loose governing coalition of liberal and socialist parties was attempting to win the war not only on the battlefield but in the court of world opinion. In plain English, this meant do not appear too radical. You see, socialism worried liberal, capitalist nations like England and France; but anarchism scared them to death. As time went on the government drifted to the right. Orwell was not shocked by this. He understood the diplomatic necessities as well as anyone. What did surprise him was that this rightward drift coincided with ever strengthening ties with the Soviet Union. You see, all the Soviets cared about was the defense of the Soviet Union, and to them this meant the politics of the Popular Front. In the thirties this meant an alliance between everyone (communists, liberals, conservatives) against Hitler and Fascism. An alliance at any cost. So farewell workers control, workers' councils, and workers' militias; this would be just another bourgeois war. And that's what shocked him. Even though Orwell initially favored this policy, as did most of the European Left, he changed his mind when he saw it in action. He too had believed that the most important thing was to win the war. But the suppression of independent socialists like the (Troskyite) P.O.U.M., the gradual repression of the anarchists, and the lies in the international press about all this turned him around. And isn't that vintage Orwell? This man of honesty and integrity, who would report exactly what happened, even when it went against what he believed or wanted. This is why Chomsky called 'Homage to Catalonia' the best book on the Spanish Civil War. It would have been an honor to have George Orwell as a friend, an ally, - or an enemy. Men like this illuminate our world.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Johnny

    A great collection of fiction, non-fiction, essays, and critiques. Orwell was quite an amazing thinker.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    I wish we had more journalists of Orwell's caliber writing today. It's difficult to map his views and insights to the world we have today except in the general sense of power and oppressed peoples.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Some authors seem so close in temperament and world view to yourself that it's as though they were writing directly to you, speaking to a part of you that you never even realized could be written about at all, much less in such a clear and resonant way. That's what reading this book was like for me. My previous exposure to Orwell was reading Animal Farm in middle school (which I remember nothing about except that it had evil pigs and was an allegory of something or other) and 1984, which I read Some authors seem so close in temperament and world view to yourself that it's as though they were writing directly to you, speaking to a part of you that you never even realized could be written about at all, much less in such a clear and resonant way. That's what reading this book was like for me. My previous exposure to Orwell was reading Animal Farm in middle school (which I remember nothing about except that it had evil pigs and was an allegory of something or other) and 1984, which I read for the first time just a year or so ago and loved. I originally bought this collection of Orwell's writing just to get access to one particular essay of his that I couldn't find anywhere else -- Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool. I decided to start reading the whole book and see if I liked it, and if not, I could always just skip to the essay I wanted. But once I started, I had no desire to stop. I never knew before how rich and full Orwell's life was. He seems to have done more in his 47 years than most people can accomplish in the typical 75-year life expectancy. The essays and stories in this book give you a vivid picture of the different stages of his life: his time as an unhappy boy at a strict boarding school, his time working in the British Indian army under the colonial system, his experiment with crushing poverty and working-class life in Paris and London, his time as a soldier in the Spanish Civil War, his stint as a journalist reporting on working conditions in British coal mines...it goes on. The essay I had originally been looking for was excellent not only in the category of Shakespearean scholarship, but also in the class of nonfiction concerned with providing masterly rebuttals to someone else's stupidity (in this case, Tolstoy's). Orwell's writing is also amazingly clear and unpretentious. Even when writing about traditionally obscure subjects like the meaning of King Lear, he always makes things as simple as possible, but no simpler. It's like a breath of fresh air for those of us used to dragging ourselves through sentences that have about as much flow as a mud pit (especially "business-ese," which Orwell attacks perfectly in one of the essays). Every essay in this book is worth reading. I can't even begin to list all my favorite quotes from these pages. I personally have no idea how I made it through years of high school English classes and an entire Bachelor's degree in English without having read more Orwell -- his writing is better, more important, and more interesting than that of just about any other author I can remember reading in high school or college. If I had my way, I'd scrap Animal Farm from the curriculum and have English students read this collection of his writings instead. I'll just limit myself to one quote: "The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they abandon individual ambition -- in many cases, indeed, they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all -- and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, wilful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class." George Orwell, from Why I Write, 1947

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tamer

    Preface-review does not start here. I was introduced to George Orwell almost three years ago when I was at the gym with my buddy. We were talking about literature(we always talk literature when lifting weights, it helps get us in the mood), and that's when my friend brought up the novel 1984. So, here I am, not knowing a damn thing about this book. My friend was literally flabbergasted when I mentioned that I did not who George Orwell was. That's when he recommended reading 1984, as he claimed Preface-review does not start here. I was introduced to George Orwell almost three years ago when I was at the gym with my buddy. We were talking about literature(we always talk literature when lifting weights, it helps get us in the mood), and that's when my friend brought up the novel 1984. So, here I am, not knowing a damn thing about this book. My friend was literally flabbergasted when I mentioned that I did not who George Orwell was. That's when he recommended reading 1984, as he claimed this was a popular book and a fantastic read. And so I did. That week I went to the local bookshop and picked it up. I started reading it, then just like the person I am, left it on the shelve for the remainder of its life. It sat there for about two years before I picked it back up and started to read it. Of course I started from the beginning. That's when I became hooked, and finished the book in less than four days. I literally fell in love with Orwell and then immediately picked up Animal Farm, then finished that in 2 days. Then that's when I picked up this book, The Orwell Reader: Fiction, Essays, and Reportage. REAL REVIEW STARTS HERE! This book is truly amazing. Here you will read Orewll's truest thoughts, ideas and views. This book contains some of the greatest essays that were ever written, such as Shooting and Elephant and Politics and the English Language, essays that you can read over and over again. I am disappointed that I have not taken advantage of this before. Orwell's deepest feelings are attached with his essays. These collection of essays doesn't just tell you who George Orwell is, but Eric Arthur Blair, the man before George Orwell. Just like 1984 and Animal Farm, George shows how strongly he feels about politics, and from his Burmese days. I really don't know any other way to explain the wonders in George's essays. If you're into real English literature, this book is for you.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kanjoos

    What follows are opinions. No apologies. As someone who thinks Orwell is a perfectly acceptable but not good writer and a perfectly good but not great thinker, this is a perfectly pretty-good text. I still think his essays, by and many miles away, are his standout works. 1984 and Animal Farm are all right, but for me the Greatest Hits CD for M. Eric Blair would look something like: 1. Politics and the English Language 2. Shooting an Elephant 3. 'Such, such were the joys...' 4. A Hanging 5. How the What follows are opinions. No apologies. As someone who thinks Orwell is a perfectly acceptable but not good writer and a perfectly good but not great thinker, this is a perfectly pretty-good text. I still think his essays, by and many miles away, are his standout works. 1984 and Animal Farm are all right, but for me the Greatest Hits CD for M. Eric Blair would look something like: 1. Politics and the English Language 2. Shooting an Elephant 3. 'Such, such were the joys...' 4. A Hanging 5. How the Poor Die 6. A copy-paste from Chapter 5 of 1984 7. A copy-paste from the Newspeak appendix to 1984 8. Writers and Leviathan (*which is not actually included here, but warrants mentioning as much as it warrants hunting down online) 9. For good measure, Politics and the English Language, again. Most of the rest in here is just fluff. I haven't read all the excerpts, because I plan on reading most of those excerpted in their entirety. (You are welcome to infer the kind of *hint* institution */hint* that's twisting my arm to read an author of whom I'm fond-but-not-overfond.) What I read of "Burmese Days" and "Down and Out in Paris & London," though, left me unthrilled. The essays of literary criticism likewise are droll, although it's not Orwell's fault as much as it is the fault of the genre - and of whoever cobbled this Reader together, and/or whoever decided that defensive reviews of ancient poets we've collectively remembered fondly were essential. I repeat: fluff. That's not so bad, though. I rather like the image of "Shooting an Elephant" reposing on a cloud of lightweight material no one wants to read anymore; and I imagine "Politics and the English Language," which really ought to have earned a liedown by now, clambering down just to beat its mailed fist at whatever up-and-coming-then-swiftly-down-and-went comedian with a book contract, whatever HuffPost op-edder, and whatever wannabe writerly college student it could sustain eye contact with. Maybe it's just me who thinks of literature that way. But then shouldn't all true love be as personal and bizarro as that?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    456 pages. Donated 2010 May. Here is Orwell’s work in all its remarkable range and variety. The selections in this anthology show how Orwell developed as writer and as thinker; inevitably, too, they reflect and illuminate the history of the time of troubles in which he lived and worked. “A magnificent tribute to the probity, consistency and insight of Orwell’s topical writings” (Alfred Kazin). Introduction by Richard H. Rovere. Contents include: Prologue in Burma - Shooting an Elephant; A Hanging; 456 pages. Donated 2010 May. Here is Orwell’s work in all its remarkable range and variety. The selections in this anthology show how Orwell developed as writer and as thinker; inevitably, too, they reflect and illuminate the history of the time of troubles in which he lived and worked. “A magnificent tribute to the probity, consistency and insight of Orwell’s topical writings” (Alfred Kazin). Introduction by Richard H. Rovere. Contents include: Prologue in Burma - Shooting an Elephant; A Hanging; (excerpt) Burmese Days The Thirties - (excerpt) Down and Out in Paris and London; How the Poor Die, ... World War II and After - ...; Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool; In Defense of P.G. Wodehouse; ...; Why I Write ... You get the idea ...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jason Kinn

    Delightful. Orwell is a principled thinker and a clear writer. He was not of his age but was able to extract himself from it and think rationally. In the first page of his essay on Rudyard Kipling, for example, Orwell calls Kipling a racist. He does not dance around the point. His humility and empathy for others shines through: he actually went into the coal mines to experience the dreadful working conditions of 1930s miners; he fought in the Spanish revolution, but admitted that most of his war Delightful. Orwell is a principled thinker and a clear writer. He was not of his age but was able to extract himself from it and think rationally. In the first page of his essay on Rudyard Kipling, for example, Orwell calls Kipling a racist. He does not dance around the point. His humility and empathy for others shines through: he actually went into the coal mines to experience the dreadful working conditions of 1930s miners; he fought in the Spanish revolution, but admitted that most of his war experience was just dreariness, cold, and meager rations . He believed in a more egalitarian society but called out the lazy thinking of the left. It is a shame he lived such a short life. He was still going strong when he died.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dan Carey

    I'm always seeing others provide thought-provoking quotes from Orwell's writings (other than Animal Farm and 1984). So I thought I would see for myself what the man has to say. I quit reading this, not because I didn't like it, but because I kept misplacing it and I hate re-re-renewing library books. I hope to read more Orwell some time in the future, but I'll buy my own copy when I do.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Some most excellent stuff within this one which includes his trenchant "Politics and the English Language"; "Shooting an Elephant"; "Rudyard Kipling"; ""Tolstoy and Shakespeare"; and a bunch of other ones. Orwell is one whose writing becomes ever more relevant to today's world, as he managed to see clear through early on the processes through which language is perverted to serve the needs of the totalitarian state. You will never know your enemy better than by reading Orwell first.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Orwell's writings are truly wonderful. I especially liked "the shooting of an elephant" because it seemed so unordinary. A good read, one that any history major interested in British Foreign Policy and Imperialist views should read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Luppino

    Orwell is so much more than 1984 and Animal Farm. And I always knew this, but this collection of his works does an incredible job of painting a picture of his life. I will read this again one day; I've gleaned much this time around and would only gain from another reading

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nick D

    This is my most re-read book I own. I always come back to this one. Orwell writes the way I wish I could, and as long as I have this book I'll keep striving. Bought it as a required text for Crafting the Personal Essay course.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Keith Walsh

    His essays on writing explore much more than just writing. The personal narratives are great stories — the type that would be included good episode of This American Life or in my grandparents kitchen — but also make you consider political and emotional issues.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I recommend "Write What I Please," "Shooting the Elephant," and "A Hanging." Personally, I will continue to re-read these essays. Orwell is a great teacher in the creative nonfiction art.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Craig French

    The man could write essays. A lost art, and Orwell was probably the best. Fantastic read, highly recommended.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Madjack

    A must read for all far thinkers out there.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lewis

    Some great essay selections I hadn't found elsewhere; but first read 1984.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dan Gray

    I love Orwell. nuff said.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette Rodriguez Morick

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dana

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christof

  28. 4 out of 5

    David

  29. 4 out of 5

    Khalid

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben

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