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George Orwell
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Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  262 ratings  ·  42 reviews
George Orwell was first and foremost an essayist, producing throughout his life an extraordinary array of short nonfiction that reflected--and illuminated--the fraught times in which he lived. "As soon as he began to write something," comments George Packer in his foreword, "it was as natural for Orwell to propose, generalize, qualify, argue, judge--in short, to think--as ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 14th 2009 by Mariner Books (first published 1999)
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Katie
I read "Why I Write" a few months ago and was pretty floored by it. Essays are a true test for the writer, I think; their intelligence and expertise are fully on display, while a novel, poem or short story is but a glimpse into exactly what the writer wants revealed. Orwell's work is a product of its time, for better or worse, but even when worse (eg. racist and classist statements about the Indian and Burmese peoples with whom he worked as a member of the Burmese Police), he confronts whatever ...more
Laura
I love how Orwell infuses these personal and political essays with first-hand experience that gives such power to his journalism. I agree with editor George Packer that "Orwell's belief in the supremacy of sensory evidence restricted him as a novelist and critic."

But his individual voice shines in the flexible form of the essay. The pieces span his career, from witnessing "A Hanging" and "Shooting An Elephant" as a colonial policeman in Burma, to prescriptive slice-of-life pieces ("In Defence of
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Scott
When this edition and its companion volume were first published in 2009, I checked them out of the Oklahoma City Public Library and read selections from them. Last year I finally purchased my own copy and began reading this one while I was on our recent vacation to Hawaii.

A few of these essays are as strong as the rest and there is a wide variation in style and length. Among some of the standouts:

"Shooting an Elephant" -- one of his classic works which reflects on the inherent problems in Britis
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Greg
I am well in awe of George Orwell. What can I say.

Zack
Synopsis: Some of George Orwell's nonfiction essays, collected.

Thoughts: Orwell has been one of my literary heroes ever since I read 1984 for the second time, but I'd never read any of his essays before these. It's interesting that he is best known in our country for two of his novels, while his greatest strength as a writer (as Packer's introduction explains) lies not in his fiction, but rather in his memoirs and essays. He writes about such widely-ranging topics as strategies for defeating Fas
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Andrew
The cover actually captures something important about the book. It's natural to see a book that's self-importantly titled "Facing Unpleasant Facts" and think, oh, get over yourself. Then you read the first couple of essays and find yourself going, "Yes, sir that's unpleasant . . . okay, yes, that too . . ." And as you read, the sense of obnoxious but faintly endearing (because so drippingly British) self-importance is always there, lingering in the background, behind some of the most wonderful q ...more
Andrew
I had only read Orwell's fiction, + Homage to Catalonia. This essay collection is the tits.
Whitaker
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Mary Ronan Drew
Facing Unpleasant Facts, 1937-1939 by George Orwell. This volume of The Complete Works of George Orwell, which is edited by Peter Davison, includes his letters, journals, essays, book reviews, and two timelines of news leading up to the war in Spain and World War II.

Orwell was alert and observant and when commenting on politics and as fair as any writer I've encountered. He was a dedicated socialist and was vehemently anti-war after his return from fighting in Spain. He escaped from that country
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Tony
Orwell, George. FACING UNPLEASANT FACTS: Narrative Essays. (2008). *****. This collection was compiled from “The Complete Works of George Orwell” published in 1998 and edited by Peter Davison. Orwell (pseudonym of Eric A. Blair) was a prodigious writer, and his essays appeared in all the leading journals and newspapers of the time. The editor of this selection was George Packer. There is a companion selection of his critical essays also available which I have to seek out and read, too, especiall ...more
ann
This collection has a wide range in gravity and subject matter. I was introduced to this books via Animal Farm and 1984 and I believed he would mostly focus on socialism and politics in the collection. These subjects are here in these essays, but delves into lighter subjects too. He talks about the perfect fireplace, football, springtime, and gives a defence of English cooking as fluently as he talks about the spanish civil war or english nationalism in the 40s.

I enjoyed all of these essays for
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Marc
A fascinating collection. Some of these essays don't hold up very well; in particular, I found "A Hanging" contrived and not particularly believable, despite its august reputation. "The Sporting Spirit" feels extremely forced; it's like the flipside of Rick Reilly-type sentimental sports twaddle. But some of the lighter pieces--I'm thinking of you, "In Defense of English Cooking" and "A Nice Cup of Tea"--are amusing, and "The Moon Under Water" is clever. More important, some of these essays are ...more
Vanessa
This collection of essays is probably best parceled out over time; in reading them as a piece I began to be immensely irritated at the persnickity tone and know-it-all-ness pervasive in most of the essays. His War Diary is intensely interesting, as are the more journalistic pieces (his stay in a work house or his experiences in the Spanish Civil War), but the presumptions he makes about the inner lives of his general "Other" grate after long exposure.
Erica
Hey goodreads: it bothers me that the "cover" pictured here does not match the actual book, though the ISBN does.

Anyway, this is a very solid collection, though the abrupt change of tone between Orwell's writing before and during WWII with those afterward is a bit jarring. It goes pretty quickly from diary entries about how, when walking around London during the blitz, he catches himself evaluating which building/storefronts would make the best locations to shoot from when the Germans invade, d
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Vasil Kolev
The interesting part here is the effect of his stay in Spain during the Spanish war and the resulting reporting of the suppression of POUM and his trying to tell the truth. There are also his diaries from Morocco, and his work on "Coming up for air".
Jennifer
Mariner books, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, presents Facing Unpleasant Facts, the companion volume to All Art is Propaganda. Whereas AAIP concerned itself with critical works, Facing presents the narrative essays, making it the somewhat more accessible of the two volumes. (Both of which feature the same excellent foreward by George Packer.) This volume's a bit front-weighted with famous("A Hanging" and "Shooting an Elephant" are among the very first essays), but consistently excelle ...more
Alia S
"If you were a patriot you read Blackwood's Magazine [watched FOX] and publicly thanked God that you were 'not brainy.' If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack [Stars and Stripes] and regarded physical courage as barbarous. It is obvious that this preposterous convention cannot continue. ... Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again. It is the fact that we are fighting a war, and a very peculiar kind of war, that may make this possible."


* * * * *

Increasingl
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Andy
This was a really great collection of essays. Lot's of what Orwell writes about is relevant for modern society.

It's also a good collection of essays about pre-war and wartime Europe. As an American, WW2 was taught to me just as good vs evil. Orwell brings the conflict to life and talks about Fascism and its place. I learned a lot.

But most of all, the thing that comes through is the theme of the title. Orwell writes about that which goes unacknowledged - that the Japanese will invade China, that
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Flo
For those who are not huge on politics or war, ease your way into the book by starting the following chapters:

_ Such, Such were the Joys
_ Why I write
_ Revenge is Sour
_ Shooting an Elephant
_ The Moon Under Water
_ In Front of Your Nose
_ A Nice Cup of Tea

They are brilliant renderings of Orwell's thoughts,and they almost epitomize allegories,in that each of them teaches you something about the way of life. The only difference being that it is embellished in Orwell's own personal experience rather th
...more
Phil
I have mixed feelings about Orwell. They mix between fanboyish and worshipful. This selection provides a mix of high-quality essays reflecting the attribute of Eric Blair I most admire--his ability to survive. Among other unpleasantries, he faced Catholic school, being hated by large numbers of Burmese people, and being shot during the Spanish Civil War. I started reading Orwell at age ten, and I plan on actually paying for this essay collection; holding onto it until I die on my feet.
Mike Polizzi
The opening essays to this collection are among the best writing I've ever come across- to the point that I wondered what happened to the early Orwell. After the war time journal entries the collection lost my attention- a lot of political pieces. Orwell had an interesting political mind, but he's far less captivating a writer when he engages political ideas. The pieces from his days in Burma or his first person reporting are what make this excellent.
Vinny
A good cover of his famous essays and some little gems no one ever knows about such as how to make the best cup of tea possible. I am pretty well read with his works but I have still never gotten to read his war time diary which gave light on Orwell's views during the war and how he actually became a captain in the home guard. THis is a very good starter for his essays.
Emma
Read this for a class. It is now one of my favorite George Orwell books. His writings inspire me to do more, be more in society and not be on the sidelines and watch. Each time frame he shares how life experiences showed him lessons. He would seek-out opportunities to gain understanding of the diverse aspects of society.
Laura
I think Orwell was a great man as well as a great writer. And if you haven't read "Shooting an Elephant" recently (I assume you probably read it in school at some point), brace yourself before reading it again -- it's actually very disturbing throughout, but especially at the end.
Peter Jana
Clear thinking and acute observation characterize Orwell's writing. As difficult as it may be to see "what's under one's nose,"he does a good job of it. He reminds us to take time to clear away the fog that often shrouds public discourse.
Kent
I read the essay called "Looking back on the Spanish War. It made laugh and cry at the same time. A nice essay for anyone who has read Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, or seen its film adaptation, Land and Freedom.
Jack
Orwell's essays are succinct, sharply written, and insightful. He's been described as "the wintry conscience" of his generation - the essays here are testament to that. Not to be missed.
jeff
The man can write an essay. Damn. Not every one was perfect, but the majority of them were outstanding. And the ones that were amazing are among the best I've ever read.
Jon Chang
Collection of essays from right before to shortly after World War II. Orwell has some interesting insights, as always. I don't agree with him at all on tea though ^_-
MNGooner
To say that I love this book is an understatement. If I were to become a writer, Orwell would be my mentor and the cloth that I would cut myself from.
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Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

Between 1941 and 1943, Orwell worked on propaganda for the BBC. In 1943, he became literary ed
...more
More about George Orwell...
1984 Animal Farm Animal Farm / 1984 Down and Out in Paris and London Homage to Catalonia

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“When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone’s thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a “case” with deliberate suppression of his opponent’s point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.” 7 likes
“I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn't know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles ... There cannot be much doubt that the whole thing is bound up with the rise of nationalism — that is, with the lunatic modern habit of identifying oneself with large power units and seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige.” 4 likes
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