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All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  704 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
As a critic, George Orwell cast a wide net. Equally at home discussing Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin, he moved back and forth across the porous borders between essay and journalism, high art and low. A frequent commentator on literature, language, film, and drama throughout his career, Orwell turned increasingly to the critical essay in the 1940s, when his most impor ...more
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published October 13th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1941)
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Aug 19, 2014 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I exhort you to take a proper gander at All Art Is Propaganda.

I've read all of the essays but one, - Benefits of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali. I'm a bit essayed out after the two volumes, All Art Is Propaganda and Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays.

All the essays I've read in these two volumes are brilliant.

I have a problem with getting around to typing up reviews, I have a backlog to do. I'm getting there.

Added to review

Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool

Orwell writes that Tolstoy said
Dec 20, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Collection of critical essays. Some very short notes on what stood out.

Some positive reviews of contemporary literature and film. Henry Miller stands out in his view for rediscovering aspects of personal life. He gives Rudyard Kipling a good drubbing for his sadist tendencies, although Orwell also despises T. S. Eliot's poetry, however, and calls him 'Petainist'.

Also discusses the role of popular culture - the bland and repetitive nature of boy's action magazines, cheesy sex humor and pornograph
Farah Al-Shuhail
Dec 28, 2013 Farah Al-Shuhail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
تصبح الكتابة عملاً شاقاً حين تنتقد أحد أعمال كُتابك المفضلين. خاصةً وأن هذا العمل تحديداً موجهاً لجعلك أكثر وعياً بالأخطاء المرتكبة أثناء الكتابة النقدية. وهذا ما لا يعرفه الكثير عن أورويل, أنه إلى جانب كونه روائي بارع, فهو أيضاً ناقد وكاتب مقالات عبقري يتنقل في موضوعاته بين السياسة والسينما والفن والأدب. ويتسم بالكثير من الواقعية, التي قد تصل به إلى مرحلة السوداوية أحياناً, لكنه يعي رغم ذلك أهمية الحقيقة, ويعي قبل ذلك, أهمية اللغة في نقلها إلينا. ولأن أورويل يدرك أن الأدب الروائي هو نوع الأدب ا ...more
Douglas Wilson
Dec 07, 2014 Douglas Wilson rated it it was amazing
This was really a provocative read. Orwell is such a clear writer, and independent thinker, that you find yourself fruitfully mulling over issues you have never really thought about before. This is a collection of essays and reviews, and is well worth every minute spent on it. Fantastic.
Mar 03, 2009 Martin rated it really liked it

Orwell: All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays

In a column on the most famous essay included in this new volume, 'Politics and the English Language' (1946) Robert Fulford drops the rather original suggestion that Orwell's failure to notice Churchill's splendid wartime speeches--in an essay eplicitly devoted to rigorous analysis of double talk and obfuscation in the political rhetoric of his day--was a proof of Orwell's reverse snobbery. Que?

Truth is you could make a pretty good case for Orwell
Billie Pritchett
Jun 29, 2016 Billie Pritchett rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
George Orwell's book All Art Is Propaganda is one of my new favorite books. Published posthumously (I think), and mostly a collection of book reviews, Orwell is able to present his perspective on what he reads or thinks about in a deceptively transparent way. For example, one of the essays in the book is about Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, and this essay's and much of the other essays' argument structure seems to be:
X is true for the following reasons: A, B, C. However, D, E, F. Yet when we c
Jimmy Ele
May 26, 2015 Jimmy Ele rated it it was amazing
One of the most insightful books I have ever read. It ranges in its scope from the literature of Charles Dickens to the art and life of Salvador Dali. Orwell touches on the subjects of writing, language, politics, religion, life, art, death and so much more in between. Coming away from reading this book, I am increased in my admiration for George Orwell. I admire Orwell's staple books such as 1984 and Animal Farm (art in themselves) for the great books that they are, but after reading this book ...more
Jan 18, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
Some of this was a little over my head, since it was discussing authors and books I haven't read. But, that said, one of my favorite parts was the essay about Rudyard Kipling, and I've read next to nothing by Kipling. My other favorite was the discussion of utopian fiction in "Can Socialists be Happy?" And I was pleased to hear Orwell echo my own thoughts on writing in dialect: it's terrible, and writers "should know better."
Dec 10, 2010 Whitaker rated it really liked it
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Dec 13, 2016 Doctortdm rated it liked it
Essays provide insight to Orwell's thinking process.
Aug 18, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: worth-re-reading
As soon as I picked this up and started reading, I was entranced. I love the close reading of literature and his quotes to help make meaning. I found myself highlighting full paragraphs and promising myself that I need to re-read this book. I have given up underlining sections that strike me because I found myself underlining everything.
In the introduction, Keith Gessen states: The essays are incessantly self-contradicting.

This set me up to expect the writings of a chaotic mind. Instead I have
Siddharth Shankaran
Jan 27, 2013 Siddharth Shankaran rated it really liked it
Critical essays from Geroge orwell depict his vast knowledge of literature, as well as his understanding of it perversion for "totalitarian" as well as other ends of repression. He is unflinching and severe in his critique of Fascism, Communist Russia and Left wing orthodox writers, Catholicism. His main concern is the abuse of power, which is concomitant with all systems of governance that is not liberal , and yet he understands that pacifism is not the way ahead for society, for it tolerates i ...more
E. C. Koch
Mar 19, 2015 E. C. Koch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best thing I've read in a long time, probably since finishing DFW's last book of essays. And I can't even remember the last time I've underlined as many quotes or written as many marginalia as I did with All Art is Propaganda. Like DFW too, it was as if every sentence was a revelation and somehow all these pieces were relevant to contemporary American society. Of course Orwell's through-line thesis is that all artists (he discusses writers mostly, but there are film and play reviews ...more
Grady McCallie
Jun 30, 2014 Grady McCallie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
The essays in this collection were originally published over several years in several different contexts. Yet, they tend to circle around a couple themes - low brow British culture (boys' weeklies, raunchy postcards, 'good bad books') and the relationship between writing and politics. The pieces with the greatest staying power address the second, including his essay 'Politics and the English Language', which I recall from an undergraduate writing course in the late 1980s, and a wonderful 1946 es ...more
An entertaining and thought provoking collection of critical essays by one of my favorite authors. I'll have to admit that I enjoyed the literary criticism somewhat less than essays that dealt with culture or politics in broader strokes. The lengthy essay on Dickens was interesting but at sixty plus pages it seemed like it was a subtle homage to some of his heftier tomes. When he writes about the political situation and rhetoric in the run up to World War II with the clashes between facism and c ...more
Nov 01, 2008 James rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
A new collection of the essays of George Orwell is always welcome and this one is timely in this hyper-political election year.
All Art is Propaganda is a collection of his essays bound by the theme of philosophical and aesthetic commentary. It includes such masterpieces as "Politics and the English Language", "Charles Dickens" and "Rudyard Kipling". Of particular interest in our political enthused year are the essays addressing the nature of propaganda; both directly in "Propaganda and Demotic S
Feb 27, 2012 rabbitprincess rated it liked it
Recommends it for: English majors, those who like Orwell's novels
* * * 1/2

I very nearly gave this "a respectful four stars", but if we're being completely honest here, I did skip the last few essays and skimmed over a few others. While thorough in their analysis and argument, the essays on Eliot and Kipling did not do very much for me; literary criticism becomes hard for me to digest after a while. What I really liked in this collection were the essays about reading in general, and the ones where Orwell seemed to be having more fun. I particularly enjoyed "Co
Jul 17, 2016 Holly rated it really liked it
A few of these essays haven't aged particularly well and don't seem relevant. The collection also highlights, painfully and glaringly, Orwell's profound indifference to the lives and ideas of women. But there are still moments when his keen insight and shrewd wisdom make him just as much worth reading as he ever was. This passage from "Writers and Leviathan" seems particularly relevant, given the political farces and tragedies of 2016:

Most of us still have a lingering belief that every choice, e
John Eder
May 12, 2015 John Eder rated it really liked it
A terrific collection of Orwell's essays, most date from the late 1930s and the 1040s, but are still relevant today. I esp. liked the one about Charles Dickens, and Orwell's point that Dickens, as a social commentator, really only wanted people to behave decently, that you can infer from Dickens' work that he didn't want to destroy the system, he just wanted people to basically be nice to each other and it would all work OK.
What's great about Orwell's essays is how easy they are to read - he w
Jan 14, 2013 Ryan rated it it was amazing
My rating may be biased by never having read literary criticism before, but the book has merits far beyond looking through Orwell's eyes at fiction. Orwell's observations on present society and its players are incisive, honest, and rational. He cuts through poor arguments and puffery, but he doesn't do this just for the sake of showing off. Even when he thinks that a writer is saying something poorly or isn't really saying anything worth reading, he still asks why. It's difficult to describe, an ...more
Matt Miles
Jan 06, 2016 Matt Miles rated it it was ok
Orwell's best known essay from this collection is "Politics and the English Language", his observation that vague, imprecise language can be used to serve the powers that be for their own nefarious purposes. It's a good essay, but it could describe half the works in this collection. Orwell paints with a broad brush and he follows astute observations (or painfully obvious ones) with faulty conclusions. Some of the best works treat "low brow" entertainment with respect as a better window into the ...more
Apr 11, 2013 Tymotka rated it liked it
All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays is a collection of [some of] Orwell's greatest works concerning the usage of art, literature & language. The essay's themselves cover wide ranging topics from Dickens' novels, totalitarianism, Catholicism, weekly boys publications to even Gandhi.

Orwell's views are both uncompromising and earnest to the fullest degree. One of his most well-known beliefs--that pacifism is ultimately complacency, especially in-regards to Nazism & Hitler is a strong cu
Troy Schilperoort
May 21, 2015 Troy Schilperoort rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, essay
Most readers are familiar with Orwell only for "Animal Farm" and "1984", which is a terrible shame, as his nonfiction is among the best 20th century English prose. In "All Art is Propaganda", Orwell attacks sacred cows, vigorously examines the mundane and inscrutable, and shares his pithy observations in a memorable, extraordinarily quotable, and thoroughly enjoyable manner. As both a book reviewer and a novelist, his observations on other writers is particularly fascinating. Several pieces in t ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
Aug 08, 2016 Sidharth Vardhan rated it it was amazing
“I often have the feeling that even at the best of times literary criticism is fraudulent, since in the absence of any accepted standards whatever -- any external reference which can give meaning to the statement that such and such a book is "good" or "bad" -- every literary judgement consists in trumping up a set of rules to justify an instinctive preference. One's real reaction to a book, when one has a reaction at all, is usually "I like this book" or "I don't like it" and what follows is a r ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Jon added it
Strong collection of Orwell's critical essays, with "critical" defined loosely--his review of Gandhi's memoirs, for instance, is more a political article than a piece of literary criticism. The introduction compares him to James Baldwin and Edmund Wilson but he's more reflective than they, less preachy than Baldwin and less pedagogical than Wilson (not to say they're worse, he's just different). Even for those who may have read some of these pieces before, the editor's notes add valuable informa ...more
Nov 26, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-reads
All Art is Propaganda is Clash of the Titans for the literati, a series of tightly written essays wherein George Orwell - yes, that's "four legs good/two legs bad," "Big Brother" Orwell - takes on other cultural giants of his time. Whether it's his oblique praise of Kipling, his tweaks at T.S. Eliot, or his fantastically entertaining swings at the perversions of Salvador Dali, Orwell never fails to fascinate. All Art is Propaganda is a critical grab bag, featuring treats like book reviews that ...more
Years ago, a friend of mine sat with his 3 year old daughter to watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". He was going to teach her great lessons, and she was going to learn from an early age about big concepts and life-changing attitudes. When they had finished watching the movie, he asked his daughter in hushed tones, "Well, what did you think about the Grinch?" to which she quipped in strong tones, "He mad at his dog!" and then skipped away without a backward glance.

I feel after reading some of
Mar 06, 2011 Phil rated it it was amazing
I have loved Orwell since my parents gave me a copy of Animal Farm at age ten, and now I love him more. His essays, including "Politics and the English Language" (which contains the finest set of rules for writing clear English I've ever found), reflect his varied interests, rich erudition and ability to generate memorable phrases which exceeds that of even Charlie Sheen. In "Politics and..." he discusses the importance of rejecting cliches, and throughout the collection, he tweaks cliches into ...more
Mar 05, 2014 Mkfs rated it really liked it
A collection of Orwell's essays in the vein of, and including, Politics and the English Language.

The first half of the collection is mostly reviews and is fairly forgettable, but interest starts to build with the essay on T. S. Eliot, and politics start to become a focus with the subsequent essay, Can Socialists Be Happy?

Orwell's incisive mind and willingness to explore all sides of an issue make this a timeless read. The essays may have been written during the war and postwar period, but the is
Nov 02, 2013 Tom rated it really liked it
4 1/2 stars. This is an excellent collection of Orwell essays. Some of them are downright hilarious and lighthearted, while others are more serious and, some might say, important. The introduction does mention that Orwell occasionally contradicts himself between essays, and that's true. Still, many of the pieces are wholly relevant today, and Orwell's point is always delivered succinctly with hardly a word wasted--even if the point may be a bit off the mark on occasion.
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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.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a a police officer with the Indian Imperia
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