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All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays

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4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  428 ratings  ·  45 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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Community Reviews

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Greg
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...more
Hadrian
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...more
Farah Al-Shuhail
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
Martin



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...more
Sidharth Vardhan
“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
Laura
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...more
Grady McCallie
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
Emily
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."
Whitaker
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Billie Pritchett
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
...more
Siddharth Shankaran
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
rabbitprincess
Feb 27, 2012 rabbitprincess rated it 3 of 5 stars
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...more
James
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...more
Ryan
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
Tymotka Zołnierz
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...more
Jennifer
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
Jon
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
Adam Clark
Sometimes very dry and difficult to get through, this books has long term rewards in that it spurns thought in the reader and has some remarkably pertinent observations.
Phil
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
Samara
Pure Orwell: precision of thought clearly expressed; mind-blowing conclusions.
Mkfs
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...more
Denis
This is the nearest an Englishman gets to continental structuralism and post-structuralism and really believes it.
Ethan
This was fantastic. I largely picked it up because I'd never gotten around to reading "Politics and the English Language," but I'm glad I read through the whole collection. It's amazing watching a smart, opinionated, passionate man grapple with a world where it's entirely possible that liberal democracy might cease to be. Parts of it were a little repetitive, although clearly Orwell didn't intend all of these different essays to be read together. But overall I thought it was fantastic.
Tom
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.
Kevin
Really, the best essay is the one about Dickens, and where the book gets its title. Everything else is decent, but mainly dated, as it discusses certain passing fashions of the times (the pre-comics books kids read; the state of India; etc.). Still, Orwell is always incredible to read, as his insights seem way ahead of their time in terms of how people in society should relate to one another. If you like Orwell, go nuts!
Bob
This is excellent. Orwell speaks like a smart, good-hearted, well-read friend. I compare it to Essays of E.B. White, but prefer Orwell because he explains his ideas, while White's best essays are in the form of true stories. White doesn't tell you what he thinks, as Orwell does.
Carl
Orwell's writing is often a treat. Novels are my favorite literary art form, but I definitely love a good essay over a good short story. Somehow have gotten to this point in my life without reading "Inside the Whale," Orwell's fascinating take on Henry Miller. Also some good essays on comic postcards and the emergence of brutal crime novels. A really handsomely made book, too.
Eric Anest
Sep 14, 2012 Eric Anest marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Started reading this book while waiting for other reading material. It's a random collection of essays/reviews, and as such needn't be read through from front to back. The essays I did read I enjoyed (though I was sad to see he's not much of a Graham Greene fan); I hope to read the full book at some point.
Nick
There are a few gems in here (Dickens, the one about schoolboy fiction) but overall this isn't much of a read. Orwell is a fine writer but the subject matter is at times so specific to the period that it feels like a history lesson. This may be a good thing for many readers.
Nathan
I really enjoyed reading these Orwell essays on (mostly) literature and politics. He's given me a lot of food for though with this work. What is an artists role in politics and vice versa. Orwell was definitely able to think as straight as he could write.
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  • Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism
  • How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays
  • The Uses of Literature
  • Finding a Form
  • Selected Essays
  • The Purloined Poe: Lacan, Derrida, and Psychoanalytic Reading
  • Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artists
  • In Bluebeard's Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture
  • Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses
  • Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature
  • Prejudices: A Selection
  • Brothers & Beasts: An Anthology of Men on Fairy Tales
  • The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays
  • Why Orwell Matters
  • The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life
  • The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.
  • Perpetual Peace and Other Essays
  • Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003
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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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