A Collection of Essays
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A Collection of Essays

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  2,189 ratings  ·  129 reviews
George Orwell's collected nonfiction, written in the clear-eyed and uncompromising style that earned him a critical following



One of the most thought-provoking and vivid essayists of the twentieth century, George Orwell fought the injustices of his time with singular vigor through pen and paper. In this selection of essays, he ranges from reflections on his boyhood schooli...more
Paperback, 316 pages
Published October 21st 1970 by Mariner Books (first published 1954)
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K.D. Absolutely
The best collection of essays that I’ve read so far.

14 well-written essays by Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950) also known as George Orwell. It covers a wide range of topics from his childhood, Spanish Civil War, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Jewish religion, politics, etc to his shooting of an elephant while serving as a police in Burma. Perfectly-written in his trademark direct, clear and taut writing the style that I first encountered in his political satirical sci-fi 1984 and...more
Randy
Given the 70+ years that have passed since the publication of most of these essays, I've weighted my evaluation of this collection toward those essays that still retain some relevance.

And granted, there is some seriously anachronistic stuff here. Some real snoozers that are stuck so firmly in time and place that only the most devoted anglophiles or Orwellians would be interested ('The Art of Donald McGill', 'England Your England', 'Boys' Weeklies').

But the majority of essays are written with ter...more
David
Orwell writes so well you want to give him a standing ovation. This collection contains several classic essays -- "Shooting an Elephant", "Politics and the English Language", "Such, Such were the Joys" (memories of his schooldays) -- as well as amazing pieces on Dickens, Kipling, and the state of literature in the 1930s ("Inside the Whale"). Whether writing about the English national character, analyzing the content and effect of popular comics for boys, or explaining his own compulsion to write...more
Ned Ryerson
If you ask me, essays are George Orwell's true talent. And I'm not just saying that because I think essays are da bomb or because I think Animal Farm is an overrated piece of caca. The thing that makes essays difficult to write is the ever-present "who cares?" question. All an essay really is is the musings of a man (or woman) written down. So, who cares? Why do I care what this guy thinks about whatever? Ahhh, but in the hands of a talented writer, who by their very nature must also be a talent...more
Farah Al-Shuhail
لم أندهش كثيراً عندما اكتشفت للمرة الأولى أن سبعين بالمئة من مجموعة المقالات هذه مألوفة أو سبق لي الإطلاع عليها، ذلك أن هذا ما يحدث عادةً حين يقودك هوسك بآراء كاتبٍ ما إلى شراء أي كتاب يحمل اسمه على غلافه دون أن تكلف نفسك عناء تصفحه أو القراءة عنه. فتجد نفسك أمام خيارين لا ثالث لهما، إما أن تعيد قراءة المقالات التي - لسوء حظك - انهيت قراءتها قبل عدة اسابيع فقط، أو أن تضع الكتاب على الرف دون قراءته ويتملكك حينها شعور بأن الكاتب غاضب عليك وسيرسل أشباحه لمطاردتك. وإن كان لا بد من وجود جانب مشرق، فا...more
Szplug
Such Were the Joys : Three-and-a-half stars, rounded up due to the savvy Orwellian marriage of literary craft with recollected misery. It truly makes the Canadian public educational system—one which I experienced from the broad perspective of four different provinces—appear paradisaical in comparison. If I could, I'd reach backwards in time to send poor Eric Blair the comforting gravelly timbre of Steve Earle.

Charles Dickens : Four stars, and serious impetus via a critical encomium of a true Eng...more
notgettingenough
Having discussions lately about the topic that keeps academics in business, I guess: what is literature as opposed to other forms of fiction, I'd like to give access to this Orwell essay as a meaningful point of departure. I feel like I keep talking and arguing without any lines/definitions/meanings in place.

Good bad books. Essay by George Orwell.

Not long ago a publisher commissioned me to write an introduction for a
reprint of a novel by Leonard Merrick. This publishing house, it appears,
is goin...more
Jessica
This anthology is a spectacular collection of Orwell's best essays and what struck me while reading it was the vast array of topics that Orwell took as his subjects. In Such, Such Were the Joys, Orwell narrates his experiences (often miserable) as a "scholarship boy" at an elite prep school. The essay starts with a description of humiliation - Orwell began wetting his bed a few weeks after his arrival at school - and continues on this theme throughout. To Orwell, humiliation is not a unique emot...more
Alex
Since this is a collection of essays, I can safely note some observations.

The first essay in this collection really reminded me of how good an author Orwell was. However, I was rather lost throughout the second essay since it was a review itself of Charles Dickens, who I have not read very much. The next couple of essays also deal with more topical issues which I had a harder time being interested in.

That being said, the two essays in the middle of the book are very interesting. "Shooting an Ele...more
Christina
Orwell's essays could be word-dense and tough for my ADD mind to get through now and then, but his observations are deep, interesting, and still ring true today. I found myself compulsively dog-earring pages with particularly compelling insights I know I will want to re-examine later.

Additionally, his views on books I've already read were at times so interesting that I ended up pulling the old books down off the shelves and cycling them back into my "to read" pile- especially ones I hated the fi...more
John Doe
I really liked the first essay about his experience with school as a young boy. I used to wet the bed too, but I can only imagine how embarrassing that must have been at boarding school. He was an excellent student, but his successes were occasioned by periods of absolute stupidness. Wonderful.

Also, I am attracted to his moral clarity even though I do not always share his conclusions (I don't particularly want to go to Spain to fight the fascists).

Orwell's fiction is a bit political for me, bu...more
Simon Kissam
George Orwell is really an amazing writer, and I really wished I could give it five stars, the writing is really spectacular most of the time, however there were a couple of things that bothered me. One was in his essay about the decline of the English language (back in the 40s) was that while he made right points about people overusing Latin and Greek words and writing phrases instead of words and say they do this because of their pretentiousness, while right he did it from a very 'high horse'...more
Leslie
I always feel bad putting the same labels of "really liked it" on books that have totally different purposes. It is particularly distasteful to think that "really liked it" might imply that I equate good mystery novels and good literature. That distinction is particularly important here. The importance of this book is much greater than any mystery novel. It challenged me and gave me new ideas. It fell a bit short of changing my life, is all.

That said, let me describe its contents:
"Such, Such Wer...more
Sarah
Home to the greatest two Orwell essays ever written: "Why I Write" and "The Politics of the English Language."

Every time I read "Why I Write" I feel I should put away the personal attraction to writing erotica and insanity, violence and soap opera drama, in exchange for a more nobler purpose. I would be kidding myself, though, for that is what I write, but who better than Orwell to show me who I am?
Saquib  Mehmood
A collection of most remarkable Orwellian pieces. Some of my favourites in this: Shooting an Elephant, "
Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionali
...more
William
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.
Katie
So far su-per! "Inside the Whale" LITERALLY knocked my socks off (haha!)! Would that we were all so clear-headed (and unafraid of creating and sustaining gigantic, unwieldy metaphors, and smart enough to get away with it) as Mr. Orwell.
Rob
His essays and reviews are some of the best in the English language
John
Orwell at his best - his essays on Dickens was truly brilliant.
Jake
When it comes to politics, I worry about free will. To what degree are your politics the product of the environment in which you were raised? I would like to believe that I am a liberal because liberal social and economic policies are more moral or correct than conservative policies in some objective way. Certainly these seem more rational and "true" to me. But what if I'm a liberal just because I grew up in Park Slope, that most liberal milieu? What if the facts are only facts because I've been...more
Matt
What's funny about Orwell is that everybody thinks he is on their side, but this collection made me more fully aware that his worldview is firmly that of a liberal democratic socialist. While on the left of the politic spectrum, he found communists and intellectuals as dishonest as they were dangerous, which is why he's struck such a chord with conservatives in modern times. However, he routinely linked conservatives to fascists who he saw as happy to actively repress the working class if it mea...more
Corinne  E. Blackmer
Oct 23, 2011 Corinne E. Blackmer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Pilar Stewart, Glenn Butler
Recommended to Corinne by: Michael North
George Orwell
A fine collection of essays, written in clear, evocative prose, on subjects as varied as the fiction of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Boys Magazines, "Politics and the English," "Why I Write," and what it means to be an English person.
I was particularly fond of the essays on Dickens and Kipling, respectively. Dickens has received, Orwell notes, a bad reputation as a sentimentalist and a moralist, even while he has been appropriated by Marxists and Catholics (and other conserv...more
FiveBooks
Peter Keller, president of polling company YouGov has chosen to discuss The Penguin Essays of George Orwell , on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject - British Democracy, saying that:

"In these essays, Orwell’s essential message is that clear writing is a product of clear thinking, and, conversely, often muddled writing is a consequence of muddled thinking, so it’s a great plea for clarity of thought allied to clarity of expression. My favourite is ‘Politics and the English Language’,...more
Anya
Such,Such Were the Joys...: I can't say that I liked this essay. It was hard to "witness" the brutality with which schooling was handled at the beginning of the last century. Harder still to experience it from such an intimate point of view. These were his caneings, his starvation, his humiliations, it was his spirit that was being broken(unsuccessfully). No, I didn't like this essay but it bloody well was effective in making me shudder and be grateful for the changes in schooling practices.
Char...more
Toolshed
I had this publication borrowed from a local library quite a long time ago - I guess I was about 15 at that time - but didn´t manage to finish or even actually start reading it back then. Now I can see what a grave mistake it actually was. Even though it has been years since I last read a book by Orwell, this collection reminded me that he is still up there among my favourite authors and that my love for his work was not just a temporary teenage charm. I would never have thought that essays migh...more
Diocletian
Such, Such were the Joys...
This essay is about Orwell's school years and also somewhat of a criticism of the educational system of the time. A section that I found particularly amusing was on how the English treated the Scottish Highlanders: "The pretended belief in Scottish superiority (At Orwell's school; they had an obsession with Scotland) was a cover of the bad conscience of the occupying English, who had pushed the Highland peasantry off their farms to make way for the deer forests, and t...more
David
Orwell's prose strips language down to its most simplistic form, yet he uses it to write forcefully about some complex issues; e.g. the psychology of a young boy at boarding school, being a perpetrator, and at the same time, an opponent of imperialism, his reflections on memories of the Spanish Civil War. He writes in what can only be described as the clearest language I've ever read, yet there is an art to this clarity that stops it from being bland.

Several of these essays had a significant im...more
Dave Comerford
For me, what sets Orwell apart from other essayists is his probing frankness. When applied to one's own life frankness is always insightful and in Orwell's case it makes for fascinating reading because he got his hands dirty in such interesting settings: Dickensian boarding school; down and out in Paris and London; the colonial service in Burma; the Spanish Civil War, where he was shot through the throat; mining in rural Yorkshire.

For these reasons, two stand-out essays in this volume for me we...more
Kayte Korwitts
"Personally I believe that most people are influenced far more than they would care to admit by novels, serial stories, films and so forth, and that from this point of view the worst books are often the most important, because they are usually the ones that are read earliest in life. It is probable that many people who would consider themselves extremely sophisticated and 'advanced' are actually carrying through life an imaginative background which they acquired in childhood..." -Boys' Weeklies,...more
Corbitt
Throughout this collection of essays that spanned multiple years one is able to see a theme threading through each piece. The theme is overtly political, though it does not necessarily turn an entire essay into a piece of propaganda. in fact, the final essay in the collection, Why I Write, gives a welcome explanation to the theme throughout the collection though it was obviously not written in direct reference to the collected essays before it. Though varied in topic to seemingly wild degrees, I...more
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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.

Considered perhaps the twentieth century's best chronicler of English culture, Orwell wrote fi...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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“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.” 22 likes
“There are books that one reads over and over again, books that become part of the furniture of one’s mind and alter one’s whole attitude to life, books that one dips into but never reads through, books that one reads at a single sitting and forgets a week later:” 14 likes
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