F.R.'s Reviews > Why I Write

Why I Write by George Orwell
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Jun 13, 09

I received this slim book (a pamphlet really) of four Orwell essays for my birthday earlier this year and am immensely glad of the fact.

The first of the collection is 'Why I Write', in which Orwell - in beautifully clear prose - examines what really drives writers. There was so much in these ten pages I could empathise with, particularly: "All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.'

Next is the most substantial essay of the collection, 'The Lion and the Unicorn'. This opens with one of his more famous lines 'As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.' The essay is more insightful on the nature of what it means to be English/British and nationalism in general, than it is on the development of a socialist state - but then I am writing this with seventy years of hindsight.

The other two essays are 'The Hanging', which is a clear and chilling narrative piece which looks at the morality of the death penalty; and 'Politics and the English Language'. The latter is the most dated of this grouping, in that - for all the essay's good points - the character of bad political writing has changed a lot since Orwell's time.

There are other pieces which could have been included here (for example, the excellent 'The Benefit of Clergy'), but this is a strong collection. Normally when I read Orwell I reach for the fiction, but maybe I should try and spend some time with his other work.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Gramarye (new)

Gramarye You should absolutely read more of Orwell's nonfiction -- I actually like it better than his fiction, most of the time. I recommend Down and Out in Paris and London, followed by Homage to Catalonia. If you can find the Penguin collections that include these books (Orwell and the Dispossessed and Orwell in Spain), then you'll have both the books and some of his letters and essays to set the works in context.

F.R. Thank you. I will get hold of copies.


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