Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Shooting an Elephant

Rate this book
This is an alternate cover edition of Shooting an Elephant.

"Shooting an Elephant" is Orwell's searing and painfully honest account of his experience as a police officer in imperial Burma; killing an escaped elephant in front of a crowd 'solely to avoid looking a fool'. The other masterly essays in this collection include classics such as "My Country Right or Left", "How the Poor Die" and "Such, Such were the Joys", his memoir of the horrors of public school, as well as discussions of Shakespeare, sleeping rough, boys' weeklies, and a spirited defence of English cooking. Opinionated, uncompromising, provocative, and hugely entertaining, all show Orwell's unique ability to get to the heart of any subject.

368 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1936

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

George Orwell

1,130 books40.9k followers
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 police officer with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma from 1922-1927 and fought with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1937. Orwell was severely wounded when he was shot through his throat. Later the organization that he had joined when he joined the Republican cause, The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), was painted by the pro-Soviet Communists as a Trotskyist organization (Trotsky was Joseph Stalin's enemy) and disbanded. Orwell and his wife were accused of "rabid Trotskyism" and tried in absentia in Barcelona, along with other leaders of the POUM, in 1938. However by then they had escaped from Spain and returned to England.

Between 1941 and 1943, Orwell worked on propaganda for the BBC. In 1943, he became literary editor of the Tribune, a weekly left-wing magazine. He was a prolific polemical journalist, article writer, literary critic, reviewer, poet, and writer of fiction, and, considered perhaps the twentieth century's best chronicler of English culture.

Orwell is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) and the satirical novella Animal Farm (1945) — they have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author. His 1938 book Homage to Catalonia, an account of his experiences as a volunteer on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, together with numerous essays on politics, literature, language, and culture, have been widely acclaimed.

Orwell's influence on contemporary culture, popular and political, continues decades after his death. Several of his neologisms, along with the term "Orwellian" — now a byword for any oppressive or manipulative social phenomenon opposed to a free society — have entered the vernacular.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
3,381 (37%)
4 stars
3,627 (40%)
3 stars
1,672 (18%)
2 stars
284 (3%)
1 star
85 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 415 reviews
July 8, 2018
The end of the Empire came when those who had previously given up their arms and all their wealth to he-who-wears-a-pith-helmet and burns-in-the-sun realised that Jack was not only as good as his master, but his master was a total dickhead anyway. And it was past due time he went home to colder climes and the fat queen who wore a golden crown studded with jewels stolen from their lands.

This story is about one of the sunburned crew realising that yeah, he is a dickhead and reflecting on the lengths he went to just to stop other people realising that. But they knew, they just didn't know they could do anything about it, deprived of arms and government as they were. All they could do was force him to behave in ways that would benefit themselves. In this case, he had to kill a mad elephant that he didn't want to or even seen the need to, but that was his role and elephant was their favourite food. The satisfaction of forcing the white man and his gun to perform his self-defined role was one thing, but defining their own roles another. Eventually though, revolution and independence became possible and then inevitable.

Well, actually not. The British government has been trying to get its remaining outposts of empire to become independent since the mid-80s. The whiter the populace (ie Falklands) the less hard they try and vice versa. (The Labour government actually gave all the rights of passport and settlement that these pale islands enjoyed to the darker ones, which was something).

The problem is that the non-independent islands are now in the position of power. They are all self-governing and the UK is responsible for defence, helps out with major island maintenance via its roving ships, sends old books to the libraries and provides a good place of tertiary education for those that wish it. The only irksome thing for the locals is having to have a meet-and-greet governor who generally lords it over everyone having gathered a coterie of cocktail-party going expats and rich, sycophantic locals around him.

But the main benefit is that our often thoroughly-corrupt politicians cannot change the political system and elect themselves dictator president-for-life. So no one except the thoroughly-corrupt politicos actually wants independence. Empire died. Britain's cold and grey and poor, and we are sunny and warm and not too badly off. We can come to the mother country and work, you can't come here without a work permit. Karma.

Great story. Very short. As well-written as everything else by Orwell. is a free link to this very short story and other writing by Orwell.
Profile Image for Lori.
353 reviews422 followers
July 14, 2021
This was recommended to me by my GR friend Numidica and I'm so glad; I had no idea Orwell was an essayist. GRers, you are my professors. Thank you!

"Shooting an Elephant" is a perfect essay, about when he was posted to what was then (ahem) Burma as a police officer. The townspeople wanted him to shoot an elephant they insisted had the potential to cause damage. This is now among my favorite essays of all time. It opens with:

"In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people—the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter."

He saw the elephant was tame, only in heat, and two thousand townspeople were watching, waiting for him to kill it:

"And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. 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."

"...there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. 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"

A Hanging was another standout for me. Orwell sets up the scenario with nine pages mostly about conditions, prisoners, officers -- and then this, gulp:

"And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path. It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide."

I didn't know George Orwell wrote literary criticism; he did (thanks, professors) and in here are two, on Dickens and Gulliver's Travels. The one on Dickens is the longest essay in the book and it's thoughtful, reasoned criticism, admiring and also biting, and some of it made me think of Dickens in new ways:

"Of course Dickens is right in saying that a gifted child ought not to work ten hours a day pasting labels on bottles, but what he does not say is that no child ought to be condemned to such a fate, and there is no reason for inferring that he thinks it."

"...he is remarkably free from the idiocy of regarding nations as individuals."

"..individual kindliness is the remedy for everything."

"What he does not noticeably write about, however, is work. In Dickens’s novels anything in the nature of work happens off-stage. The only one of his heroes who has a plausible profession is David Copperfield."

"Dickens sees human beings with the most intense vividness, but he sees them always in private life, as ‘characters’, not as functional members of society; that is to say, he sees them statically.

"He cannot make the action revolve round their ordinary occupations; hence the crossword puzzle of coincidences, intrigues, murders, disguises, buried wills, long-lost brothers."

",,,in the power of evoking visual images he has probably never been equalled."

"He happens to be one of those ‘great authors’ who are ladled down everyone’s throat in childhood. At the time this causes rebellion and vomiting, but it may have different after-effects in later life."

Many more things to ponder in that one. On the other hand, the essay devoted to Gulliver's Travels both bored me and lost me at times. It was more an excoriation of Swift's politics than a critique of the work and it wasn't just Swift's politics, it meandered all over the world. Other essays that didn't hold my interest included Books v. Cigarettes, Nonsense Poetry and Good Bad Books.

My greatest hits here has to include two in which Orwell is cogent and on point but, unusual for this collection, playful: Decline of the English Murder and In Defence of English Cooking. There is something, many things for everyone, including Some Thoughts on the Common Toad, Reflections on Ghandi (spoiler alert: not a fan) and the harrowing How the Poor Die.

There are several different collections published in English that have Shooting an Elephant in the title and a different assortment of essays. The quality of the best of these is superb. They're tightly-written, thought-provoking, sometimes profound and a few caused me to see certain events, things and the work of Dickens in new ways. Because of that I won't hesitate to get other volumes that overlap with this one.
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,440 followers
May 8, 2013
This was my introduction to George Orwell's non-fiction. Supposedly during his lifetime, Orwell was known foremost as an essayist; this was quite surprising to me as it was only a couple of years ago that I'd ever even heard mention of Orwell writing non-fiction.

This collection of essays really impressed me.Firstly, the subject matter was very varied, discussing Orwell's observations during his time in Burma, his stay in a French hospital (very horrific), and also his views on books, literary figures and so on.I think his observations about society are still very much valid, and I thoroughly enjoyed his thoughts, his dry wit. Very informative.

My favourite essays were "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool,' "Politics and the English Language," and "Politics and Literature." "Politics and Language" in particular was quite enlightening and offered some advice on good writing habits: "If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythm of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphorious."

And for proof that politics hasn't changed much over the years, "Politics and English Language" has the following words : "Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness."

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Ian.
705 reviews65 followers
January 18, 2019
I read most (maybe all) of this collection as a young man, in my late teens or early twenties. The essay I remembered most was ‘A Hanging’, which along with the title piece was one of two taken from Orwell’s time as a police Superintendent in colonial Burma. It retains its impact even on a second read. In one section, Orwell describes the condemned man walking to the gallows, and stepping aside to avoid a puddle in his path:

“It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide.”

The title story is another powerful piece, but strangely the other essay I recalled best was ‘Boys’ Weeklies’, from 1939, an extended rant about the negative influence of boys’ comics (several of the titles he mentions were still popular in my own youth). It is maybe the weakest entry in the collection. Perhaps that’s why I remembered it.

In reading the more directly political essays, I was struck by how much the arguments mirror modern-day culture wars. This is especially the case in ‘The Prevention of Literature’. Like John Stuart Mill, Orwell recognised that in a democratic country, it is the force of public opinion that represents the greatest threat to freedom of expression. Whilst most of these essays were written when Orwell was politically on the far left, he was never one to subscribe to Groupthink. He ridicules those who performed ideological somersaults over the Nazi-Soviet Pact, or those who “specialize in avoiding awkward questions”. In ‘Looking Back at the Spanish War’, he comments that “what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in solely on the grounds of political predilection…without ever bothering to examine the evidence.”

The autobiographical essays create the impression of a man with few happy memories. Orwell’s schooldays were wretched, his life as a tramp was wretched, and his life in Burma was wretched even though he was theoretically in a position of power and privilege. In Spain he believed in what he was doing, but he still went through the experiences of a soldier on the frontline. But this collection is nothing if not eclectic. ‘Bookshop Memories’ and ‘Confessions of a Book Reviewer’ are comic pieces that had me laughing throughout. On the other hand, ‘How the Poor Die’, an account of a spell in a Paris hospital in 1929, is best read before rather than after a meal.

It’s nearly 40 years since I last read anything by Orwell, and I’d forgotten how good he was. Taken as a whole this was a four-star read for me, but I would rate several of the individual essays as five stars.

320 reviews342 followers
April 3, 2021
قصة شجية وعاطفية عن الإنسان الذى يتحول إلى قاتل فقط ليثبت للناس أنه قادر وليس بعاجز إنه تأثير الوعى الجمعى والتفكير وسط جماعات.

الوعى الجمعى الذى قد يؤدى إلى ثورة عارمة تقتلع الحاكم من جذوره وقد يؤدى إلى قتل وسحق مارى أنطوانيت وزوجها وقد يؤدى إلى حرق المجمع العلمى بمصر باختصار قد يؤدى إلى أنبل الأفعال وأقبحها.

الضابط الأبيض وسط الوجوه الصفراء من أبناء بورما تحول من إنسان نبيل رقيق المشاعر ساخط على احتلال بلاده لهذا البلد الفقير الطيب كاره لزملاءه من القتلة والظالمين تحول إلى قاتل لفيل وديع خرج عن سيطرة صاحبه ولمجرد أنه سمع أن الفيل دمر بعض الممتلكات فتتبعه حتى وجده يأكل الحشائش فقرر أنه يمهله فرصة أخيرة ولكن لتجمع الحشود حوله وخشية أن يُقال عنه أنه جبان ويستهزئ الناس به قرر أن يطلق النار على الفيل فأرداه قتيلاً تتقاسم لحومه أيدى الجوعى.

هذا الضابط يذكرنى دائماً بالضعفاء المنقادين من البشر الذى يحبون ويكرهون بانطباعات غيرهم يطلقون ويتزوجون بناءاً على تعليمات وتوجيهات أمهاتهم وأبائهم يلتحقون بالعمل ويتركونه بناءاً على رغبات غيرهم، هؤلاء قرروا أن يتركوا لجام رقابهم فى أيدى غيرهم يحركونهم كيفما يشاؤون فهم ليس لهم من أمرهم شيئاً.
Profile Image for Numidica.
362 reviews8 followers
April 12, 2020
George Orwell, at his best, is hard to beat. I read 1984 and Animal Farm in high school, and thought I knew Orwell, and frankly I was not very impressed. Then, years later I saw Homage to Catalonia recommended in a list of "Best War Books", and decided to give it a try since I was mildly interested in the Spanish Civil War; from it I learned an entirely new Orwell - the one who wrote about his own experiences, either autobiographically or in novel form (e.g., Burmese Days). After reading Homage, I quickly went through Down and Out in Paris and London, Burmese Days, and many of his essays. The lead essay in Shooting an Elephant, from which the book takes it's name, is in a way, a commentary on imperialism, but also it accurately portrays the dilemma the "leader" in any similar situation faces, when it is imperative that he not be embarrassed, because he needs to maintain his authority. The essay about Orwell's time in a French hospital is reminiscent of Down and Out, and his essay regarding How to (and how not to) Write is very worthwhile for anyone who writes, professionally or not. There are a few essays which are dated a bit, as they deal with issues in Britain in the immediate aftermath of WWII, but for the most part the essays have aged well. I particularly liked his essay on the unmitigated good of planting trees, since it is a hobby of mine. As an aside, another book by Orwell which is a little difficult to find now, is Burmese Days. Having lived in Asia in the early '80's, Burmese Days rang true to me, despite the half century between Orwell's time there and mine, and I recommend it if you like Orwell.

This book of essays is very worthwhile for any Orwell reader.
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,323 reviews2,198 followers
April 29, 2019
This outstanding collection again shows Orwell was a major essayist. I think it was his strongest asset. His fiction never really won me over. Along with longer pieces there are a fine selection of shorter essays - including "Shooting an Elephant", "My Country Right or Left", "Decline of an English Murder" and "A Hanging". With great originality and wisdom Orwell unfolds his views on subjects ranging from a revaluation of Charles Dickens to a spirited defence of English cooking. Displaying an almost unrivalled mastery of English plain prose style, Orwell's essays challenge, move and enlighten. Although he deals with some complex issues, what is most striking about this book is the clean, crisp, easy to read nature. You could probably read it with a hangover and still fully grasp it. Out of admiration Orwell is the sort of writer that would make a lot of other writers extremely jealous. Despite all the time that has passed his non-fiction is still very much worth reading ahead of his fiction. Most of these were simply superb pieces, but the one that stands out for me was Shooting an Elephant. I will never forget that elephant.
April 6, 2016
Surely, a vivid account of the oppression and futility of British colonialism in the East, or anywhere colonialism sets up its tent. Further it shows how the oppressor also becomes the oppressed by having to wear a mask to fit the role of oppressor, then the mask becomes their face.

It is also a fine study, I believe, of our interior lives and its workings. A ringing metaphor for the roles we find ourselves playing to subscribe to the mores and culture of our land. How who and what we are can be crushed by these pressures.

Orwell’s novel-novella takes place in Moulmein, in lower Burma, under British rule. A young British police officer, conflicted about his feelings regarding British imperialism, is called on to shoot a wild elephant who reportedly is terrorizing the Burma town. Having an elephant hunting rifle in hand he takes off to where the elephant is located in a field. The townspeople, of course without access to weapons follow in pursuit of a thrill.

At the field the elephant stands appearing as a harmless creature. The young officer does not want to shoot the elephant but at the same time he has a crowd of, “Natives,” behind him who want and expect him to. Will he shoot the elephant to secure a tighter fit as a British Colonizer, or refuse to shoot and have to walk past the large crowd of Burmese men, women, and children? Will he have the guts to locate who he is apart from the role impressed upon him and act according?

At the end of watching the short movie of, Shooting the Elephant, two days before reading this great work, my wife and I remained silent trying to situate ourselves again before speaking. Compressed, it was an experience that if shared threaded a bonding. The movie was different than the book in some aspects. There was for me no way to read Orwell’s story without being influenced by the movie. The reflex reaction to compare, dictated a strained restriction that permeated the act of reading, thus reconstructing the theme of the book. Can we step in any direction without being constricted by the expectations of our culture, the expectations imposed by ourselves, even our past experiences? Is it a worthy life pursuit to slice as many of the binds as possible? That is in part what being a reader, writer, an artist, is about?
Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews507 followers
August 30, 2016

Why has it taken me so long to discover George Orwell's non-fiction? Ever since reading 1984 when I was a teenager I've known Orwell was an excellent writer, but I didn't know just how extensive a range he had. Fiction, journalism, literary criticism, political and social commentary, memoir; there appears to be nothing Orwell couldn't turn his hand to. This volume includes a range of Orwell's essays from the 1930s and 1940s, with subjects including Orwell's time as a policeman in Burma, the years he spent in the prep school he loathed, the writing of Charles Dickens, Gullivers Travels, the French hospital system, poverty in England, the cost of books and political language. While I found some of the essays of more inherent interest than others, all of them are engaging, written in wonderfully clear prose and imbued with Orwell's honesty, his passion for social justice and his capacity for at times painful self-reflection. This is great stuff. How glad I am that Orwell was so prolific and that there's a lot more of his writing for me still to discover.
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,201 reviews178 followers
April 1, 2022
Покрай настоящата близка геополитическа обстановка, все така важна остава позицията на Оруел, че да си привърженик на леви идеи и да си привърженик на Сталин не просто не е едно и също нещо - те са диаметрално противоположни! Такава позиция наистина може да си докара боя и отляво, и отдясно :)

Отговор на въпроса защо Оруел ще се превърне първо в човек с леви убеждения (рядкост в мъгливия Албион), надградил ги и адаптирал ги до метаморфозата си в безжалостен противник на тоталитаризма, за своя изненада намерих в автобиографичния разказ “Какви бяхме луди!”. Оцелейте в английски интернат за момчета от преимуществено по-високите класи и каси, който е търговско предприятие с викторианска морализаторско-патетична дегизировка по Дикенс, бой с камшик и бастун, полезно за духа недохранване, вменяване на вина, зубрене до приемала и пълна самота, и почти всеки аспект от живота ще ви стане ясен…след 20 години. Ако стигнете пълнолетието си с ненакърнен разсъдък

Силата на Оруел е в публицистиката. В разкостването на фалша, в сложните уроци на простите случки. Затова и най-много ми харесаха разказите в сборника (за мен точно те не са есета) със силен автобиографичен елемент. В “Приютът” и “Как мрат бедняците” уродливостта прелива съвсем естествено, тривиално, ежедневно и дори неосъзнато. В “Обесването” и “Да застреляш слон” Оруел разказва за Бирма, където е служил - империализмът в ежедневието и бита няма много общо с пламенните риторики на защитниците на човешките права, но е основа за появата им.

Не с всички твърдения на Оруел съм съгласна - той твърде изпрепусква покрай някои явления. В други пък го избива на мърморене. Особен към средата сборникът ми понатежа на клепачите.

Но за ползата от “нелитературните” книги (булевардни и приключенски четива) съм напълно съгласна (както и за вредата от преяждане с тях) - в есето “Добрите лоши книги”. В “Защо пиша” Оруел изрежда четири съвсем различни причини, водещи до написването и появата на литературни изригвания на супернови. Тези причини тласкат в движение не само процеса на писане, за мен те очертават и четири различни категории читатели - егоизъм, естетика, история и политика. В шарени комбинации. В “Политиката и английския език” отново е наблегнато как езикът определя мисленето, а мисленето - езика, и ако паразитираме, ругаем и “скатаваме” със заучени клишета, изпразваме складовете на собствения си дух и мозък, и то безвъзвратно. Това, разбира се, се ползва от политици и “инфлуенсъри” (ето паразитна дума, несъществувала при Оруел) като лост (или просто ги мързи).

Най-крупното есе (наистина есе) е “Овладяването на литературата”. Искате литература? Различни теми, нисък и висок регистър на писане? Е, тоталитарните държави няма да го допуснат, а за всеки случай ще вземат и “превантивни” мерки. Радвайте се, ако не живеете в такива (или изцяло такава) държава. Силен антитоталитарен текст, повлиян, естествено, от Сталиновия СССР, но актуален и днес. Но пък и светлият капитализъм си има спирачките, подхранвайки невежество, конформизъм и псевдоинтелектуалност с пазарен елемент. Оруел не си пада любител или специалист по пазарите, но е напипал жилата.

Типично английската рационалност към живите светци в текста за Ганди също е в съгласие с моите лични пацифистки, но неизключващи намеса на АК-47, и не вегетариански представи.

В заключение: интересен чешит е Оруел. На моменти го избива на скука, на моменти и на доста бързи възгледи, на моменти е гениален, хвърля мост между революцията и еволюцията, противник на несправедливостта и оковите, винаги хуманист и не се задоволява със зазубрени възгледи и фрази.

⭐️3,5 звезди⭐️

🤺▶️🤺 Цитати:
“Купешките фрази (клишетата) “ще построят вместо вас вашите и��речения - до известна степен ще измислят и вашите мисли”

“Всяка такава (езикова) щампа анестезира част от мозъка.”

“Вероятно онези, които постигат святост или се стремят към нея, никога не са се изкушавали особено да бъдат човешки същества.”

“Светостта е качество, от което хората трябва да се въздържат.”

“Те бяха лоши абстрактно.”

“Детето възприема кодекса на поведение, който му спускат отгоре, дори когато го нарушава.”

“Това беше големият, неизменен урок на момчешките ми години: че живея в свят, в който ми е непосилно да бъда добър.”

“Продаденият ум е покварен ум”

“Прозата, каквато я познаваме, е рожба на рационализма…”

“Истински аполитичната литература не съществува”

“От гледна точка на тоталитаризма историята по-скоро трябва да се създава, отколкото да се изучава.”

“Организираната лъжа, практикувана от тоталитарните държа��и, не е само временен способ… Тя е заложена в характера на тоталитаризма и ще продължи съществуването си дори когато отпадне нуждата…”

“Враговете на свободомислието винаги се опитват да представят позицията си като апел за дисциплина в противовес на индивидуализма. Проблемът истина/неистина е изтикан колкото се може по-назад.”

“Всичко в нашата епоха се е наговорило да превърне писателя…в дребен чиновник, който работи по спуснати му отгоре теми…”

“…писателската вещина или емоционалната ангажираност са в състояние да направят книгата четивна…повече от ерудицията или интелектуалната мощ.”

“Истината се възприема като лъжа, щом е изречена от врага ти.”

“Противно на разпространеното мнение, миналото не е било по-бурно от настоящето.”

“Цялото изкуство е пропаганда.”

“Моралистът непрестанно подрива революционера и обратно.”

“Прогресът не е илюзия; той настъпва, но е бавен и неизбежно разочарова.”
Profile Image for Кремена Михайлова.
607 reviews178 followers
April 28, 2019
Най-интересни ми бяха автобиографичните текстове на Оруел. Не казвам есета, защото мисля, че точно те не са такива (без да разбирам много) – за Бирма („Обесването“ и „Да застреляш слон“), за интерната на автора като дете. За тоталитаризма и хубаво есе да напише, най-значими си остават романите му по темата.

Няколко от есетата не ме интересуваха особено. На други „спорих“ с Оруел. По едно време почти да си кажа – не е бил социалист, а направо комунист. Но за социалистите от онова време и онези страни е било добре, че е можело отстрани да видят „примера“ от СССР (не знам как са разбирали или подозирали за ексцесиите там) и трезво да преосмислят идеи като революция, власт на пролетариата и т.н. Разбира се това е било възможно за мислещите, не за всички.

Тук – на „мислещи“ правя преход към най-впечатлилия ме разказ – за интерната и детето Джордж. Точно заради невъзможността на малкото дете да мисли чак толкова самостоятелно и аналитично до някое време, а просто да попива като гъба. И какво му остава на едно дете в интернат (не зная каква е разликата с пансион, но не искам и да знам – толкова са ми противни тези институции) – да позволява да му набиват Бог, Бог, Бог, вина, вина, вина, грях, грях; и – богатство, престиж, фризури, атлетичност, надпревара...
Необходим е наистина капацитет на порасналото дете, за да се отърси от тези неща, да преосмисли набиваното денонощно, да замени наливаното със собствено. Тези спомени на Оруел няма да забравя (макар че четох и книгата му за бедняците и бездомниците в Лондон и Париж) – знаех за отпращани от дома деца на 13-14 г., но на 8 години в пансион?!

„За едно обаче съм категоричен и то е, че интернатите са по-лоши от дневните училища. Детето е по-спокойно, ако е близо до убежището народната си стряха. Според мен характерните грешки на английската висша и средна класа може би отчасти се дължат на практиката – доскоро повсеместна – децата да се изпращат далеч от дома едва десет, осем или дори седемгодишни.“

Да, съществена част от системата може би до Втората световна война. Моето мнение за „трудностите“ е от непопулярните (за разлика от по-често срещаното, че трудностите създавали човека – да, но как…). Но и Оруел признава след години и за двата пансиона от детството си – чу��до, самотно, страховито. Това ли е по-лошо или редовният бой с камшици и бастуни… Все пак може би третото – вменяването на вина. Непоносимо! Наистина какъв капацитет трябва да има порасналият човек, за да се справи после с това (трябвали му 20 години)…

„– Не осъзнавате ли какво великолепно творение е вашето тяло? – мрачно ни запита той. – Обсъждате помежду си автомобили – ролс-ройси, даймлери и прочие. Не разбирате ли, че никаква марка лека кола не може да се сравнява с вашето тяло? А вие най-смело го съсипване – за цял живот!“

(Директорът на пансиона говори за мастурбирането, след като е нанесъл съответното телесно наказание на момчетата.)

В есето за Ганди ми беше важно да видя разграничени „неземния или хуманистичния“ (идеал), размисли за пацифизма. Изобщо за втори път виждам не-идеализиране на Ганди (преди от Салман Рушди), но пък с финал на Оруел по достойнство – винаги съм ценяла личности, които имат аргументирани критики към нещо/някого, но са способни да изтъкнат и предимствата, ценното в съответната личност/идея.

Съгласна още:
„На международно ниво спортът откровено имитира войната. Само че тук важно е не поведението на играчите, а отношението на зрителите, тъй като зад него се крие отношението на народите които изпадат в бяс заради тези абсурдни състезания и сериозно вярват – поне за кратко, – че бягането, скачането и ритането на топла са мерило за достойнствата на една нация.“

В кои есета „спорих“ с Оруел (сякаш има някакво значение) – на някои места за войната в Испания, или „Единствено революция може да спаси Англия…“, или в есето за книжарницата – не понасям ирония и клюки за клиенти, макар и да звучат хумористично и основателно подобни истории; не смятам, че е редно да се гледа надменно и да се правят описания какви клиенти/групи клиенти имало, в който и да е бизнес…

Други есета бяха за непознати за мен местни аспекти и ги минах набързо. И разбирам за себе си – явно ме интересува „чистото“ четене, не толкова писателската професия, книжарниците, рецензентите, дори глобалните литературни проблеми не ме вълнуват толкова (изненадващо) поне в момента, затова и някои от есетата за литературата също не ми бяха „тръпка“ както реалните преживявания на малкия, младия и възрастния Джордж.

Но като цяло проблемът с есетата може да е този – около 40-те може да са били оригинални и необходими. Но сега едва ли не всеки пише есета и истории, те са достъпни по много начини, все повече книги се издават с такива истории (за съжаление и с тип „фейсбук статуси“). И затова като форма и теми някои неща не ме впечатлиха. Немалко от тях наистина са актуални, както изобщо се говори за Оруел (че бил пророк и винаги актуален), но други са остарели, или пък ми е втръснало да се дъвчат в ежедневието. Сигурна съм, че много читатели ще харесат повече сборника „Да застреляш слон“. Заради разказите от колониалното време аз искам да прочета и „Бирмански дни“.
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews398 followers
June 7, 2015
Published first in 1936, it is not known if this short story by Orwell is fiction or non-fiction. This is a snapshot of British Imperialism on the individuals level, and it's perception from both sides (politically) of the human experience. A local British official in Colonial Burma is ask to deal with a working elephant run amok in the village. The official, possibly Orwell himself, is torn between shooting the elephant and waiting for his handler to return. He really doesn't want to shoot the elephant, but he feels pressured by the presence of two thousand villagers looking on to act like they expect the imperialist to act. This story is available for free on the Literature Network.
Profile Image for Josh.
88 reviews6 followers
February 3, 2008
A teacher my second term of college said I should drop out because of how much I liked Shooting an Elephant. In retrospect, I realize exactly how much of a commentary on her that is. Moral of the story, don't go to community college.
Profile Image for Niki Karagyozov.
24 reviews4 followers
October 27, 2017
Заради тази книга чувствам Оруел като най-близък приятел. Толкова проницателни разсъждения, че и днес, 70-80 години по-късно, са не просто актуални, а напредничави.

Както измиването на прозорците подобрява гледката, така и всеки следващ ред от есетата на Оруел разкрива в детайли света (на теми като войната, литературата, политиката, природата, образованието и пр.). Може да тръгне от краставата жаба и да развие великолепен разказ за ценностите, политическата система и себепознанието.

Без капка чудене - препоръчвам!
Profile Image for Pink.
537 reviews497 followers
May 29, 2015
This is a brilliant collection of essays. Orwell is still relevant today and always worth reading.
Profile Image for Daniel Gonçalves.
337 reviews16 followers
April 4, 2015
As seen in /my link text

Although a writer, Orwell was primarily a journalist. As a result, the sheer necessity to extricate himself from the depiction of something he his witnessing first-hand is quite evident along his works.

What differentiates him from his other novelist-journalists of his epoch such as Steinbeck or Hemmingway is the ability to drop a considerable amount of humanity into his accounts. The essay “A Hanging” – in which Orwell describes how it was to witness a public execution of a prisoner in India – is a perfect example of this. In it, he not only expresses his contempt for the man who is about to die, but he also acknowledges the wrongness of the situation. In “How the Poor Die”, he recounts his memories of his unpleasant stay at Hôpital X in Paris. Once again, he shows affection towards the unfortunate people who died alone and helpless in the corridors of the establishment.

Other than his empathy, Orwell holds a pragmatic view regarding writing, language and communication. “The prevention of Literature” and “Politics and the English Language” are the most conspicuous examples. In these two essays, he argues about the pretentiousness of certain writers, who use ideas to convey words, and not the other way around. One can say that these points of view might have emerged during his years working as a journalist, yet the arguments he utilizes hold enough poignancy to persuade the reader. In essence, and from his perspective, the “ego” should not count when writing. He reveals he writes only when he has something to tell the audience, and not exclusively as means of self-recreation.

Defining someone as “ahead of his time” might be regarded as a cliché or commonplace. But when it comes to portraying George, this needs to be done. This book should be seen as essential. That is, if you the reader wants to explore the mind of a man who lived through most of the pivotal points in the first half of the XX century, although not always fully belonging.
Profile Image for Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly.
755 reviews331 followers
September 19, 2013
He does not want to kill the elephant but he is a British police officer in his country's colony Burma and two thousand (he must be exaggerating) yellow-faced Burmese are watching, expecting him to kill the beast who had gone on a rampage, killing a cow, destroying crops and houses and causing the death of a native. Yet it is now calm, peacefully eating grass, and its owner may soon arrive and bring him home.

The rulers, however, have masks to wear and a reputation to protect. They cannot afford to become objects of ridicule of those whom they rule. The latter, on the other hand, have expectations about their rulers. So kill the elephant he must. It was at this point, with the elephant rifle in his hands, that Orwell had this epiphany:

"(I)t was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. 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."

Orwell seemed to like epiphanies like this (where he takes part in a killing) so much. We see this in his other story entitled "A Hanging" which I shall review after this. Stay tuned!
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,556 reviews309 followers
August 7, 2018
I started reading the title essay, which is free online, and almost immediately stalled at the hostility of the locals. Do I really need to read about The White Man's Burden? I think not.

Instead, you may prefer the estimable Petra's remarks:
-- which are largely peripheral to Orwell (tho she does like his work, as do I), plus you get stuff like
"Britain's cold and grey and poor, and we are sunny and warm and not too badly off. We can come to the mother country and work, you can't come here without a work permit. Karma."
Hee hee.

So I might try old George's reluctant elephant-execution again. Or not. But we'll always have Petra! I hope....
Profile Image for Eve Kay.
864 reviews30 followers
September 6, 2022
Reading Orwell is like reading my own thoughts. Having him write them out for me is almost like a spiritual experience. For lack of a better word. No, he'd hate the words spiritual experience.
It's like mindblow. That's what it is. He wouldn't have known what that is. Unless he'd already thought of that back when.
Like he did so many other things.
It's almost creepy.

Here are some of the best essays, articles, letters of the volume I read:

Why I Write
Kind of like having a person you greatly admire let you into their professional life and mind and tell you respectably why they do what they do for a living.

A Hanging
A first look into what was coming up. Initial expectation of Shooting an Elephant grew. Like taking a trip in a time capsule to witness something horrific.

Shooting an Elephant
Leaves an everlasting imprint in my mind. The way Orwell tells the story and details it from many points of view makes it hard to "pick a side".

Bookshop Memories
First thoughts arise in my mind about how time has changed and at the same time realizing that this volume is also a look into the world Orwell lived in and how much is still the same. At the same time we get an idea of what kind of things he did for a living. At one point he worked in a bookshop.

A glimpse of life in Marrakesch. Harsh and real. So brutally real.

Wells, Hitler and the World order
Orwell's political views on war and mainly England.

Poetry and the Microphone
A real and honest proof how times have changed. To read poetry on radio is such an out-there idea that I'm thinking I came up with it. Why isn't anyone else thinking about this? Because video killed the radiostar. And Orwell foresaw that TOO.

London letter for Partisan Review
Orwell's view points on war, England, the elite, etc.

Notes on Nationalism
Like reading my own thoughts for the first time and having someone explain them to me first hand. A very odd experience. Feeling a true kinmanship with Orwell.

Revenge is Sour
A detailed explanation on different views on revenge. Why others want it but can't carry it out.

In Front of Your Nose
Orwell's views on the state of the world (1946 and before).

Confessions of a Book Reviewer
Why it's hard and how underappreciated the work was.

How the Poor Die
Gruesome, although I already knew things were like this in many a hospital back when, very life-like description of a French hospital. Orwell was probably able to write it so well because unfortunately he had to spend some time there himself, but many stories he tells second hand are also very believable thanks to his masterful penmanship.

Such, Such Were the Joys
One of the best pieces of literature I've read in a long time.
Many of the details weren't new to me but I read it as a diary of Orwell's. All of it was new to me in terms of Orwell having gone through it. At the same time able to relate to a lot of it even if not at the same exact detailed level but feelings, ideas, views on childhood and so on.
Profile Image for Tara.
178 reviews394 followers
November 17, 2022
mon premier orwell !! seulement un 4 parce que j'avais la version zine super courte mais j'essaierai de lire l'intégrale un jour...?
Profile Image for Lily.
30 reviews
June 10, 2008
This book was probably one of the most interesting novels I have ever read. It is not a traditional book, which is one thing I liked a lot about it. It is actually a collection of essays by George Orwell.
I have read Animal Farm, by George Orwell as well, and that was one of the most amazing books I have ever read (on an analytical level). One of my favorite essays was about Gandhi, whom is obviously a very convtroversal man. His ideals are widely debated all around the world.
One of the most interesting things Orwell said was that he did not agree with a lot of Gandhi's personal beliefs, but agreed with many of the statements he made concerning societies as a whole. I never really thought about being able to agree with the suggestions made by a man you disagree with on a whole. I find that incredibly interesting.
Profile Image for Peycho Kanev.
Author 25 books278 followers
March 24, 2018
Arguably the greatest essayist writing in English.

George Orwell’s famous six rules for writing, taken from “Politics and the English Language”:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Profile Image for Apratim Mukherjee.
220 reviews45 followers
August 21, 2019
This is a collection of Orwell's essays which have been written on a wide range of topics like his days in Myanmar(previously known as Burma), his school days in Sussex , Charles Dickens ,Mahatma Gandhi, English literature to boy's magazines etc.Few like 'Charles Dickens' are too long and boring,some are amusing like 'The Spike' but none of them lose their 'Orwellian flavour'.Orwell's works in general were way ahead of his time.The book is an example of the fact Orwell was a great visionary as well.Though the book has some flaws( like some boring passages,sometimes its pessimistic),I would still rate it five out of five(just because Orwell is timeless)...
Profile Image for Barbara H.
685 reviews
November 9, 2021
I was surprised to discover that this story, which we discussed in my book club, was classified as a non- fiction biography! Of course we all know that George Orwell was the author of well-known novels and essays of future dystopias, etc. But this story apparently occurred earlier in the 20th century. To my horror, the subject involved human rights vs. animal existence. It is clear now how we are encroaching on the wild territories of amazing animals as we view the effect on the lives of human beings. Tragic!
Profile Image for Matthew.
234 reviews64 followers
January 11, 2011
Lovely -- I can't believe I let this sit on my shelf for 3 years before getting round to it. I have not read Orwell before, save for Animal Farm as a teenager, and didn't realise what a sharp essayist he is; I certainly intend to read more. Certainly I'm no Orwell expert, but here are a few things I do notice from this collection:

1. How much he is a proletariat voice, despite his middle class family background and relatively elite education (admittedly on scholarship) -- witness his criticism of Dickens' lack of realistic empathy for the real working classes, his sensitiveness to the biases of the weekly magazines that then passed for cheap mass entertainment, his embedded journalism in the homeless shelter, the very title of "How The Poor Die", etc. His sympathies are entirely with the working class.

2. How against totalitarianism he was -- and yet how much this dates him (for which I remove a star); his specific political attacks seem hardly relevant now. What is relevant, though, and linked to his political commentary, is his attack on censorship and the politicization of knowledge/truth/writing. Interestingly, this was directed at his own Britain, where newspaper reporting was apparently politicized as a result of the wars; how he saw the politicization of knowledge inevitably means a malleable history, a malleable truth, a past that belongs to the elite.

3. What a sharp literary critic he was -- his essays on Charles Dickens and, separately, Swift's Gullivers Travels are brilliant. I like how he argues Dickens is a moralist -- his novels never critique the system, rather, the morality and behavior of people in the system -- and how he extends this to argue that there are always two views: how can you improve the system so as to improve human behavior, versus, you must first change human behavior for any system to work. (I confess myself very much of the latter view.)

4. The same qualities that make him a good literary critic, I think, make him an excellent biographical essayist -- he is reflective and sufficiently sensitive to his own internal reactions, that some of his best stuff are his reminiscences -- the titular essay, Shooting An Elephant, for example, is a rather tragic, honest self-accounting, while Such, Such Were The Joys, is a surprisingly vehement recounting of his days in boarding school. (I've not come across a single positive overall memory of the British boarding school system in the early 20th C...)

5. Simply what an entertaining writer he is -- I can read 3 or 4 of these at a go, even though they're full of insights, they read at a great pace.
Profile Image for Mia.
149 reviews52 followers
February 17, 2015
Why did I let this sit on my shelf for almost 2 years before picking it up? Orwell's essay collection is the best book I have read so far this year. I have enjoyed and/or appreciated some of his better remembered works (1984, Animal Farm) but after reading this, I think his skills are as an essayist (not to say his political fiction was not impressive and important... I simply think some of these essays are even better). I loved his astute and still relevant observations on real secondhand bookstore frequenters, his startlingly honest account of the time he shot an elephant in Burma, his touching stories about the Spanish War, his many interesting thoughts on writing and literature ("Why I Write", "Charles Dickens", "Good Bad Books", "The Prevention of Literature", etc.), and even the less impressive but thoroughly entertaining shorter essays such as "The Sporting Spirit" and "In Defence of English Cooking".

I'm not sure I can truly do justice to how much I loved this book, and perhaps in hindsight it is a good thing that I let it sit unread for so long; I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it to such an extent if I had picked it up a year or so ago. Nevertheless, any enjoyers of essays, memoir, or plain good writing should definitely pick up this collection. Cannot recommend highly enough.
Profile Image for Петър Стойков.
Author 3 books264 followers
December 4, 2022
"Застрелване на слон" не е книга, а по-скоро есе относно тежестта и инерцията на това да носиш отговорност и да отговаряш на очакванията към теб. За това как позицията на отговорност и очакванията към нея могат да те накарат да правиш неща, които всъщност не само ти не искаш да правиш, ами и тия които те карат да ги правиш не ги искат.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 415 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.