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All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays

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4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,063 ratings  ·  122 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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Greg
Apr 13, 2014 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
...more
Kristen
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
As a title, All Art is Propaganda has a portentous quality that doesn't do justice to the sheer delight of Orwell's essays. Reading his straightforward prose style is like talking to a friend who just happens to have thought deeply about all levels of art, ranging from Charles Dickens and Salvador Dali to dirty postcards and boys' adventure magazines. Orwell does often bring politics into his criticism, but his approach is a lot more engaging and less bleak than you might expect. And despite (or ...more
Faye
Charles Dickens - 4/5 stars
Boys' Weeklies (read before in Decline of the English Murder)
Inside the Whale - 2.5/5 stars
Drama reviews: The Tempest, The Peaceful Inn - 3.5/5 stars
Film review: The Great Dictator - 3/5 stars
Wells, Hitler and the World State - 4.5/5 stars
The Art of Donald McGill (read before in Decline of the English Murder)
No, Not One - 3/5 stars
Rudyard Kipling - 2/5 stars
T.S. Eliot - 2/5 stars
Can Socialists be Happy? - 3.5/5 stars
Benefit of Clergy: some notes on Salvador Dali - 1
...more
Tosh
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading George Orwell's essays and reviews is not so much that I agree or disagree with him, but the fact that I admire his prose writing. In an odd way, he reminds me at times of Roland Barthes. Perhaps for the reason that I have been reading Barthes time-to-time the past twenty years or so. Barthes is a poetic and textural reader, and I feel that I'm dipping into a murky pool of different ingredients. Orwell looks at his subject matter in a similar vein as Barthes but is very much in defining ...more
Douglas Wilson
Dec 07, 2014 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.
Scott Rhee
“From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned...(p. 259)”

Let’s start with the basic definition of the word “totalitarian”: “adj.) of or relating to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life. (dictionary.com)”

Arguably, the country I live in and love---the United States of America---has never been a democracy. It is technically a republic. True democraci
...more
Stephen
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I NEVER THOUGHT I'D LOVE ESSAYS SO MUCH AND I WISH I COULD WRITE ESSAYS ABOUT THESE ESSAYS AS GOOD AS THESE ESSAYS BUT I CANNOT. I JUST CANNOT.
Martin
Mar 03, 2009 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 Or
...more
Gisela Hausmann
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though Orwell is famous for writing about political issues, every writer should read this book, because it’s not only about politics, this book is a lot about what writers think of other writers’ work.

George Packer’s fascinating introduction reveals that Orwell also reviewed books which I didn’t know. His thoughts are fascinating. Certainly, Orwell has a tendency to look at the world from a political point but he also notices when other writers or society itself ignores politics.

“... The Russi
...more
Art
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
George Orwell perfected his plain style in the thirties, a style that resembles someone speaking honestly without pretense, writes Keith Gessen in the introduction.

All Art is Propaganda, this volume, includes essays where Orwell holds something up for critical scrutiny. Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays, the twin companion to this one, collects essays that build meaning by telling a story. These two books, one of narrative the other of analysis, include four dozen essays.

For the most p
...more
Janelle Hanchett
Apr 29, 2020 rated it liked it
I gave an Orwell book three stars. What a strange thing to do. And yet I stand by it. Sort of. Probably four and I’m just mad. Who cares about stars.

Anyway, I’m not a feminist running around seeking opportunities to grow outraged at the erasure of women writers, and I expect it when reading male authors of the 1940s. But I began this book on the day I finished reading Gaskell’s “North and South,” which is a Victorian novel that looks deep into England’s urban working class, cotton mill workers.
...more
Jimmy Ele
Jan 10, 2015 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
Razi Shaikh
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the 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. Defenceless ...more
Siddharth Shankaran
Jan 22, 2013 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
Ollie
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think it’s often missed that George Orwell was primarily a journalist and essayist, not a novelist. I didn’t forget that, I just didn’t know. I owe Orwell quite a bit, because it’s through reading 1984 that the floodgates of my voracious reading were opened. Before, I had been forced to read books, but now it became a hobby. Chomsky has lauded Orwell for his Homage to Catalonia and how well it depicted the Spanish civil war. It feels like a novel but is actually journalistic reporting. It’s en ...more
Billie Pritchett
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: george-orwell
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
Emily
Dec 06, 2012 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."
Julie
Jan 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle-unlimited
It was interesting to see his views from that time period, and scary how much of what he was saying politically could be applied to today. The wide range of topics makes this tricky to review, but I am struck by how well he writes an argument. He must use outlines, and I am envious of a time in history when people were so well read and contemplative.
Fraser Kinnear
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, culture, essay
I’d already read many of these essays in other Orwell collections. As in elsewhere, this book contains “Politics and the English Language”, perhaps is his most famous essay, which was frequently recommended by Christopher Hitchens, and required reading for any member of Richard Holbrooke’s staff.

My favorite new essays were Orwell’s reviews of the works of Kipling, Eliot, Chaplin, Dali, and Tolstoy (there’s several others, like Dickens, that impressed me less). Any one of those mentioned are wor
...more
Whitaker
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Andrew
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In a day of fake news, alternative facts, and politicians regularly not just massaging the truth but fabricating it wholesale to their own benefit, the work of George Orwell seems like it was written in response to today’s news. The writer best known for 1984 and Animal Farm was adamant in his opposition to what he called newspeak—any doublespeak using convoluted and pretentious language to conceal the truth.

That is the case with All Art Is Propaganda, a 2009 collection of Orwell’s essays from t
...more
Mike Kanner
A good introduction to Orwell the essayist. Despite my fondness for Orwell (beyond 1984 and ANIMAL FARM), I gave the volume only 3 stars because the collection does not have a central theme. They range from drama and film reviews to Orwell's opinion of Gandhi. Included are reviews that are only relevant to the time written (e.g., theater reviews, a discussion of colored postcards) or aspects of culture that are no longer applicable (e.g., Raffles). This makes his comments and how culture and pol ...more
Aaron
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good collection of essays. Given the dated subject matter of some (dirty postcards and pulpy novels), I thought I would have been bored by “The Art of Donald McGill” and “Raffles and Miss Blandish”. Not at all.

The passage that grabbed my attention in the “Raffles” essay, is the violence and sadism behind the book “No Orchids for Miss Blandish”:

“It is important to notice that the cult of power tends to be mixed up with a love of cruelty and wickedness for their own sakes. A tyrant is all the mor
...more
Juergen John Roscher
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read_2017, essays
This book helped me to better understand the man who wrote Animal Farm and 1984. He had opinions on writers, world-leaders, capitalism, Nazism, socialism and communism (and any other -ism). I enjoyed several of his essays in this collection, especially ones on Dickens, Swift, Tolstoy and Gandhi; with most of them some how interlinked with political systems. Another essay titled Boys' Weeklies on the books that English boys grew up reading during the early 20th century was interesting, especially ...more
Robert
Jul 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: gennonfiction
I like Orwell a lot and "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eighty-Four" are two of my favorite novels but I didn't enjoy these essays too much.

(1) Orwell is too negative for my taste. He is much better at saying what he doesn't like than giving dispassionate analysis and he sure doesn't like a lot of things.

(2) His essays tend to have more assertion than analysis. It often felt like he was trying to convince by rhetorical force rather than by building up convincing arguments.

But I did enjoy the essay o
...more
Jeff
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always admired George Orwell's writing for the direct and lucid prose, and his non-fiction essays turn out to be as interesting as his better-known fiction. I'm giving this collection a middling rating only because a handful of pieces in this volume are dated, and don't hold much interest here in the early twenty-first century.

That said, Orwell does have a remarkable ability to engage the reader even on unfamiliar subjects, and his essays on Charles Dickens, British Boys' weekly magazines,
...more
Irene
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I LOVED this book. I liked some of the essays better than others (some, like the Prevention of Literature, were definitely five stars for me - then again there was the one about Salvador Dali's autobiography, which told me more than I ever wanted to know about that :s ), but overall the book was delightfully thought-provoking. It's fascinating to me when I can read an author who I actually don't agree with on many things (religion, politics, etc), but who always gets the gears in my brain workin ...more
Scott
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: western-civ
One of the great themes of this collection of 1940s essays is that writers must really fight to think through what they write about, rather than simply produce propaganda for their political "side." It will not surprise those who have read Animal Farm and 1984 that Orwell saw totalitarian politics as a great threat to honest writing. It was really a joy to see him think through the various topics in this collection and link them to broader trends in literature and politics. My favorites were "In ...more
B.
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like this book. To understand why that is a sufficient review, read the essay titled "Writers and Leviathan". But of course I feel the need to say more, so I will say: read this book to figure out if Orwell is on your side. If you are not sure, think about what your side is. He is not a trivial man and the things he says are not so easy to digest, if only because you're not quite sure what you are eating (reading).
One helpful note: If you only read one chapter from this, make sure it's "Politi
...more
Adam Georgiou
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What one thing can you say about a set of mostly independent essays? It seems you're obligated to either (1) give an general opinion on Orwell, himself; or (2) talk about the essays' independent points in succession, perhaps finding and commenting on common threads that join two or more of them.

OK, so... Orwell is great.

Moving on, here's a few things I found interesting:

Firstly, a lot of these essays are criticisms of popular literature from Orwell's era: books I haven't read. And somehow, even
...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.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial
...more

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