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All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,136 ratings  ·  124 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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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
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
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
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. (”

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
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
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
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
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.
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
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
During WW2, Orwell was paid to write essays, many of which were literary criticism and book reviews. This is the second volume of essays edited by George Packer and it focuses on his critical essays. Given that I have been hanging around Goodreads for a while, the question occasionally arises of “how does one go about writing book reviews?”. These essays provide some insight into how Orwell did it.

What a great idea for a book of essays. Anything that Orwell writes is interesting and well writte
Stephen Gordons
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Orwell is thought provoking, interesting, and worth reading, even when you disagree with him.
Jan 26, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021, read-nonfiction
I loved the essay on Dickens..and there is the famous quote:
"I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his “message,” and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a “message,” whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it. All art is propaganda. Neither Dickens himself nor the majority of Victorian novelists would have thought of denying this. On the other hand, not all propaganda is art. As I said e
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
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
Matt Miles
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Orwell's best known essay from this collection is "Politics and the English Language", his observation that vague, imprecise language can be used to serve the powers that be for their own nefarious purposes. It's a good essay, but it could describe half the works in this collection. Orwell paints with a broad brush and he follows astute observations (or painfully obvious ones) with faulty conclusions. Some of the best works treat "low brow" entertainment with respect as a better window into the ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“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
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: culture, art, 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
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A bit dry at times, but interesting to hear about WWII era through Orwell's POV; also interesting to see how a lot of his criticism of society and politics would still be relevant today. ...more
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
Christian Ayala
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a book of essays where Orwell analyzes a bunch of literature that I'm mostly unfamiliar with. Between that and the pretty bloodless title, I'm not surprised this was languishing on my "Want To Read" list for so long. And yet, I'm here to recommend it. For starters, Orwell could write an essay about an old shoe and it'd be worth reading. His appeal is, as with any essayist, his voice. Orwell is grumpy, yet deeply caring; educated, yet unsnobbish; humble, yet convincing. The other thing is ...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
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
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
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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

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