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Essays

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4.34  ·  Rating details ·  6,363 ratings  ·  390 reviews
This outstanding collection brings together Orwell’s longer, major essays and a fine selection of shorter pieces that includes My Country Right or Left, Decline of the English Murder, Shooting an Elephant and A Hanging.

With great originality and wit Orwell unfolds his views on subjects ranging from the moral enormity of Jonathan Swift’s strange genius and a revaluation of
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Paperback, Modern Classics, 496 pages
Published June 29th 2000 by Penguin Classics (first published January 19th 1941)
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4.34  · 
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 ·  6,363 ratings  ·  390 reviews


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Paul Bryant
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Update - this just like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get next. As the dark war-torn year of 1940 begins, what does Orwell begin the year with? Why, a 50 page dissection of the work of Charles Dickens... and expressed with such breathtaking authority too :

in spite of his generosity of mind, he is not free from the special prejudices of the shabby-genteel. It is usual to claim him as a "popular" writer, a champion of the "oppressed masses"... but there are
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MJ Nicholls
Numerous inadequate volumes of Orwell’s superlative essays are available from legit presses and bootleggers, bundled together under thematic pretences or skinnied down to the longer more ‘essential’ writings. This monolithic hardback includes the famous and forever pleasurable classics ‘Shooting an Elephant’ (best thing written on Burma ever), ‘Charles Dickens’ (best criticism of Dickens ever), ‘Bookshop Memories’ (best thing written on bookshops ever), and so on. Included here are the ‘As I Ple ...more
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
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Roy Lotz
What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art.

George Orwell is one of the inescapable writers of the last century. Far from becoming irrelevant, his works seem to become more significant with each passing year (as most recently evidenced by the present administration’s strained relationship with the truth). Orwell himself said that the “final test of any work of art is survival,” and his works seem on track to pass this final test. His dys
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Sarah (Presto agitato)
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orwell
This is an enormous doorstop of a book, with over 1,300 pages of George Orwell’s essays. Of course that doesn’t cover everything he wrote, but it’s an awful lot. While best known for his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell was probably a better essayist than a novelist. This volume contains Orwell’s best and most famous essays, printed many places (including online), like “Such, Such Were the Joys,” “Shooting an Elephant,” and “Politics and the English Language." It also includes ...more
Nick Black
Sep 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
man, this book is such a great old friend.
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Orwell is skyrocketing up my list of major 20th century writers with every one of the 255 pages I've thus far read of this 1300+ page behemoth. The man was amazingly prescient, at a deep, detailed level.

This was one of the best collections of essays I've ever read, probably second only to Freeman Dyson's The Scientist as a Rebel. Across 1363 pages of essays from 1928-1949 (the vast majority of them coming from 1938-1946), written for a wide gamut of
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Randy
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Mark
A few years ago I read a study about Bette Davis by someone or other. I cannot recall the name of the author or of the book but I remember very clearly how at the end I admired the skill of Davis as an actor more than I had before reading but admired her as an actual person a good deal less. You probably never thought that Bette Davis, drama queen and 'movie siren' would sit comfortably alongside George Orwell in a review and perhaps they don't, (though I have heard George did a mean Joan Crawfo ...more
William2
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, nonfiction, 20-ce, uk
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. I also particularly liked "Inside the Whale," a paean to Henry Miller's masterpiece, Tropic of Cancer.
notgettingenough
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
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. First published 2 November 1945.

Not long ago a publisher commissioned me to write an introduction for a reprint of a novel by Leonard Merrick. This pu
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Sookie
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
George Orwell was probably one of the most important social critique of his times. Being in the army, he traveled the world, became part of a society he was alien to and provided well thought out feedback on various issues. He was outspoken about British imperialism during his trip to India and Burma, criticized willful ignorance of liberals during Spanish war and wrote about writers, artists and their works. His body of work is vast and this one large volume doesn't cover it entirely.
George Orw
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Pink
Feb 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've said it before. I'll say it again. It's Orwell. It's fantastic. I actually read a free Gutenberg version of his 50 essays, but it's much the same as this edition. A few of the essays were too political and only relevant to certain past events. A few were quite boring or about very obscure subjects. Yet the vast majority were absolutely fantastic, topical, relevant for today and incredibly well constructed. Essential reading for Orwell fans. Otherwise a condensed version of his best pieces m ...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
Salam Almahi
Okay so, let's get one thing straight: My review is not of this particular book, but I've read a collection of Orwell's essays and didn't know how to mark them.
The essays I read are:

- Politics and The English Language: It was what intrigued me to read these bunch of essays in the first place. I got the idea that it was what gave birth to the idea of Newspeak (the language used in 1984), but upon reading it, it was very different.. More like a critique of changes in writing styles. Orwell was ve
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Jonathan
I don't have much to add about Orwell, his prescience, his style, etc. I did find something that I confess made me wonder whether Orwell is quite as egalitarian, or as strict about avoiding bad rhetoric, as the people who talk about him now would like him to be. These lines come from "Inside the Whale," a review of Tropic of Cancer: "In mid-nineteenth-century America men felt themselves free and equal, were free and equal, so far as that is possible outside a society of pure Communism. There was ...more
Penny
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant set of essays, providing great insights into Orwell's world -- the end of colonialism, the rise of fascism and Stalinism, the evolution of British society. I read Orwell's essays in college (in fact, I may have read some in high school), and have usually carried a volume around with me since. Orwell has been one of the most influential people in the shaping of my own world view.

So many great essays -- in "Politics and the English Language," Orwell talks about why so many political t
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J.W.D. Nicolello
I honestly have no clue how I forgot to catalog this. Two renewals twice as many summers past. Nine golden weeks. Makes for a good weapon in the case of a mugging as well, also good on the arm muscles. Indispensable.
Alejandro Ferrés Bruyn
Recomendada lectura para quienes, sean de izquierdas o derechas, prefieren anteponer la búsqueda de la verdad al conformismo ideológico.
Michael
The work in this book shines a searchlight on the British and British intellectual life.
Subjects illuminated include : the end of colonialism, British politics, World War 2, British people and class, the British inter-war intelligentsia, and more.
The essays are each a learning experience; some have to be waded through for a while before the lessons start to emerge... all are worth the trouble. I was actually excited as I read this book, things kept slotting into place for me, I feel a more compl
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Nooilforpacifists
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-crit, asia
Includes "Shooting the Elephant" and "Politics and the English Language". Genius.
J. Watson (aka umberto)
In fact I read most of these essays in this handsome hardcover some 13 years ago during my gloomy days due to my unsatisfactorily productive academic pursuit at UQ. However I recalled vaguely I had written some ideas, reflections, views, etc. regarding his inspiring essays since I always admire his writing style with good, witty points he has long mentioned and urged the world to have a look or take action as appropriate then and beyond.

Therefore, I have resumed reading those unread as my second
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Philipp
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Highly recommended, I only wish I could write this clearly, or even think this clearly. A lot about politics, propaganda and modern life (both haven't really changed since then it seems), the most impressive thing to me is that even though he nowadays counts as a socialist, he can impartially describe the follies of both left and right without falling for the lies and (self-)deceptions of either side. I don't know any "modern" (as in, currently alive) writers who can do this.

As a sidenote, one c
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Jack
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don't take the sword perish by smelly diseases. The fact that such a platitude is worth writing down shows what the years of rentier capitalism have done to us.

I wondered why, with the man himself persistently claiming his sympathies with the Left, Orwell is so often quoted by right-wing Americans, regurgitated into alien contexts I inevitably encounter reading the news online. I think it's
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LindaH
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
I went for Orwell's six-part essay on Dickens first since I am rereading Bleak House right now. I've decided to get down these thoughts, and break GR's rules, before reading the rest of the book.

In the first paragraph of the fifth section, Orwell's got my number. He is aware, says he, that any fan of Dickens is by now angry at him. I am a fan of Dickens, I was annoyed by his assessment of Dickens' status as nothing but a "moralist".

“Dickens's criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. He
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Katie
There are a few authors that you are forced to read in school, or that you know the name of, even if you haven't read them. They are considered 'good' or 'important writers' and after a while they get the stigma of people only reading them because they want to sound impressive. So they can say for example, oh yes I've read Shakespeare, or oh yes The Grapes of Wrath, I've read that. And I always watch myself because I know part of me wants to read books by people like this, simply so I too can sa ...more
Farah Al-Shuhail
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ned Ryerson
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dhari Buyabes
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As much as I enjoy Orwell's fiction, I also enjoyed reading this non-fiction book. While fiction and non-fiction are entirely different genres, Orwell excels in both. Actually, I noticed that some essays have ideas which Orwell developed later in his fiction.
My favorite essay is "Politics and the English Language." It's about that meaningless pretentious language in politics and the humanities. He writes about its absurdity and how some politicians use it to confuse their listeners. I liked h
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The Book Queen
Jul 24, 2016 rated it liked it
This was equal parts fascinating and soul-crushingly boring, so as with (it seems) all collections or bind-ups I read, I'm going for the middle ground and rating this three stars. ~Review to come~
Bloodorange
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, non-fiction, library
Orwell the novelist did not particularly impressively me, but when I was reading his essays I had the impression that my IQ soars towards the realm of 200s, and plunges as soon as I close the book. He writes clearly and elegantly, beautifully constructing the argumentation and paragraph structure.

A note: whoever is responsible for the font size in this edition (ISBN 9780141395463, Modern Classics Essays) is an utter idiot. This is definitely a compressed version of a book in a large format - the
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28,409 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
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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.” 38 likes
“The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable"...In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning.” 35 likes
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