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Essays (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

George Orwell , Bernard Crick
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Jun 2000 Penguin Modern Classics

The articles collected in George Orwell's Essays illuminate the life and work of one of the most individual writers of this century - a man who elevated political writing to an art. This Penguin Modern Classics edition includes an introduction by Bernard Crick.

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 a revaluation of Charles Dickens to the nature of Socialism, from a comic yet profound discussion of naughty seaside postcards to a spirited defence of English cooking. Displaying an almost unrivalled mastery of English plain prose, Orwell's essays created a unique literary manner from the process of thinking aloud and continue to challenge, move and entertain.

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known by his pen-name, George Orwell, was born in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. An author and journalist, Orwell was one of the most prominent and influential figures in twentieth-century literature. His unique political allegory Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with the dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame. All his novels and non-fiction, including Burmese Days (1934), Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) and Homage to Catalonia (1938) are published in Penguin Modern Classics.

If you enjoyed Essays you might like Orwell's Shooting an Elephant, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'Anyone who wants to understand the twentieth century will still have to read Orwell'

Timothy Garton Ash, New York Review of Books

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (29 Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141183063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141183060
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

George Orwell is one of England's most famous writers and social commentators. Among his works are the classic political satire Animal Farm and the dystopian nightmare vision Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell was also a prolific essayist, and it is for these works that he was perhaps best known during his lifetime. They include Why I Write and Politics and the English Language. His writing is at once insightful, poignant and entertaining, and continues to be read widely all over the world.

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. The family moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 Orwell entered Eton, where he contributed regularly to the various college magazines. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England, where he worked successively as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant, and contributed reviews and articles to a number of periodicals. Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933. In 1936 he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a powerful description of the poverty he saw there.

At the end of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded. Homage to Catalonia is his account of the civil war. He was admitted to a sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. As literary editor of the Tribune he contributed a regular page of political and literary commentary, and he also wrote for the Observer and later for the Manchester Evening News. His unique political allegory, Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame.

It was around this time that Orwell's unique political allegory Animal Farm (1945) was published. The novel is recognised as a classic of modern political satire and is simultaneously an engaging story and convincing allegory. It was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which finally brought him world-wide fame. Nineteen Eighty-Four's ominous depiction of a repressive, totalitarian regime shocked contemporary readers, but ensures that the book remains perhaps the preeminent dystopian novel of modern literature.

Orwell's fiercely moral writing has consistently struck a chord with each passing generation. The intense honesty and insight of his essays and non-fiction made Orwell one of the foremost social commentators of his age. Added to this, his ability to construct elaborately imaginative fictional worlds, which he imbued with this acute sense of morality, has undoubtedly assured his contemporary and future relevance.

George Orwell died in London in January 1950.

Product Description

About the Author

George Orwell's brilliant reporting and political conscience formed an impassioned picture of his life and times. Orwell was born in India and educated at Eton. He served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma from 1922 to 1927. He returned to England where he lived for several years in poverty. Among Orwell's books are DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON, BURMESE DAYS and THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER. He is best known for the allegorical fable ANIMAL FARM and in the novel NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet Mr. Blair 7 Jan 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Meet the best prose writer in the English language (along with pre war P. G. Wodehouse) This is how to do it - access to a vast vocabulary, a mastery of grammar and syntax (and the determination to apply it) and a comprehensive knowledge derived from a deep and wide reading - all applied lightly, with a complete lack of pretension, and with the divine gift of irresistibly Good Humour (as opposed to the deliberately crude and savage kind) - so no hesitation in bracketing him and Wodehouse together.

But where Orwell scores above any other writer in his league was how much hard experience he had accumulated in his short life to set against his insights and opinions - a Police Officer in Burma, a slum dweller in Paris, a tramp in London, a wounded combatant in Spain - so that when he speaks, you listen.

With his clear uncluttered prose he conjures up worlds - a nauseating slum hospital in Paris, the Technicolor kingdoms of Seaside Postcards and Boy's Weeklies, his hellish Preparatory School in Eastbourne.

As to be expected, his analysis of Art and Literature - from Dali to Henry Miller to James Hadley Chase - is always worth reading, but perhaps more surprising is his love of nature and the English Countryside. But it was the latter that grounded him and provided a contrast to what he dedicated his life to opposing - Totalitarianism. `They' don't want you to enjoy the simple pleasures in nature (see `Some thoughts on the Common Toad')

Of course, being Orwell, Politics runs throughout all this, but don't be deterred - whatever your political orientation, this is a man who will always discuss, not harangue.
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165 of 174 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars England's finest democratic-socialist 15 April 2002
Orwell is as likely to go down in history as an essayist as he is as a novelist. The clarity of his style is matched only by the clarity of his thought. Orwell’s belief in using language correctly, in order to transmit ideas, rather than to obscure them, is as essential to his idea of freedom as is democracy. He thought that the English language was in a bad way and set about to correct it in ‘Politics & the English Language.’ “The English language,” says Orwell,” becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts…. Modern English is full of bad habits…If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration.” Lazy language – pretentious diction, meaningless words, and cliché - was a mask for lazy thinking. He would have been aghast at the abundance of modern jargon or the ‘spin’ put on news stories by politicians today, both of which is to either hide up the paucity of genuine ideas or to mislead the public. For Orwell, to speak, and just as importantly, to write, clearly are important for the political process. These ideas were, of course, to feed into his novel, 1984, with its use of Double Speak, to say one thing while thinking another. We recognise these words and phrases all too well: People’s Democracies for Communist dictatorship; pacification for mass murder and terror; We, the people for We, the ruling elite; and Protecting democracy for Defending our financial interests.
When people think of Orwell, they remember him as an anti-Communist and a defender of liberal democracy.
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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Kipling to Kitsch - Orwell speaks out. 6 May 2001
This is a fascinating collection of Orwell's masterful best: from political opinion, artistic debunking, and breathtaking personal insights, to hillariously frank descriptions of Boys' weekly comics and the virtues of saucy seaside postcards!
Be amazed, as Orwell opens your jaded eyes to the bizarre writing foibles of Charles Dickens - things about the esteemed author you thought you knew so well. Be stunned by Orwell's deeply moving personal experiences, in 'Shooting an Elephant' and 'A Hanging', accounts of human frailty that made me shudder with a deep sense of recognition. Have the myths of Public School life exploded for you in 'such, such were the joys' as Orwell escorts you through the darkly repressed world of his boyhood education.
There are so many treats and revelations in this book, that you are able to dive in at random and be suddenly immersed in that lost world of the pre and post war years. The politics may have changed, the fashions, the doctrines, may have all faded or become obselete, but what Orwell does - in breathtakingly frank and beautifully simple language - is to reveal to us how little humanity itself has altered. The vanity and hypocracy we find within, still have an all too fresh ring to them. But Orwell refuses to give up our species' and its eternal drive for understanding and self-improvement; positive attributes that Orwell instills into so much of his scathing honesty and subtle attack.
'Essays' can be enjoyed on so many levels: from a one-man history lesson, to a vivid collection of snapshot opinions that you can delight in, debate or decry. Or perhaps, like me, you will eventually give up on the socio-political analysis and the search for cryptic symbolism, and simply end up enjoying a quite wonderful book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
Bought this just for the sake of owning it. George Orwell is someone we either love or hate - if you love George Orwell you will love this book if you don't love George Orwell you... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Lees
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Gwaelodman
5.0 out of 5 stars I have enjoyed reading and re-reading these essays for forty years
I have enjoyed reading and re-reading these essays for forty years.

Even now they do not disappoint. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Fred
4.0 out of 5 stars A Collection of Classics, some slightly Dated
This book contains all of Orwell's most famous essays. Broadly, the subjects are politics, aspects of English life, aspects of Orwell's life, other writers and, to a lesser extent,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ian Brawn
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent literature, poor publisher, paper and print quality.
Although the book it's self is most excellent, by one of my favourite authors no less, I would not recommend this edition. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Callumdg
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for the modern human
Good introduction by Bernard Crick. The essays themselves, as Crick points out, emerge as perhaps Orwell's greatest legacy and make for absolutely essential reading today, as they... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Matt Phipps
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
A good read if you are interested in the politics of the 30s and what the people involved thought and how their lives were shaped between the wars
Published 16 months ago by jean campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars An Orwell revelation
Arguably the best examples of how to write a perfect essay, and also shows amazing foresight, which is sobering for us today
Published 17 months ago by Badamateur
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative
If you are interested in politics and social issues, in the lead up to and during the second world war. this is an amazingly informative set of essays. Read more
Published 17 months ago by CH
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring.
I've admired and been inspired by Orwell/Blair's work since school. But only read Animal Farm and 1984, which like many other's helped shape my view of the world, and how to look... Read more
Published 17 months ago by kingcon
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