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George Orwell: English Rebel Hardcover – 24 Oct 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (24 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199680809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199680801
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 2.3 x 16.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 179,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Scholarly and intriguing, it is a lovely semi-biography and a fascinating treatment of an English writer. (Les Gofton, Book of the Year 2014, Times Higher Education)

In [Colls'] book, the reader catches echoes of the kind of spirited English conversation in which Orwell fervently believed. (Christopher Hilliard, History Today)

No book about Orwell can be perfect; the man was too contradictory and too bloody minded to be an easy study. But Colls really gets it ... puts his finger on it... (Spiked)

An eloquent reminder that George Orwell loved his country rebelliously ... both timely and necessary. (Calum Mechie, TLS)

Full of learning and insight ... Colls is a lovely writer, who is fearless in a way that academics too often are not. He is happy to subvert clichés, make little speeches and is willing to permit useful generalisations ... There are several ways in which - quite apart from the success or otherwise of Colls' thesis - this book is a kind of Orwellian triumph. (David Aaronovitch, New Statesman)

This is an excellent, provocative addition to Orwell ... an exceptionally interesting book ... Colls is now entitled to consider himself a prime ornament ... of Orwell studies. (D J Taylor, The Guardian)

Colls is an honest and intelligent writer, interrogating a mind that he very much admires, about issues that he deeply cares about. (Roger Scruton, The Times)

Illuminating insights ... [a] thought-provoking study. (Yvonne Sherratt, Times Higher Education Supplement)

This is the most sensible and systematic interpretation of George Orwell's books that I have ever read ... This biography's achievement is to give us back Orwell the writer - neither a saint, nor an infallible sage, but a perverse, intelligent commentator on his time, and also, on occasion, a superb critic. (A. N. Wilson, The Spectator)

a stunning piece of work, well researched, tautly written and often funny ... It is the best book on Orwell to appear for several years, erudite and original. It catches the extent to which Orwell lived on his wits better than any other account of his life. It's up there with Crick, Gordon Bowker and DJ Taylor. (Paul Anderson, Tribune)

A compact intellectual biography with much political and social content ... There are useful critiques of Orwell's early "angry" novels, his gradual appreciation of the working class, and the political contradictions that he never fully resolved ... General readers will benefit from Colls's deft analysis of Orwell's writings and his attempt to pin down the author's politics. (Library Journal)

[A] lucid work of intellectual biography Colls's engaging style and frequent bursts of astringent wit make for lively reading suitable for any Orwell enthusiast. (Publishers Weekly)

Subtle, probing and refreshingly original study the closest and most intimate portrait of Orwell to date (John Gray, Literary Review)

Short, witty and intelligent performing a valuable service by situating Orwell in the context of interwar history. (Robin McGhee, Prospect)

There have been many books written about George Orwell but this is surely among the best. Rob Colls has taken on the man's Englishness, his personality, warts and all, and the elusive notion that he was a rebel in his own land. It's full of zesty prose, fine insights and a freshness of interpretation which made it a pleasure to read. It's a major achievement and a major work on George Orwell. (Melvyn Bragg)

a lovely semi-biography and a fascinating treatment of an English writer. (Les Gofton, Times Higher Education)

Colls identifies and analyses a strand of Orwell's authorship the importance of which has been consistently underestimated: Orwell's highly problematic relations with his English inheritance By showing how this concern changed its shape over time Colls has changed our view of Orwell's life and work, and offered a fresh perspective on a pivotal period in English intellectual and political history. (John Gray, author of Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals)

This book should interest both informed general readers and serious students of Orwell's work, for it represents a judicious and all-too-rare example of being an absorbing intellectual biography undergirded by scrupulous literary scholarship. (John Rodden, editor of The Cambridge Companion to George Orwell)

Colls has written a highly entertaining book in the good plain jargon-free prose style so valued by its subject it has much for the general reader and student, and will ruffle a few ideological feathers which, as Orwell well knew, is always a good thing. (Spokesman)

Thought-provoking and illuminating. (London Magazine)

Refreshingly vibrant and all round excellent book ... George Orwell: English Rebel is as much a stimulating read as it is inspiring. Although more importantly, it's acutely informative. (David Marx Book Reviews)

Superb. (Spiked)

In his book the reader catches echoes of the kind of spirited English conversation in which Orwell fervently believed. (Christopher Hilliard, History Today)

About the Author

Robert Colls is Professor of Cultural History at De Montfort University, Leicester. He was born in South Shields and educated at South Shields Grammar Technical School and the universities of Sussex and York. He has held fellowships at the universities of Oxford, Yale, and Dortmund, and with the Leverhulme Trust. He is author of the acclaimed Identity of England, which is also published by Oxford University Press (2002).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Cousin on 23 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're interested in what Orwell might have been thinking at almost any stage of his life or what would have happened if he hadn't died in 1950 then this is the book for you. For example we are encouraged to wonder what he would have thought about the life of a shelf-stacker, or how far he would have taken his suspicion of left intellectuals. You get the impression that Colls doesn't particularly like Orwell if you judge by the prejudicial language he occasionally falls back on. 'International Brigade Communists had been street-fighting Franco in Madrid while Orwell had been safely tucked up in his grocery' gives an indication of the style, of which there are other examples. So I conclude here that we're somewhere in the battle to reclassify Orwell post hoc as something that he wasn't, and given the distance since his death and a speculative approach almost anything is possible. It is worth remembering that Orwell wrote 'every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it' and 'I have come to the conclusion that it is futile to be anti-Fascist while attempting to preserve capitalism'.

It is clear that a lot of research has gone into the writing of this book. Of the 330 pages almost 100 are taken by the Notes and the Index.

On my copy of this book the back cover includes praise from John Gray and in the book the final paragraph includes 'Today the major exponent of prime Orwell political writing (...) is John Gray'. I think Orwell would have appreciated that.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an interesting biography which tries to identify the trend of George Orwell's philosophy over his lifetime, and to project how he would have viewed events since his death over 60 years ago. An Old Etonion, who maintained close relationships with other Old Etonions throughout his life, Orwell liked to claim that he was a socialist, and in support of this view are his warm and sympathetic portrayals of working class and poverty afflicted life in two of his earliest books 'Down and Out in Paris and London' and 'The Road to Wigan Pier', and in his volunteering to fight in the Spanish Civil War against Franco's forces,where he was wounded.

He was certainly not of the hard left though, and his most famous books,'Animal Farm' and '1984' are of course strong polemics against communism and totalitarianism.

The author suggests that Orwell was almost a Tory in some respects of his thinking, but fails to produce much in the way of evidence to support that view despite the extensive research which underpins this book. He does however successfully show how Orwell was at heart very English, and how his Englishness shaped much of his thought, and his joy at returning to the country of his birth after his times overseas.

Although quite academic (the author is a university professor) this is also a very enjoyable book, which I read happily over just a few days.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By BluePegasus on 10 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover
There are many books on the English socialist icon George Orwell, but none that really describes and gets inside the man like this book by Robert Colls does. It has been brilliantly researched, as you would probably expect from a man with an academic background, but is also very well written and easy to read, a feat that does not always go together. What is also is fairly unique for me is it shows Orwell in quite a new light, in that he was a man of many contradictions who disliked the right as well as the left of the political divide, taking up viewpoints you would not normally associate with him.

If you want to buy one book on Orwell you couldn't go far wrong in choosing this one
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By R. Sharpe on 17 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Arrived promptly and was exactly as advertised. Thank you.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 11 Dec. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All fine - thank you.
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