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George Orwell: A Life Hardcover – Mar 1981

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (T) (Mar 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316161128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316161121
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.3 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,320,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Nov 2003
Format: Hardcover
Every couple of years "The Economist" (a weekly magazine/newspaper that analyses world events and trends) reviews one or more books related to George Orwell. I have been reading The Economist for over 15 years now and it has consistently come to the conclusion that Crick's biography of Orwell is the best. That's why I read it. I found it excellent and truely difficult to put down when I should have been sleeping. Who can not wonder about what George would think about the how widely read (and variously interpreted) his writing has become.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By MarkK TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 July 2003
Format: Hardcover
The centenary of Orwell's birth has brought a number of books about the author, including two new biographies (by D. J. Taylor and Gordon Bowker). While the other books might have varying value for whatever revelations of the man and his life that they contain, Crick's book remains the best biography of Orwell because of its analysis of his politics -- a key component (if not THE key component) of both his reputation and his legacy. To this analysis Crick adds a probing examination of Orwell's life, accepting none of the man's accounts of it (as presented in his many works) at face value. Throughout the book Crick deflates the many exaggerations and debunks several of the myths that Eric Arthur Blair used when constructing the public image of George Orwell. The combination makes for a first-rate examination of both the man and the legend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Brooke on 10 July 2012
Format: Paperback
An excellent book. Certainly one of the best reads I have had for years and, in my view, the best biography on Orwell. The joy of the book is that it is one of those that you cannot put down. It is informed, well-researched, enjoyable and sympathetic whilst also acknowledging Orwell's flaws. Crick examines Orwell's writings and life within the historical, political and literary context of the inter-war years and the 1940s to great effect. If you have to read just one book about Orwell make it this one - you won't regret it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keith M on 15 Nov 2014
Format: Paperback
Bernard Crick’s biography of George Orwell (first published in 1980) is one of the most detailed, engaging and straight-talking that I have read – probably alongside Peter Ackroyd’s account of the life of that other great British author, Charles Dickens. Crick also gives it to us 'warts and all’ – painting a picture of a man of mercurial temperament, whose appreciation of nature tended to usurp his views on humanity, but whose work ethic and desire to write took precedence over everything else in his life (marriage, friendships, etc). And, indeed, although eventually Orwell became, during the latter years of his tragically short life, a consistent advocate for democratic socialism, Crick is very open about the transitions and development of Orwell’s political thinking – shaped, among other things, by his ‘privileged’ upbringing (including his time at Eton), time spent in India and involvement in the Spanish Civil War, his initial pacificism and thence his vehement stance against both fascism and (Soviet) communism.

It is also clear that Orwell was very modest about his own literary abilities, being frequently scathing about his early novels (in particular), and not being satisfied with his fictional efforts until the period of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four (curiously enough, not 1984). Crick also contrasts Orwell’s ‘traditionalist’ views (as illustrated by much of his assay-writing – cups of tea, murder stories, comic postcards, etc., with his championing of ground-breaking literature (by the likes of James Joyce and Henry Miller) and intolerance of literature without some form of underlying political conviction.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
To make Political Writing into an Art- 4 Nov 2008
By Shalom Freedman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Bernard Crick opens this work by defining the approach to Biography which he has adopted in it. He says it is closer to the French approach than to the traditional British one. It focuses on the public face of the writer and his path in the world, rather than on the inner element. It makes much use of the documented works. Essentially it gives the sense that the Work of the person is paradoxically somewhat larger than their life.
The essence of Orwell's writing as he himself defined it was in making political writing into an Art. And there is no question that in his best essays, such as 'Such, Such Were the Joys' and ' Shooting an Elephant'he achieves this. He also achieves it in the two great political novels, 'Animal Farm' and '1984' he is most known for.
Crick shows how Orwell very early on chose to be a writer, a famous writer and dedicated himself fully to the task. Orwell 'went native' to experience and know the life of the poor , and this led to his first important work, "Down and Out in Paris and London". Orwell's commitment to social justice not only led him to regret the five years he served in the colonial administration in Burma, it also led him to the Civil War in Spain. Orwell repeatedly tried to enlist in the Second War but had to content himself with being in the Home Guard. Idealist Orwell was able to distinguish between the far from perfect Britain he would defend and the evil totalitarian Nazis. He too was able to be the model person of integrity on the Left who recognized that Stalinist Russia was also a totalitarian society. This work does tell the story of Orwell's personal relations and the somewhat secondary place they had in his life. His first loyalty was to his writing and work. Orwell today is considered one of the master , perhaps the master political writer of the century perhaps first of all because he did not allow Ideology even his own to keep himself from reporting the truth as he saw it.
This first major biography gives a full sense of the shape of Orwell's career and work.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Why Crick Writes 25 Mar 2003
By Johnty Rhodes - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Having been encouraged from about the age of twelve to read the essays of George Orwell I read Bernard Crick's recent meditation on him with a sense of gratitude. I haven't read any other work on Orwell which so perfectly conveys his inexhaustibility.
Crick's real achievement here is a mastery of Orwell's tone. Orwell's essays keep a reader up until dawn and this book did the same to this reader.
I can't say I agree with everything in the book, and have to say that sometimes I didn't grasp Crick's arguments. The chief pleasure of this book is its style; learned from one of the greatest defenders of expressed thought.
Everything You Wanted To Know About Blair/Orwell, But ... 14 Jun 2014
By reading man - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
... Crick declares in his preface that he thinks biography is about facts, not conjectures about the inner man. He's willing, in other words, to record every statement made by Orwell himself about himself and the opinions of his friends and foes, but withholds any personal judgement of what made Orwell tick.

This is not the optimal way to write a biography. In my opinion, you need to analyze the facts and views of others carefully and then come up with some sort of thesis about the subject, not only his view of himself but yours.

Which is likely the reason there have been at least five or six biographies of Orwell since Crick, even though his is the "authorized" version. (Well, not entirely: Sonia Orwell authorized it, then withdrew her approval.) True, three of them turned up in his centenary year, as expected (Bowker, Taylor, Lucas), but all of them have a distinctive point of view.

Lucas is short and mostly negative, Taylor is just but given to flights of fancy, Bowker is the most even-handed.

Jeffrey Meyers is the most tendentious: Orwell is a masochist with a guilt complex: that's the key to his personality.

Shelden claims to be "authorized" but all that means is he wrote after the complete Orwell appeared. His book is the least insightful, in my opinion.

The most important thing to be said about Crick is that he includes all the facts--or, at least, the vast majority of them--and you won't find as much in the other bios. Which probably means that though he wrote the first complete biography, he should be read last, if you want to know Orwell inside out.
Five Stars 8 Aug 2014
By Joan Kilgore - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My grand father was 'Orwell's' boss in Burma. He is seen in the photo.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A complete biography 25 Mar 2003
By Michael P. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book had every thing i was looking for. It showed his life in different episodes. It was very easy to research in it.
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