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Shooting an Elephant: And Other Essays (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 5 Jun 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Re-issue edition (5 Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141187395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141187396
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,621 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

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in India in 1903. He was educated at Eton, served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, and worked in Britain as a private tutor, schoolteacher, bookshop assistant and journalist. In 1936, Orwell went to fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and was wounded. In 1938 he was admitted into a sanatorium and from then on was never fully fit. George Orwell died in London in 1950.

Jeremy Paxman is a journalist, best known for his work presenting Newsnight and University Challenge. His books include Friends in High Places, The English and The Political Animal. He lives in Oxfordshire.


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From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By BlueSkiesForever on 20 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
A fabulous collection of essays from one of the great masters of the form. It's fascinating to see him realise that the political Left is as susceptible as the Right to stultifying orthodoxy. From the outset though Orwell shows himself to be a very English sort of radical: wary of isms and ologies, of grand plans and hyperbole.

He really has more in common than he'd perhaps have liked to admit with Dickens, the subject of one of the best essays here. Both were a complex mixture of progressive and traditionalist. Orwell is additionally a mixture of Internationalist and patriot and we see this reflected here with an essay on the Spanish Civil War followed by one in defence of English cooking.

Back to Dickens, why is he so interesting to Orwell? He suggests it's because he read Dickens during the crucial years of childhood. I think there's more to it than that: beneath Orwell's criticisms of Dickens lies the knowledge that for all his limitations Dickens is the greater novelist. He may lack powers of analysis - it's hard to imagine him writing an essay of anywhere near this penetration - but his characters breathe.

Orwell is too honest a thinker to evade this truth, just as he's too honest a thinker to tow the Leftist party line. This honesty coupled with a wonderful curiosity about the world means that in this collection you'll find essays about everything from toads, nonsense poetry and the value of popular fiction to reflections on Gandhi and an unforgettable description of a pauper's hospital. Recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Adam Stacey on 18 Mar. 2013
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George Orwell gained 1st hand experience of his subjects, allowing him to express a huge understanding and use an amazing and unique writing style to communicate real emotion from an often distant but very understanding perspective. His essays are incredibly honest and probably even more enjoyable than his novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By brendan j cropper on 1 Mar. 2013
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This is a brilliant collection of essays, covering a wide range of subjects all written with a precise informative style which typified Orwell's work. The essay "A hanging" is one of the best ever descriptions of the horrors of capital punishment and is profoundly moving in its quiet depiction of the last few minutes of a mans life. Other essays cover subjects from Food to politics to how to write well

Totally absorbing and brilliant
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By os TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 May 2012
Format: Paperback
The genius of Orwell is that what ever the subject- Shakespeare, imperialism, tabloid journalism, Ghandi or what ever,he writes with a simplicity and directness that is almost conversational in tone but loaded with a clear headed wisdom that is borne of learning and a life well lived. The essays contained in this little book are little marvels, they entertain, provoke and instruct in equal measure. Despite the fact that some of these works date from the late 1930's, Orwell is surprisingly prescient in his analysis of Communism,the growth of corporatism and the spread of American power. Likewise,his 'Examination of Gulliver's Travels' is masterly as his 'Confessions of a Book Reviewer' is amusing and no doubt entirely accurate. I recommend this work- firstly because much of what Orwell has to say is relevant even today and secondly, he is a beautiful prose stylist. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By PeterS on 13 May 2013
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Classic amusing logical thought remains relevant today - series of essays, some long others brief, with flashes of humour along with acerbic critiscism of some modern mores. Good holiday reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By trevorfrancis on 7 April 2013
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Has a resounding relevance to contemporary culture, read it and weep that what Orwell saw in the forties and wrote so succinctly and clearly in these essays exists all too frequently now.
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I did enjoy. Some stories/reflections were more interesting than others. Loved the language and eloquence used more than anything else and as a stay at home mother, short stories and good writing and rich language is just the thing needed when the only word you can think of for disgusting is 'yucky'.
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