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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring., 15 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Essays (Penguin Modern Classics) (Kindle Edition)
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 at big powerful organisation's, and how they affect you. To have a non fiction insight into The author's views enhances and enriches his fiction. Absolutely recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read, 10 Mar 2013
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These essays are thoughtful and thought provoking. Orwell is famously known for 1984 and Animal Farm, both worth re-reading anytime, but his essays are often overlooked and provide depth and perspective to the man. Try them!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, 28 Jan 2010
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This book is about society in the 1930s, but it is as valid today as ever. Orwell (=Eric Blair) has many sharp observations about poverty and life. Plus his writing is enjoyable and sadly bitter-sweet, for example when he describes how he simply has to shoot an elefant, despite his desire not to... highly recommended book.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell's/Blair's essays, an ultimate anthology?, 2 May 2007
By 
G. Shure "G. P. Shure" (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Just over a year ago I picked up a copy of George Orwell's essays on the fly thinking one or two might be good considering the masterpiece that is "Nineteen Eighty-Four". When I received the book, complete with late 1920s socialist art on the front cover. An introduction by Orwell's biographer is quite good, and while invariably swaying into analysis of Orwell's epic novel "1984", remains a pretty good piece of commentary on Orwell's essays.

The book begins with Orwell's authoring treatise entitled "Why I Write" - this was published soon after the masterpiece of satire "Animal Farm". From there on the essays are arranged chronologically; from pieces published from 1931 regards his period of poverty and experience of "Spikes" (homeless shelters) up until 1949 with his Reflections on Gandhi essay which analyzes Gandhi's life and works, together with his ethics and influence over life in India.

He writes astutely, from the very beginning showing promise in the Plain Prose style of English which is instantaneously easy to read by practically anyone with a good understanding of the language of our fine country. In "Politics and the English language" Orwell examines and scrutinizes to great lengths how language has evolved (or be it, devolved) over the period spanning 1920 - 1940. He selects quotes randomly; choosing neither the worst nor the best but rather a smattering of random writings by various individuals.

He then systematically criticizes each and wittily advises any budding writer or reader to arm himself against the less desirable aspects of the English language's changes.

Political essays abound in this book - Orwell was personally a Democratic Socialist as another review correctly states, which equates to what the Attlee administration stood for in the late 40s. However later in life he did become more receptive to arguments from the free market orientated right (like Hayek's "Road to Serfdom", another great econo-political text).

Understandably some of these writings are outdated and seem out of touch, the now much forgotten Spanish Civil War, the Communist movement of Spain, and General Franco himself is now confined to the historical annals. Or as a sort of prefix to the devastation of World War II. Orwell's wartime essays are wonderful - not only is he capable of bringing humorous situations to light (such as P.G. Wodehouse's capture by the Nazis in Belgium during their Blitzkrieg invasion in 1940.) He comments on how Wodehouse is merely an old man, believing his predicament and subsequent bargaining with the Nazis as a bit of a joke - ironically Wodehouse would outlive Orwell by more than twenty years.

Other essays are so British that anyone from outside the UK would have trouble understanding why on earth we are as we are. A 1940 essay named "The Art of Donald McGill" provides us with this brilliant quote from one of the then semi-legal saucy postcards:

Man: "I like seeing experienced girls home..."

Woman: "But I'm not experienced!"

Man: "Your not home yet!"

Now Orwell is on the ball here; he perceives that most of McGills postcards are mere sauciness and no more - but notices a few possess a wit and guile uncommon to such material previous or since his era. McGills trial was to occur after Orwell's 1950 death; but certainly this essay sums up McGills entire career, to use a tired phrase, in a nutshell.

So, what else on the British front? British cooking - Orwell gives a brief but concise summary of our dishes after some derisive comments from abroad (which were repeated recently by Jacques Chirac, the French President quite recently - and similarly rebuked by journalists and politicians alike.)

----

The final category, if you will, is Orwell's literary analysis. Orwell's knowledge of literature, foreign and British, goes back roughly to Shakespearian times - he had little time for the legends or myths of the Medieval era and only mentions Ancient Greek works in passing. He did however, read and have extensive knowledge of The Bible - quoting Corinthians, Ecclesiastes (a fine philosophical book by any standard), and several more sections.

He states all of his favourite authors in one essay, and lenghtily analyzes certain others and/or books. His brilliant essay entitled "Charles Dickens" gives such a thorough and brutal examination of Dickensian literature aswell as the man's personality that it baffles one to see how well-read Orwell is. To (roughly) quote Stephen King:

"To become a good author, you must read for four hours and write for four hours every day."

George Orwell, or be it Eric Blair I feel kept to these rules much of his life, exceptions being his service in Burma as a young man and his period as a homeless man upon leaving the military and entering the grimy world of poverty and work as a plongeur in Paris, followed by a trip back home to London for a job that never materialized.

Leafing through my copy of this anthology I find an analysis of an obscure translation of a Leo Tolstoy pamphlet denouncing Shakespeare (whom Orwell revered, plays, poetry, everything.) The document is so obscure and dated (it was written in 1903 when Tolstoy was an old man, and concerns the existential play "King Lear" - one of Shakespeare's best in most scholar's, and my own, opinion.

He first goes along amicably with Tolstoy's grumbles and critique - before tearing it apart piece by piece; concluding on the note that nobody (or very few) will ever read or take an interest in Tolstoy's opinionated pamphlets of his later life. And, were it not for "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" - he butchers Tolstoy's view that the play is merely a poor take off of an earlier, better and more sensical earlier work named "King Leir" by an unknown author.

Another hard hitting, deeply affective and well written author critique is Orwell's one of Rudyard Kipling, . I feel I must quote here:

Kipling (part of poem): Down to Gehemma or up to the Throne

He travels the fastest who travels alone.

Orwell follows this up immediately with this gem of a paragraph: There is a thought vulgarly expressed. It may not be true, but at any rate it's a thought everyone thinks. Sooner or later you'll have occasion to think that he who travels fastest travels alone, and there the thought is, ready made and, as it were, waiting for you. (...)

The eerie chill of that passage leads you to remember it, as a fine adhesive it sticks...an earlier part of the essay has Orwell spotting a constant characteristic in Kipling's poetry. He quotes single lines from six poems:

"East is East, and West is West."

"The white man's burden."

"What do they know of England who only England know?"

"The female of the species is more deadly than the male."

"Somewhere East of Suez."

"Paying the Dane-Geld."

Upon noting that certain phrases such as "killing Kruger with your mouth" remained in wide use until just before 1942 when this essay was published, Orwell goes on to note:

"But what the phrases I have listed above have in common is that they are all of them phrases ones utters semi-derisively, but which one of us is bound to make use of sooner or later." This is true, and one of those phrases became the title of a pop song during the late 1990s; semi-relevant perhaps, since the song is one that is merely wary of the power of the female. Semi-derisive, if you will.

Lastly with Kipling, Orwell notes that his famous poem "If" was elevated to a near-Biblical status by the "Blimps" (ie. Conservative individuals) of the day. Orwell concludes that Kipling, due to his violent poems, had a slightly neurotic streak in him; a lust for cruelty and harm - and was in the very same tribe as the Blimps themselves; far from being a Fascist (a misnomer due to Kipling's use of the Hindu Swastika later in life) his outlook was merely that of pre-Fascist; an Edwardian era, semi-ignorant and oblivious Conservative, unaware of the economic motives behind the British Empire - devastated at its decline.

So, whether it be literary critique, political and ideological analysis, life experience and biography, or just plain good British-isms packed into essays about ourselves which remain largely relevant - then buy this book.

I took it to an authoritarian nation myself last year, (Putin's Russia, to be exact) and was dissapointed to find how rigorous police enforcement remained there. Sitting on my bed or in my chair there, reading Orwell's essays through for the second or third time it struck me that freedom is one of the most important things to be preserved - curbing it destroys society in the long run. Whether it be excessive patrols, airport strip searches, or assassination of journalists or pro-freedom politicians; it is vital we keep our liberties and our principles.

So, if I could grant this 6 stars I would. Buy this book as soon as possible; I'll be purchasing a second copy as a gift for a good friend soon - I suggest you recommend this great collection of essays to family and friends, use it to improve your own English writing skills - indeed it made me super voracious during my A Levels a year ago (I received 120/120 in a society/politics/economy Gen. Studies paper using Orwell's tenacious style of plain prose.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars I have enjoyed reading and re-reading these essays for forty years, 7 July 2014
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I have enjoyed reading and re-reading these essays for forty years.

Even now they do not disappoint.

Orwells prose is as accessible as if it had been written yesterday and has not dated at all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Collection of Classics, some slightly Dated, 21 April 2014
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, language.

The best essay in the book is possibly Politics and the English Language, which contains much sage advice for writers of all types. Generally, though, it is in the recollections and descriptions of life that Orwell excels. To these he brings the eye of a novelist. The images are evocative, the observations are astute and timeless, the results are always interesting and frequently gripping.

Time has been less kind to his political essays. He was, after all, writing in an age of totalitarian powers and competing ideologies. The issues which were most vital to him concern us less these days. I also suspect his more utopian, socialist dreams appeared nave even in his day. It is curious that they co-exist with incisive, clear-sighted evaluations of the problems of his times and his colleagues on the left.

Another curiosity is the standard of research, which, given Orwell's status as an icon of journalism, is surprisingly lax at times. Statistics are given without references and, occasionally, footnotes by Orwell himself correct statements he has subsequently found to be wrong. The impression given is of a writer working in isolation, without troubling to visit a Library. Perhaps I'm being harsh, but whilst his opinions are interesting his facts probably need checking.

When it comes to other writers, Orwell generally views their work through the prism of his political interests. Usually the results are insightful, particularly when the subject himself is a political writer, such as Swift. However, in the case of Dickens, Orwell's bias produces a one-dimensional analysis that has dated far more rapidly than the work of Dickens himself.

Finally, for those looking to place Orwell's novels within the context of his life and times there are a few scattered gems. For example, in 1940 he wrote "Almost certainly we are moving into an age of totalitarian dictatorships -- an age in which freedom of thought will be at first a deadly sin and later on a meaningless abstraction."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent literature, poor publisher, paper and print quality., 23 Jan 2014
Although the book it's self is most excellent, by one of my favourite authors no less, I would not recommend this edition. The paper is far to thin, prone to tares, marks and disfiguration, and the cover it self is made of cheap material. I'm sorry George but they have not done you justice!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for the modern human, 5 Jan 2014
This review is from: Essays (Penguin Modern Classics) (Kindle Edition)
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 will tomorrow.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 25 April 2013
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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
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative, 18 Mar 2013
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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. He also has very individual takes on some of his contemporary authors and includes as well a wonderful critique of Charles Dickens. He is often outspoken, directly honest and unafraid to spell out his views.
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