Top critical review
Rare non-fiction by the master of fiction
17 February 2017
The title of this rare non-fiction by Orwell is deceiving; the book is a collection of four essays, with only one of the briefer ones dedicated to writing. Most of the others voice Orwell's views on politics, economy and society in England during WW2. Fortunately this topic intrigued me though I can understand some of the readers' frustrations who might have had different expectations. It is always interesting to read non-fiction by a master of fiction; 1984 and Animal Farm were such classics renowned for exploring themes in an implicit manner. Here however you will find Orwell frighteningly explicit and raw. Bear in mind this has been written around 80 years ago; all you need to do is read a newspaper dated a year ago to see how far-fetched and irrelevant most political/sociologial analysis or commentaries on a certain affair were compared with developments to date. So keeping an open mind, you will enjoy the brisk and straightforward manner of Orwell in this book. In some instances, you can't but feel uneasy especially when he toys around the possibility of Hitler winning the war. I was also surprised to learn about the extreme extent of Orwell's socialist beliefs; many of which seem ludicrous even for a North Korean ruling party member to voice in a meeting. When he addresses the issues of the British colonies, I was shocked to read that 'backward agricultural countries like India and the African colonies can no more be independent than can a cat or a dog'. His view on the decadence of the English language is also way too gloomy. The most entertaining part was the chapter on Orwell's viewing of a hanging of a prisoner in Burma; here you will see Orwell at his best, especially when he brilliantly describes the walk of the prisoner to his hanging rope, and how he casually avoids stepping on a puddle though he was facing his death in a couple of minutes. I prefer fiction-Orwell. Here you feel you can correct Orwell only because you're 80 years ahead of him and it just doesn't feel right; he is a brilliant writer and should always be remembered as such.