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As a critic, George Orwell cast a wide net. Equally at home discussing Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin, he moved back and forth across the porous borders between essay and journalism, high art and low. A frequent commentator on literature, language, film, and drama throughout his career, Orwell turned increasingly to the critical essay in the 1940s, when his most impor As a critic, George Orwell cast a wide net. Equally at home discussing Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin, he moved back and forth across the porous borders between essay and journalism, high art and low. A frequent commentator on literature, language, film, and drama throughout his career, Orwell turned increasingly to the critical essay in the 1940s, when his most important experiences were behind him and some of his most incisive writing lay ahead. All Art Is Propaganda follows Orwell as he demonstrates in piece after piece how intent analysis of a work or body of work gives rise to trenchant aesthetic and philosophical commentary."how to be interesting, line after line." Contents: Charles Dickens Boys' Weeklies Inside the Whale Drama Reviews: The Tempest, The Peaceful Inn Film Review: The Great Dictator Wells, Hitler and the World State The Art of Donald McGill No, Not One Rudyard Kipling T.S. Eliot Can Socialists Be Happy? Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali Propaganda and Demotic Speech Raffles and Miss Blandish Good Bad Books The Prevention of Literature Politics and the English Language Confessions of a Book Reviewer Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool Writers and Leviathan Review of The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene Reflections on Gandhi


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As a critic, George Orwell cast a wide net. Equally at home discussing Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin, he moved back and forth across the porous borders between essay and journalism, high art and low. A frequent commentator on literature, language, film, and drama throughout his career, Orwell turned increasingly to the critical essay in the 1940s, when his most impor As a critic, George Orwell cast a wide net. Equally at home discussing Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin, he moved back and forth across the porous borders between essay and journalism, high art and low. A frequent commentator on literature, language, film, and drama throughout his career, Orwell turned increasingly to the critical essay in the 1940s, when his most important experiences were behind him and some of his most incisive writing lay ahead. All Art Is Propaganda follows Orwell as he demonstrates in piece after piece how intent analysis of a work or body of work gives rise to trenchant aesthetic and philosophical commentary."how to be interesting, line after line." Contents: Charles Dickens Boys' Weeklies Inside the Whale Drama Reviews: The Tempest, The Peaceful Inn Film Review: The Great Dictator Wells, Hitler and the World State The Art of Donald McGill No, Not One Rudyard Kipling T.S. Eliot Can Socialists Be Happy? Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali Propaganda and Demotic Speech Raffles and Miss Blandish Good Bad Books The Prevention of Literature Politics and the English Language Confessions of a Book Reviewer Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool Writers and Leviathan Review of The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene Reflections on Gandhi

30 review for All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays

  1. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    I exhort you to take a proper gander at All Art Is Propaganda. I've read all of the essays but one, - Benefits of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali. I'm a bit essayed out after the two volumes, All Art Is Propaganda and Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays. All the essays I've read in these two volumes are brilliant. I have a problem with getting around to typing up reviews, I have a backlog to do. I'm getting there. Added to review Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool Orwell writes that Tolstoy said I exhort you to take a proper gander at All Art Is Propaganda. I've read all of the essays but one, - Benefits of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali. I'm a bit essayed out after the two volumes, All Art Is Propaganda and Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays. All the essays I've read in these two volumes are brilliant. I have a problem with getting around to typing up reviews, I have a backlog to do. I'm getting there. Added to review Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool Orwell writes that Tolstoy said Shakespeare was mediocre, and 'aroused in him "an irresistible repulsion and tedium." ' Orwell astutely observes that Lear is very similar to Tolstoy in later life. Wells, Hitler and the World State Orwell, unlike H.G. Wells' well-intentioned dismissive about Hitler, sees the threat as "Creatures out of the Dark Ages have come marching into the present, and if they are ghosts they are at any rate ghosts which need a strong magic to lay them". Review of The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene from 1948 covers several of Greene's novels, including 'Brighton Rock' which Orwell sees as not very successful, which I agree with. Orwell makes some deadpan funny observations on the whole premise of 'Catholic Novels.' Another great Essay is on Charlie Chaplin's film: The Great Dictator. Reflections On Gandhi and No, Not One The essay 'Reflections On Gandhi', in which Orwell looks at Gandhi's pacifism. This raises a lively discussion contrasting Orwell's other essay, 'No, Not One', which states an irrefutable argument against pacifism in a time of war with the Nazis. Gandhi's pacifism was against British Rule. Orwell notes "There is reason to think that Gandhi, who after all was born in 1869, did not understand totalitarianism and saw everything in terms of his own struggle against the British Government." Orwell also asks "Was Hitler sane?" While reading these two essays, which both focus on 'Pacifism', I thought, what a discussion it would be to sit around with some GR friends, especially those who's reviews I admire. In the essay No, Not One Orwell reviews a novel 'No Such Liberty' by Alex Comfort, which sounds very interesting but doesn't appear to be easy to find. I think it is long out of print. Alex Comfort is the author of a book on a very different subject that was a bestseller in the sixties or seventies The Joy of Sex. Politics vs Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels.' Swift's writing and his political views, Orwell writes "From what I have written it may have seemed that I am against Swift, and that my objective is to refute him and even belittle him." This paragraph, and indeed the entire essay, focusses on an important point. That one can admire a writer's genius at the same time disagreeing or disliking what he is saying. Orwell raises the question: what is the relationship between agreement with a writer's opinions, and enjoying his work? The essay ends on a strong statement - "The durability of Gulliver's Travels goes to show that, if the force of belief is behind it, a world-view which only just passes the test of sanity is sufficient to produce a great work of art." I have always loved and believed in diversity and have always believed in doubt, which I think of as a positive, not a negative. Question everything.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    As a title, All Art is Propaganda has a portentous quality that doesn't do justice to the sheer delight of Orwell's essays. Reading his straightforward prose style is like talking to a friend who just happens to have thought deeply about all levels of art, ranging from Charles Dickens and Salvador Dali to dirty postcards and boys' adventure magazines. Orwell does often bring politics into his criticism, but his approach is a lot more engaging and less bleak than you might expect. And despite (or As a title, All Art is Propaganda has a portentous quality that doesn't do justice to the sheer delight of Orwell's essays. Reading his straightforward prose style is like talking to a friend who just happens to have thought deeply about all levels of art, ranging from Charles Dickens and Salvador Dali to dirty postcards and boys' adventure magazines. Orwell does often bring politics into his criticism, but his approach is a lot more engaging and less bleak than you might expect. And despite (or maybe because of) the simplicity of his style, he has an gift for unique and memorable turns of phrase. Contrasting the inconsistency of Dickens's plots with the richness of his detail, for example, Orwell writes "rotten architecture, but wonderful gargoyles." I had previously read many essays in this book in other volumes, so I focused mainly those that were new to me, along with a few favorites. There were a few essays I found less interesting, particularly those that weren't about any particular work, but rather about general questions like "can literature flourish under a totalitarian regime?" (Spoiler alert, no.) There are definitely more consistent Orwell essay compilations that would serve as a better introduction for a new reader. But for the Orwell essay aficionado, All Art is Propaganda is a solid and engaging compilation of his critical writing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Faye

    Charles Dickens - 4/5 stars Boys' Weeklies (read before in Decline of the English Murder) Inside the Whale - 2.5/5 stars Drama reviews: The Tempest, The Peaceful Inn - 3.5/5 stars Film review: The Great Dictator - 3/5 stars Wells, Hitler and the World State - 4.5/5 stars The Art of Donald McGill (read before in Decline of the English Murder) No, Not One - 3/5 stars Rudyard Kipling - 2/5 stars T.S. Eliot - 2/5 stars Can Socialists be Happy? - 3.5/5 stars Benefit of Clergy: some notes on Salvador Dali - 1 Charles Dickens - 4/5 stars Boys' Weeklies (read before in Decline of the English Murder) Inside the Whale - 2.5/5 stars Drama reviews: The Tempest, The Peaceful Inn - 3.5/5 stars Film review: The Great Dictator - 3/5 stars Wells, Hitler and the World State - 4.5/5 stars The Art of Donald McGill (read before in Decline of the English Murder) No, Not One - 3/5 stars Rudyard Kipling - 2/5 stars T.S. Eliot - 2/5 stars Can Socialists be Happy? - 3.5/5 stars Benefit of Clergy: some notes on Salvador Dali - 1/5 stars Propaganda and Demotic Speech - 2/5 stars Raffles and Miss Blandish - 2/5 stars Good Bad Books (read before in Decline of the English Murder) The Prevention of Literature (read before in Books v. Cigarettes) Politics and the English Language (read before in Why I Write) Confessions of a Book Reviewer (read before in Books v. Cigarettes) Politics vs Literature: an examination of Gulliver's Travels - DNF Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool - 3/5 stars Writers and Leviathan - 2/5 stars Review of 'The Heart of the Matter' by Graham Greene - 3/5 stars Reflections on Gandhi - 2.5/5 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    Reading George Orwell's essays and reviews is not so much that I agree or disagree with him, but the fact that I admire his prose writing. In an odd way, he reminds me at times of Roland Barthes. Perhaps for the reason that I have been reading Barthes time-to-time the past twenty years or so. Barthes is a poetic and textural reader, and I feel that I'm dipping into a murky pool of different ingredients. Orwell looks at his subject matter in a similar vein as Barthes but is very much in defining Reading George Orwell's essays and reviews is not so much that I agree or disagree with him, but the fact that I admire his prose writing. In an odd way, he reminds me at times of Roland Barthes. Perhaps for the reason that I have been reading Barthes time-to-time the past twenty years or so. Barthes is a poetic and textural reader, and I feel that I'm dipping into a murky pool of different ingredients. Orwell looks at his subject matter in a similar vein as Barthes but is very much in defining what he sees in a clear and non-heady manner. It may just come down that one is British and the other is French. Still, Orwell's approach and thinking about the English language is very thoughtful, and especially in these times (like always) it's good to remind us how flexible language is, and it depends on how one uses the English language and for what purposes.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    This was really a provocative read. Orwell is such a clear writer, and independent thinker, that you find yourself fruitfully mulling over issues you have never really thought about before. This is a collection of essays and reviews, and is well worth every minute spent on it. Fantastic.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    “From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned...(p. 259)” Let’s start with the basic definition of the word “totalitarian”: “adj.) of or relating to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life. (dictionary.com)” Arguably, the country I live in and love---the United States of America---has never been a democracy. It is technically a republic. True democraci “From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned...(p. 259)” Let’s start with the basic definition of the word “totalitarian”: “adj.) of or relating to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life. (dictionary.com)” Arguably, the country I live in and love---the United States of America---has never been a democracy. It is technically a republic. True democracies don’t exist because true democracies would inevitably crumble and destroy themselves. Such is the nature of the human condition: we all, secretly, hate those with which we don’t agree and, secretly, wish to see them proven wrong and/or permanently silenced. Anyone who claims otherwise---egalitarian do-gooders who believe that “everyone deserves to have an equal voice”---is lying to you and themselves. George Orwell knew this. He spent his life writing about totalitarianism and its polar opposite philosophy, democratic socialism. He abhorred the former, but he knew the latter was a fairy tale. Socialism, as it was practiced by people claiming to be socialists, was fascism in disguise. All the so-called Socialist regimes---Nazis, Soviets, Cuba, China---were perversions of true socialism. They paid lip service to socialist ideals while openly engaging in fascistic atrocities. They were wolves in sheep’s clothing. But people who strived for true democracy weren’t much better. They were, according to Orwell, often people who felt themselves to be morally and intellectually superior. They were judgmental and self-righteous. They were, ironically, dismissive or indifferent to whole segments of the population that they felt were beneath them: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. (from “Animal Farm”)” So it was for the nearly 70 years since Orwell’s death. Then, in November 2016, something strange happened. A man with absolutely no credible qualifications for any profession, let alone politics, was elected to the highest political office in the land. Now, totalitarianism is the hot new buzz word, and Orwell is back on the bestseller lists. **** “A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened...(p. 259)” Donald Trump probably likes to think of himself as infallible. He certainly ran his campaign like he was infallible, often claiming that he knew more than military leaders, opponents, and his own advisors. He has yet to utter the three most important little words---”I was wrong”---in regards to anything. So far, Trump has been wrong numerous times, but the journalists who have the audacity to fact-check him and suggest that he is less than factual in his assertions are written off as “fake news” and misleading the public. His antagonism towards the press is unprecedented, even when compared to Richard Nixon. Thankfully, the press is putting up a pretty good fight against Trump, but it’s perhaps only a matter of time before Trump sets up his own Ministry of Propaganda. I’m sure Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway are working on it right now. The attack on journalism is only one small part of Trump’s totalitarian war against freedom and autonomous thought. Don’t forget that the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities are also being considered for federal de-funding. Granted, the NEA and the NEH have been under attack by Republicans for decades, so there’s nothing really new there. Still, it’s important to remember how important Art is to a culture’s health and stability, because Art is perhaps the most democratic of all endeavors. Freedom of expression is the bedrock of the foundation of this country. All other freedoms---of religion, of the press, of bearing arms---stem from this freedom. Expression---of one’s feelings, opinions, criticisms---is where all Art comes from, which is perhaps why Orwell liked to repeat the phrase, “All Art is Propaganda”. Even the most innocuous and bland work of art is, essentially, political in that it is an expression, and extension, of the artist’s worldview. We can choose to dislike it, disagree with it, loathe it, but we can’t suppress it. Attempts to do so are what is called censorship. **** “Then, again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and a revaluation of prominent historical figures. This kind of thing happens everywhere, but clearly it is likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth. (p. 259)” “All Art is Propaganda” is Orwell’s collected critical essays, and they are perhaps as important today as they were when he wrote them, nearly 80 years ago. Even the dated ones---the “current” book reviews of bestselling authors such as Henry Miller and Graham Greene or the movie review of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” ---have a contemporary resonance, illustrating how history isn’t that distant and the past isn’t always the past. Everything may change, but nothing ever changes. Orwell was that rarest of intellectual writers, the one who secretly loathed intellectualism, at least the blatantly pretentious kind of intellectualism that he couldn’t stand among many of his contemporaries. His loathing wasn’t really much of a secret. He wrote in a very succinct, straightforward manner, a trait most likely owing to his stint as a journalist. He never wasted five words when one word would suffice. Yet every word he wrote packed a wallop. Because every word he wrote came from a place that valued social justice and freedom of thought. This is why it’s heartening to see Orwell back on the bestseller lists and popular again.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I NEVER THOUGHT I'D LOVE ESSAYS SO MUCH AND I WISH I COULD WRITE ESSAYS ABOUT THESE ESSAYS AS GOOD AS THESE ESSAYS BUT I CANNOT. I JUST CANNOT. I NEVER THOUGHT I'D LOVE ESSAYS SO MUCH AND I WISH I COULD WRITE ESSAYS ABOUT THESE ESSAYS AS GOOD AS THESE ESSAYS BUT I CANNOT. I JUST CANNOT.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Orwell: All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays In a column on the most famous essay included in this new volume, 'Politics and the English Language' (1946) Robert Fulford drops the rather original suggestion that Orwell's failure to notice Churchill's splendid wartime speeches--in an essay eplicitly devoted to rigorous analysis of double talk and obfuscation in the political rhetoric of his day--was a proof of Orwell's reverse snobbery. Que? Truth is you could make a pretty good case for Or Orwell: All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays In a column on the most famous essay included in this new volume, 'Politics and the English Language' (1946) Robert Fulford drops the rather original suggestion that Orwell's failure to notice Churchill's splendid wartime speeches--in an essay eplicitly devoted to rigorous analysis of double talk and obfuscation in the political rhetoric of his day--was a proof of Orwell's reverse snobbery. Que? Truth is you could make a pretty good case for Orwell as both a snob and a reverse snob on the basis of any number of things he actually wrote. (Perhaps he was simply being narrowly self-consistent--his upbringing was shabby-genteel, either lower-upper or upper-lower class depending your pov--which afforded ample room to despise the true lower and true upper classes both.) But to argue he was expressing contempt for Churchill by not winkling him into an essay he couldn't have fit into logically--what possibly is the point? He wrote enough words actually about Churchill--admiring and critical both--if that's your litmus test for his response to the upper classes. What would he have accomplished by heaping praise on Churchill as a master political rhetorician in an essay otherwise completely taken up with negative examples? taken it down a blind alley for a paragraph or two before it to its proper course? And how could he possibly have praised Chruchill fulsomely enough to satisfy Rob, 63 years later? 'Most important, the English language had just given the greatest political performance in its history, turning away from England's shores the most formidable of all military machines, Germany's. ' In the hands [sic:] of Winston Churchill, language ralllied the British, sustained them through desperate years and led them to victory. It was the supreme political accomplishment of Britain in modern times. 'How could Orwell, writing at precisely that moment, have ignored this central fact of England's existence?' --Robert Fulford, NatPost Mar 3, 2009 If this hyperbolic gush acknowledges Churchill's role in defeating Hitler, it's hard to imagine what Orwell or anyone, writing at the time with nothing but facts to go on, could have written that wouldn't have struck Fulford as grossly inadequate recognition? Did Churchill's speeches galvanize? yes. Was it the sole force that did? no, though it was a key focal one. At the base level what galvanized the British was simple recognition that Nazism was anti-human and a danger to life and alll human liberty. Was British resistance to Hitler crucial? yes. Was it sufficient? no, anymore than Churchill's language was sufficient in itself to defeat Germany's war machine. Troops moving over air, sea and land were also required, and support troops supplying them in a thousand areas. And they were galvanized, not hypnotically and zombifically driven, by Churchill's powerful rhetoric, and obliged to make complex decisions day by day, hour by hour, that Churchill's speeches could give them no specific guidance on. Some of the credit for their actions--my mother's and father's among the rest--belongs to them as free agents; they weren't simply windup dolls driven forward by a master rhetorician's impulsion. Churchill would have been repulsed by that suggestion, and so should every free citizen. In one of his essays or columns during the war Orwell spoke of a most-probably-apocryphal story going round about one of Churchill's most famous speeches: ". . . we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!” It was widely rumoured that when he went off mike he added, "We'll throw bottles at the bastards, we've got nothing else." Orwell thought, rightly I'd say, that for such a story to circulate was a strong indication the depth and breadth of affection there was for Churchill, across all class lines. Even more interesting is how stark a topper it is, and what ferocity of resistance it utters. Churchill felt that impulse and fed it, but he didn't originate it: it came from a wider place than any individual, great or small, could occupy alone.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gisela Hausmann

    Though Orwell is famous for writing about political issues, every writer should read this book, because it’s not only about politics, this book is a lot about what writers think of other writers’ work. George Packer’s fascinating introduction reveals that Orwell also reviewed books which I didn’t know. His thoughts are fascinating. Certainly, Orwell has a tendency to look at the world from a political point but he also notices when other writers or society itself ignores politics. “... The Russi Though Orwell is famous for writing about political issues, every writer should read this book, because it’s not only about politics, this book is a lot about what writers think of other writers’ work. George Packer’s fascinating introduction reveals that Orwell also reviewed books which I didn’t know. His thoughts are fascinating. Certainly, Orwell has a tendency to look at the world from a political point but he also notices when other writers or society itself ignores politics. “... The Russian Revolution, for instance, all but vanishes from the English consciousness between the death of Lenin and the Ukraine famine—about ten years. Throughout those years Russia means Tolstoy, Dostoievski and exiled counts driving taxi-cabs...” Reading Orwell’s words made me wonder what he write about today’s authors. How would he react to “50 shades” being a bestseller? What would he think of “The Handmaid’s Tale”? Would he like today’s review system? Two essay’s amazed me: In “Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool” Orwell elaborates about Shakespeare. Even though I studied “Arts of Theater” I did not know that Tolstoy could not stand Shakespeare’s work. Hmm?!? I should have known about this but I didn’t. Orwell points out there is no evidence or argument by which one can show that Shakespeare or any other writer is good. Is it a damning or a comforting argument? But, Orwell being Orwell doesn’t care. He wonders WHY Tolstoy did not like Shakespeare work. I believe this is an important thought to ponder, especially for authors of this decade. These days, authors seem to group readers and reviewers only into two groups: “loved my work” or “is a troll.” As a book reviewer myself, I was also riveted by Orwell’s essay “Confessions of a Book Reviewer”, “... In a cold but stuffy bed-sitting room littered with cigarette ends and half-empty cups of tea, a man in amoth-eatem dressing gown sits at a rickety table... Needless to say this person is a writer. He might be a poet, a novelist, or a writer of film scripts or radio features, for all literary people are very much alike, but let us say that he is a book reviewer...” Orwell goes on to describe a shipment of five volumes and that the reviewer’s review of about 800 words is “expected to be in” by mid-day tomorrow. Today’s reviewers will grin at finding out how Orwell’s reviewer is expected to write the stale old phrases about books “no one should miss” and that the process is exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting. Orwell proves foresight when he notes that books on specialized subjects ought to be dealt with by experts, and “especially novels” could be reviewed by amateurs. Well, here we are. Amateurs review famous writers’ AND amateurs’ books. What would Orwell have thought about that? His “1984” has been reviewed more than 6,000 times, his “Animal Farm” close to 4,000 times, on Amazon. Orwell writes that Tolstoy spent a lot of time denunciating Shakespeare, yet if he hadn’t also written “Anna Karenina” and “War and Peace,” nobody would care, and his pamphlet about Shakespeare would be forgotten. Which is a comforting thought. A master of writing, reading and studying others’ work, as well as reviewing the work, Orwell assures us that, in the end, it’s not about reviews and denunciations but about the quality of work. Other fabulous essays that impressed me: “Inside the Whale”, “Wells, Hitler and the World, State”, T.S. Eliot”, “The Prevention of Literature”< and “reflections on Gandhi.” I rented this book from the library but will buy it because following Orwell’s example I will study his work again, and again. 5 stars, Gisela Hausmann, author & blogger

  10. 5 out of 5

    Art

    George Orwell perfected his plain style in the thirties, a style that resembles someone speaking honestly without pretense, writes Keith Gessen in the introduction. All Art is Propaganda, this volume, includes essays where Orwell holds something up for critical scrutiny. Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays, the twin companion to this one, collects essays that build meaning by telling a story. These two books, one of narrative the other of analysis, include four dozen essays. For the most p George Orwell perfected his plain style in the thirties, a style that resembles someone speaking honestly without pretense, writes Keith Gessen in the introduction. All Art is Propaganda, this volume, includes essays where Orwell holds something up for critical scrutiny. Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays, the twin companion to this one, collects essays that build meaning by telling a story. These two books, one of narrative the other of analysis, include four dozen essays. For the most part, Orwell lived in London and reviewed books. But, unlike other intellectual writers of the time, he experienced real life before he began thinking through a typewriter keyboard. He served in Burma, washed dishes in a Paris hotel and fought in the Spanish civil war. Over six feet tall, Orwell stood in a trench telling his fellow soldiers about brothels he visited in Paris when a bullet hit his throat, missing his esophagus. The lesson of these essays: Look around you. Describe what you see. And tell the truth. — Propaganda and Demotic Speech, summer 1944. Speeches and writing aimed at a large public needs to take ignorance of the masses into account, laments Orwell. — The Prevention of Literature, January 1946. Orwell writes here about “the organized lying practiced by the totalitarian state.” Totalitarian states, he continues, demand a disbelief in objective truth. Those thoughts foreshadow the unrelenting tone and propaganda erupting from the new administration. Fortunately, only a third of the country believes it. — Politics and the English Language, April 1946. Orwell bemoans the “catalog of swindles and perversion” committed against good, clear English. This essay crystallized his thoughts for “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” which he began writing a few months later. Other worthwhile essays in here include “Good Bad Books” and “Confessions of a Book Reviewer.”

  11. 5 out of 5

    Janelle Hanchett

    I gave an Orwell book three stars. What a strange thing to do. And yet I stand by it. Sort of. Probably four and I’m just mad. Who cares about stars. Anyway, I’m not a feminist running around seeking opportunities to grow outraged at the erasure of women writers, and I expect it when reading male authors of the 1940s. But I began this book on the day I finished reading Gaskell’s “North and South,” which is a Victorian novel that looks deep into England’s urban working class, cotton mill workers. I gave an Orwell book three stars. What a strange thing to do. And yet I stand by it. Sort of. Probably four and I’m just mad. Who cares about stars. Anyway, I’m not a feminist running around seeking opportunities to grow outraged at the erasure of women writers, and I expect it when reading male authors of the 1940s. But I began this book on the day I finished reading Gaskell’s “North and South,” which is a Victorian novel that looks deep into England’s urban working class, cotton mill workers. Gaskell was a Marxist and wrote a searing and complex account of labor rights, unions, the proletariat and the ruling class. The first essay in Orwell’s book states that there is “no English novel” that writes of England’s urban working class. He specifically cites cotton mills. In the context of critiquing Dickens for not being Marxist enough, Orwell argues that NOBODY writes those sorts of novels, almost as an excuse for Dickens. Hence the three stars. It’s flat out ignorant if not wholly misogynistic. Either way, unimpressed. This entire book on art straight erases female artists. They are non entities. Nothings. All men all day all the time. Of the two women writers he mentions in passing, one was so he could assert that he hopes Virginia Woolf’s work fades into oblivion. I am writing my own essay in response to this book. It’s called “Turns out Orwell is something of a dick.” Working title. In other news, never read the nonfiction of your male novelist heroes from the past, apparently. Especially if you’re a woman writer. I’ll admit it. It stings. What these women went through to write those books, and they were just—erased. This quote, though? Brilliance: “It seems that in every attack Dickens makes upon society he is always pointing to a change of spirit rather than a change of structure. It is hopeless to try and pin him down to any definite remedy, still more to any political doctrine. His approach is always along the moral plane... A “change of heart” is in fact the alibi of people who do not wish to endanger the status quo.” HELLO, CENTRISTS. Same old shit with a better polish. Work out predatory capitalism on a moral plane. You know, nice guy up front serving the ruling elite. Four stars. Just mad. Ya dick. .

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy Ele

    One of the most insightful books I have ever read. It ranges in its scope from the literature of Charles Dickens to the art and life of Salvador Dali. Orwell touches on the subjects of writing, language, politics, religion, life, art, death and so much more in between. Coming away from reading this book, I am increased in my admiration for George Orwell. I admire Orwell's staple books such as 1984 and Animal Farm (art in themselves) for the great books that they are, but after reading this book One of the most insightful books I have ever read. It ranges in its scope from the literature of Charles Dickens to the art and life of Salvador Dali. Orwell touches on the subjects of writing, language, politics, religion, life, art, death and so much more in between. Coming away from reading this book, I am increased in my admiration for George Orwell. I admire Orwell's staple books such as 1984 and Animal Farm (art in themselves) for the great books that they are, but after reading this book I admire George Orwell (the man) for the thinking and analytic human being that he was. The range of ideas that Orwell dissects in this book allows this book to transcend time, and speaks to me as directly as if he were in front of my face today. Overall an exceptionally engrossing read, and one I highly recommend for any writer or thinker.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Razi Shaikh

    'In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless 'In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this: "While freely conceding that the Soviet régime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigours which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement." The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.' This is a remarkable book, It's vivid, crisp and very persuasive.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    During WW2, Orwell was paid to write essays, many of which were literary criticism and book reviews. This is the second volume of essays edited by George Packer and it focuses on his critical essays. Given that I have been hanging around Goodreads for a while, the question occasionally arises of “how does one go about writing book reviews?”. These essays provide some insight into how Orwell did it. What a great idea for a book of essays. Anything that Orwell writes is interesting and well writte During WW2, Orwell was paid to write essays, many of which were literary criticism and book reviews. This is the second volume of essays edited by George Packer and it focuses on his critical essays. Given that I have been hanging around Goodreads for a while, the question occasionally arises of “how does one go about writing book reviews?”. These essays provide some insight into how Orwell did it. What a great idea for a book of essays. Anything that Orwell writes is interesting and well written. Now to have essays that display his approach to criticism. This of course is linked to Orwell’s regular concerns - politics is at the heart of modern literature - in the 1940s for sure — and as Orwell maintains, all art is propaganda. Political context goes with interpretation and criticism. While the overall effect of the volume is great, there are some essays that were less effective, at least for my needs. I could have done without the essay on Dali and the one on postcards did not have much of an effect. The lead off essay on Dickens is really good and even enlightening, especially given that so much of Dickens is continually presented such that one almost takes it for granted. Some other essays are less effective, in part because I am not as well versed in the literature of the time as Orwell. The essay on Henry Miller (Inside the Whale) took some time to sort through, especially given the ranges of books and others that were in play. Some of the authors I knew of but had not read. Others are not as known now as they were when Orwell wrote. I have had false starts on Tropic of Cancer before but will likely try it again. I enjoyed the essay on Swift and Gulliver’s Travels. There are some essays on particular writers (Eliot, Kipling, Wells, Dali) as well as some general essays on writing (Politics and Language, Propaganda and Demotic Speech) that remain appropriate to writing in today’s political environment. One of my favorite shorter essays was “Can Socialists Be Happy?” I have long admired Orwell’s work. This is only strengthened by the book, which helps me understand more about how he analyzed his targets and motivated his results.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Gordons

    Orwell is thought provoking, interesting, and worth reading, even when you disagree with him.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I loved the essay on Dickens..and there is the famous quote: "I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his “message,” and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a “message,” whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it. All art is propaganda. Neither Dickens himself nor the majority of Victorian novelists would have thought of denying this. On the other hand, not all propaganda is art. As I said e I loved the essay on Dickens..and there is the famous quote: "I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his “message,” and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a “message,” whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it. All art is propaganda. Neither Dickens himself nor the majority of Victorian novelists would have thought of denying this. On the other hand, not all propaganda is art. As I said earlier, Dickens is one of those writers who are felt to be worth stealing..."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Siddharth Shankaran

    Critical essays from Geroge orwell depict his vast knowledge of literature, as well as his understanding of it perversion for "totalitarian" as well as other ends of repression. He is unflinching and severe in his critique of Fascism, Communist Russia and Left wing orthodox writers, Catholicism. His main concern is the abuse of power, which is concomitant with all systems of governance that is not liberal , and yet he understands that pacifism is not the way ahead for society, for it tolerates i Critical essays from Geroge orwell depict his vast knowledge of literature, as well as his understanding of it perversion for "totalitarian" as well as other ends of repression. He is unflinching and severe in his critique of Fascism, Communist Russia and Left wing orthodox writers, Catholicism. His main concern is the abuse of power, which is concomitant with all systems of governance that is not liberal , and yet he understands that pacifism is not the way ahead for society, for it tolerates injustices, that violence is not alien to human condition but part of civilisation which necessitates it, in one form of other. The way ahead, he says is not a Yogic renunciation like that of Tolstoy or Gandhi, nor is it intellectual theorisation of kind say Communism as whole, but rather that of struggle, to the ideal of kind of Social democracy, and a liberal commitment to literature and its propagation. His critical appraisal of Dickens, Kipling , Graham Greene gives a deep insight into his understanding of way literature is not separated from politics and any writer that tends to promote conservative pacifism over socialist democracy is merely accepting the injustices of world. HIs critical comment of lack of ability of Dickens to look beyond surface appearance is scathing attack on a figure as tall as Dickens, yet vey aptly reveals the problem with Dickensian literature. Speaking against Dickens he continues, "No one interested in landscape ever seen landscape. " With Dickens it is profusion of the surface description, but none about what is behind that surface appearance. Orwell's stand is that pacifism is merely continuation of injustice, revolution is always necessary for a Society to progress and improve, not necessarily to happiness, but to a better order. "All writing is propaganda, and a writer is always imposing his thought, politically ", is a strong theme that runs through all essays. However, Orwell himself does not get over it, and as a writer he too is propagating a propagada, although cloaked in a liberal outlook. Yet, he doesn't deny that and is in debate with himself over the issue.Orwell in his essays is crisp, lucid and direct . He does not prevaricate , not does his dilly dally with unnecessary phrase ( an essay is dedicated to that art used by propagandist , especially Fascist and Communist). Not to be missed.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ollie

    I think it’s often missed that George Orwell was primarily a journalist and essayist, not a novelist. I didn’t forget that, I just didn’t know. I owe Orwell quite a bit, because it’s through reading 1984 that the floodgates of my voracious reading were opened. Before, I had been forced to read books, but now it became a hobby. Chomsky has lauded Orwell for his Homage to Catalonia and how well it depicted the Spanish civil war. It feels like a novel but is actually journalistic reporting. It’s en I think it’s often missed that George Orwell was primarily a journalist and essayist, not a novelist. I didn’t forget that, I just didn’t know. I owe Orwell quite a bit, because it’s through reading 1984 that the floodgates of my voracious reading were opened. Before, I had been forced to read books, but now it became a hobby. Chomsky has lauded Orwell for his Homage to Catalonia and how well it depicted the Spanish civil war. It feels like a novel but is actually journalistic reporting. It’s engrossing and honest and easily accessible and that most definitely applies to this collection of essays All Art is Propaganda. Compelling title, I know. It really can’t be understated just how funny, relevant, enjoyable, and accessible this collection of essays is. Here, Orwell discusses a variety of topics such as the complete works of Charles Dickens and how his Englishness is embedded in his works to the point where he’s unable to sympathize with the working man, to TS Elliott, to the idea of utopianism and how, ironically, our idea of a work-free utopia would be the opposite of what we would want. Wouldn’t we want a world where we would be free to create and be constantly occupied? Also discussed is the attack on intellectualism and how both the fascist and communists are guilty of this. It’s important to appreciate those who devote their lives to manual labor, but this shouldn’t also include vilifying experts in the field of science and literature. Then there’s his Reflections on Gandhi which accuses him of being a narcissist with misguided beliefs. He comes close to calling him a farce, which can be said for plenty of so-called spiritual celebrities nowadays. One would think Orwell hates these subjects he’s writing about, if it weren’t for the fact that he writes with such authority. His thoughts are distilled into the essentials and he knows exactly what he wants to say about them. He comes across as a curmudgeon, but undoubtedly a lovable one. All Art is Propaganda is simply a delightful read. It’s all over the place, but with Orwell’s writing skills, you don’t really notice it. It’s Orwell’s opinions that are the real focus here, and this book is full of them.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Billie Pritchett

    George Orwell's book All Art Is Propaganda is one of my new favorite books. Published posthumously (I think), and mostly a collection of book reviews, Orwell is able to present his perspective on what he reads or thinks about in a deceptively transparent way. For example, one of the essays in the book is about Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, and this essay's and much of the other essays' argument structure seems to be:X is true for the following reasons: A, B, C. However, D, E, F. Yet when we c George Orwell's book All Art Is Propaganda is one of my new favorite books. Published posthumously (I think), and mostly a collection of book reviews, Orwell is able to present his perspective on what he reads or thinks about in a deceptively transparent way. For example, one of the essays in the book is about Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, and this essay's and much of the other essays' argument structure seems to be:X is true for the following reasons: A, B, C. However, D, E, F. Yet when we consider G, H, I, we are led to believe A, B, C, and furthermore, J, K, L.When reading Orwell's essays in this collection, one gets the sense that he is bending over backwards to both express his opinion as thoroughly as possible and yet be as charitable as he can be regarding the subjects he is writing about. Also, I felt when reading this that the writings seems astonishingly (for the most part) modern. But the truth is it's just plain good writing. Although many of the issues are preoccupied with the predominant issues of his epoch, namely, totalitarianism and freedom from such regimes, there is a kind of timelessness about the writing, topics such as the human struggle to be free, to realize a certain vision of politics, to choose this world or the next. This review doesn't do enough justice to the book, but definitely this will be one I will re-read later.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matt Miles

    Orwell's best known essay from this collection is "Politics and the English Language", his observation that vague, imprecise language can be used to serve the powers that be for their own nefarious purposes. It's a good essay, but it could describe half the works in this collection. Orwell paints with a broad brush and he follows astute observations (or painfully obvious ones) with faulty conclusions. Some of the best works treat "low brow" entertainment with respect as a better window into the Orwell's best known essay from this collection is "Politics and the English Language", his observation that vague, imprecise language can be used to serve the powers that be for their own nefarious purposes. It's a good essay, but it could describe half the works in this collection. Orwell paints with a broad brush and he follows astute observations (or painfully obvious ones) with faulty conclusions. Some of the best works treat "low brow" entertainment with respect as a better window into the common citizen's point of view than so called "high" art, or explain why Orwell likes a piece of art that is exceptionally flawed or communicates a worldview he disagrees with. "Politics" and an essay defending Shakespeare against Tolstoy (!) are worth a read. Read the rest too, if you like generalizations and lists of how many characters work in Dickens novels. This read wasn't a waste, but I expected more from a celebrated writer. Whatever paid the bills, I guess.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    “I often have the feeling that even at the best of times literary criticism is fraudulent, since in the absence of any accepted standards whatever -- any external reference which can give meaning to the statement that such and such a book is "good" or "bad" -- every literary judgement consists in trumping up a set of rules to justify an instinctive preference. One's real reaction to a book, when one has a reaction at all, is usually "I like this book" or "I don't like it" and what follows is a r “I often have the feeling that even at the best of times literary criticism is fraudulent, since in the absence of any accepted standards whatever -- any external reference which can give meaning to the statement that such and such a book is "good" or "bad" -- every literary judgement consists in trumping up a set of rules to justify an instinctive preference. One's real reaction to a book, when one has a reaction at all, is usually "I like this book" or "I don't like it" and what follows is a rationalisation.” George Orwell' best works, almost all are about the way politics influence language and art. He himself wrote a lot of book reviews but his reflections here are the things we so often fee, and so rarely express. I like this essay, thats all I can say, the rest is rationalization.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    It was interesting to see his views from that time period, and scary how much of what he was saying politically could be applied to today. The wide range of topics makes this tricky to review, but I am struck by how well he writes an argument. He must use outlines, and I am envious of a time in history when people were so well read and contemplative.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Kinnear

    I’d already read many of these essays in other Orwell collections. As in elsewhere, this book contains “Politics and the English Language”, perhaps is his most famous essay, which was frequently recommended by Christopher Hitchens, and required reading for any member of Richard Holbrooke’s staff. My favorite new essays were Orwell’s reviews of the works of Kipling, Eliot, Chaplin, Dali, and Tolstoy (there’s several others, like Dickens, that impressed me less). Any one of those mentioned are wor I’d already read many of these essays in other Orwell collections. As in elsewhere, this book contains “Politics and the English Language”, perhaps is his most famous essay, which was frequently recommended by Christopher Hitchens, and required reading for any member of Richard Holbrooke’s staff. My favorite new essays were Orwell’s reviews of the works of Kipling, Eliot, Chaplin, Dali, and Tolstoy (there’s several others, like Dickens, that impressed me less). Any one of those mentioned are worth the price of admission, but the Dali and Tolstoy essays are worth remarking on. For Dali, Orwell reviewed an autobiography that the great painter produced near the end of his life. Orwell was put off by Dali’s pornographic stories of violence and misogyny, and in reviewing, Orwell finds a position in the long debate over whether to separate art from artist: Not, of course, that Dali’s autobiography, or his pictures, ought to be suppressed. Short of the dirty postcards that used to be sold in the Mediterranean seaport towns, it is doubtful policy to suppress anything, and Dali’s fantasies probably cast useful light on the decay of capitalist civilization. But what he clearly needs is diagnosis. The question is not so much what he is as why he is like that. It ought to not be in doubt that he is a diseased intelligence, probably not much altered by his alleged conversion [to Catholicism, late in his life], since genuine penitents, or people who have returned to sanity, do not flaunt their past vices in that complacent way. He is a symptom of the world’s illness. The important thing is not to denounce him as a cad who ought to be horsewhipped, or to defend him as a genius who ought not to be questioned, but to find out why he exhibits that particular set of aberrations Orwell derives his own theory of the case from Dali’s book – that it’s an act of desperation. After citing Dali’s ambition and egoism, Orwell puts himself in Dali’s shoes: …suppose that you have nothing in you except your egoism and a dexterity that goes no higher than the elbow: suppose that your real gift is for a detailed, academic, representational style of drawing, your real métier to be an illustrator of scientific textbooks. How then do you become Napoleon? There is always one escape: into wickedness. Always do the thing that will shock and wound people… Along those lines you can always feel yourself original. And after all, it pays! Orwell’s study of Tolstoy is even more disarming. Late in life, Tolstoy published a since hard-to-find essay disparaging Shakespeare as being positively bad for art, using Lear as a case study. Orwell comes to the Bard’s defense, and through some sort of essayist jiu jitsu, points out that Tolstoy himself ironically was a manifestation of the character he thought he was disparaging as being unrealistic: There is a general resemblance which one can hardly avoid seeing, because the most impressive event in Tolstoy’s life, as in Lear’s, was a huge gratuitous act of renunciation. In his old age he renounced his estate, his title and his copyrights, and made an attempt – a sincere attempt, though it was not successful – to escape from his privileged position and live the life of a peasant. But the deeper resemblance lies in the fact that Tolstoy, like Lear, acted on mistaken motives and failed to get the results he had hoped for. According to Tolstoy, the aim of every human being is happiness, and happiness can only be attained by doing the will of God. But doing the will of God means casting off all earthly pleasures and ambitions, and living only for others. Ultimately, therefore, Tolstoy renounced the world under the expectation that this would make him happier. But if there is one thing certain about his later years, it is that he was not happy. On the contrary, he was driven almost to the edge of madness by the behavior of the people about him, who persecuted him precisely because of his renunciation Truly life imitating art, doubly strange that the art was trying to renounce the art, which itself was about the foolishness of renunciation for the wrong reasons! Or, as Orwell puts it later in the essay: But there is also another moral [to Lear]. Shakespeare never utters it in so many words, and it does not very much matter whether he was fully aware of it. It is contained in the story, which, after all, he made up, or altered to suit his purposes. It is: “Give away your lands if you want to, but don’t expect to gain happiness by doing so. Probably you won’t gain happiness. If you live for others, you must live for others, and not as a roundabout way of getting an advantage for yourself.” Obviously neither of these conclusions could have been pleasing to Tolstoy. The first of them expresses the ordinary, belly-to-earth selfishness from which he was genuinely trying to escape. The other conflicts with his desire to eat his cake and have it – that is, to destroy his own egoism and by so doing to gain eternal life Of course Lear is not a sermon in favor of altruism. It merely points out the results of practicing self-denial for selfish reasons.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Whitaker

    A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for

  25. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    A bit dry at times, but interesting to hear about WWII era through Orwell's POV; also interesting to see how a lot of his criticism of society and politics would still be relevant today. A bit dry at times, but interesting to hear about WWII era through Orwell's POV; also interesting to see how a lot of his criticism of society and politics would still be relevant today.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    In a day of fake news, alternative facts, and politicians regularly not just massaging the truth but fabricating it wholesale to their own benefit, the work of George Orwell seems like it was written in response to today’s news. The writer best known for 1984 and Animal Farm was adamant in his opposition to what he called newspeak—any doublespeak using convoluted and pretentious language to conceal the truth. That is the case with All Art Is Propaganda, a 2009 collection of Orwell’s essays from t In a day of fake news, alternative facts, and politicians regularly not just massaging the truth but fabricating it wholesale to their own benefit, the work of George Orwell seems like it was written in response to today’s news. The writer best known for 1984 and Animal Farm was adamant in his opposition to what he called newspeak—any doublespeak using convoluted and pretentious language to conceal the truth. That is the case with All Art Is Propaganda, a 2009 collection of Orwell’s essays from the 1940s. Here’s one 1946 example of his several assaults on deceit: The organized lying practiced by totalitarian states is not, as is sometimes claimed, a temporary expedient of the same nature as military deception. It is something integral to totalitarianism . . . Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth. The friends of totalitarianism in this country [England] usually tend to argue that since absolute truth is not attainable, a big lie is no worse than a little lie. (258-59) His famous essay “Politics and the English Language,” goes into more depth and detail on how the truth is altered by government officials, something he saw firsthand when fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell does not, however, only aim his guns at the obvious targets of Russia, Germany, and Italy. He offers a fascinating critique of Rudyard Kipling’s sentimental and myopic imperialist attitudes. Kipling was not a Fascist. . . . Kipling’s outlook is pre-Fascist. He still believes that pride comes before a fall and that the gods punish hubris. He does not foresee the tank, the bombing plane, the radio and secret police, or their psychological results. . . . The nineteenth-century imperialist outlook and the modern gangster outlook are two different things. (178-79) The world passed Kipling by, however. He was stuck in a Victorian dream that could not cope with the twentieth century or how empires are actually built. Kipling spent the later part of his life in sulking . . . He could not understand what was happening, because he had never had any grasp of the economic forces underlying imperial expansion. . . We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are “enlightened” all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our “enlightenment,” demands that the robbery shall continue. (180-81) Orwell’s essays of literary criticism are equally fascinating. It takes some verve to take on Tolstoy, but Orwell does so regarding the great Russian’s disdain for Shakespeare and for King Lear in particular. Tolstoy ironically fails to see that he himself is Lear, renouncing his copyrights and titles and stature to live like a peasant (like Lear renouncing his throne) only to be angry and frustrated when this doesn’t have the desired effect and things go wrong (as also happens to Lear). In 1941 Orwell deftly punctured the bogus notion of H. G. Wells (and others) who felt that the progress of humanity and science go hand in hand with great civilization. “Modern Germany is far more scientific than England, and far more barbarous,” he wrote (152). Contradicting Wells again, Orwell states there was no inevitability to Hitler and his like failing. That is not how history or humanity works. An essayist at heart, he was not above lampooning himself, as he does in “Confessions of a Book Reviewer.” Orwell also leads nonfiction writers by example, consistently beginning his pieces with intrigue and ending with strength. What ties his literary and political critiques together is summarized well at the conclusion of Keith Gessen’s introduction, “The lesson of these essays is clear: Look around you. Describe what you see as an ordinary observer—for you are one, you know—would see them. Take things seriously. And tell the truth. Tell the truth.”

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christian Ayala

    This is a book of essays where Orwell analyzes a bunch of literature that I'm mostly unfamiliar with. Between that and the pretty bloodless title, I'm not surprised this was languishing on my "Want To Read" list for so long. And yet, I'm here to recommend it. For starters, Orwell could write an essay about an old shoe and it'd be worth reading. His appeal is, as with any essayist, his voice. Orwell is grumpy, yet deeply caring; educated, yet unsnobbish; humble, yet convincing. The other thing is This is a book of essays where Orwell analyzes a bunch of literature that I'm mostly unfamiliar with. Between that and the pretty bloodless title, I'm not surprised this was languishing on my "Want To Read" list for so long. And yet, I'm here to recommend it. For starters, Orwell could write an essay about an old shoe and it'd be worth reading. His appeal is, as with any essayist, his voice. Orwell is grumpy, yet deeply caring; educated, yet unsnobbish; humble, yet convincing. The other thing is that he uses the literature he's analyzing to jump off into wider, and very 2021 topics. Here's an example: This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history.” There are tons of moments like this. Might surprise readers who only know him from 1984 and Animal Farm to know that Orwell is a socialist. He has a lot to say about that, a lot of it critical, but all of it insightful. This is not, admittedly, gonna be for everyone -- the first essay is a lengthy analysis of Charles Dickens where he doesn't mention a Christmas Carol even once. But even if a particular essay isn't your vibe, there's plenty to choose from. At least read Can Socialists Be Happy and if you like it, there'll be more here for you.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mike Kanner

    A good introduction to Orwell the essayist. Despite my fondness for Orwell (beyond 1984 and ANIMAL FARM), I gave the volume only 3 stars because the collection does not have a central theme. They range from drama and film reviews to Orwell's opinion of Gandhi. Included are reviews that are only relevant to the time written (e.g., theater reviews, a discussion of colored postcards) or aspects of culture that are no longer applicable (e.g., Raffles). This makes his comments and how culture and pol A good introduction to Orwell the essayist. Despite my fondness for Orwell (beyond 1984 and ANIMAL FARM), I gave the volume only 3 stars because the collection does not have a central theme. They range from drama and film reviews to Orwell's opinion of Gandhi. Included are reviews that are only relevant to the time written (e.g., theater reviews, a discussion of colored postcards) or aspects of culture that are no longer applicable (e.g., Raffles). This makes his comments and how culture and politics mix tough for the modern reader to understand. (I am not saying that they are irrelevant, just it requires additional work). It does contain two of his more important essays - "The Prevention of Literature" and "Politics and the English Language." Although written over 50 years ago, both are relevant in a world of speech codes in university and other settings. Orwell's position is that these restrictions are evidence of totalitarian rule. The idea is also explored in a third essay, "Writers and the Leviathan." I would recommend the book, however, I would not make every essay a matter that must be read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Good collection of essays. Given the dated subject matter of some (dirty postcards and pulpy novels), I thought I would have been bored by “The Art of Donald McGill” and “Raffles and Miss Blandish”. Not at all. The passage that grabbed my attention in the “Raffles” essay, is the violence and sadism behind the book “No Orchids for Miss Blandish”: “It is important to notice that the cult of power tends to be mixed up with a love of cruelty and wickedness for their own sakes. A tyrant is all the mor Good collection of essays. Given the dated subject matter of some (dirty postcards and pulpy novels), I thought I would have been bored by “The Art of Donald McGill” and “Raffles and Miss Blandish”. Not at all. The passage that grabbed my attention in the “Raffles” essay, is the violence and sadism behind the book “No Orchids for Miss Blandish”: “It is important to notice that the cult of power tends to be mixed up with a love of cruelty and wickedness for their own sakes. A tyrant is all the more admired if he happens to be a bloodstained crook as well, and “the end justifies the means” often becomes, in effect, “the means justify themselves provided they are dirty enough.” “ Orwell’s ability to dive deep on a rather mundane subjects such as mystery and detective novels, and reveal the delight in brutality, and see a not too outrageous connection with them in terms of fascism and totalitarianism. I don’t know why, but I would love to see Orwell’s essay on the “Rambo” film series...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Juergen John Roscher

    This book helped me to better understand the man who wrote Animal Farm and 1984. He had opinions on writers, world-leaders, capitalism, Nazism, socialism and communism (and any other -ism). I enjoyed several of his essays in this collection, especially ones on Dickens, Swift, Tolstoy and Gandhi; with most of them some how interlinked with political systems. Another essay titled Boys' Weeklies on the books that English boys grew up reading during the early 20th century was interesting, especially This book helped me to better understand the man who wrote Animal Farm and 1984. He had opinions on writers, world-leaders, capitalism, Nazism, socialism and communism (and any other -ism). I enjoyed several of his essays in this collection, especially ones on Dickens, Swift, Tolstoy and Gandhi; with most of them some how interlinked with political systems. Another essay titled Boys' Weeklies on the books that English boys grew up reading during the early 20th century was interesting, especially in comparison today with kids play video games and watch others play video games on YouTube. I think Orwell was a brilliant writer but a little to far to the left politically for my taste. One thing I learned from reading his essays is that Orwell had a hatred for capitalism and totalitarianism, which made socialism and even communism more acceptable to him, though he didn't have much good to say for communism.

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