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Whether puncturing the lies of politicians, wittily dissecting the English character or telling unpalatable truths about war, Orwell's timeless, uncompromising essays are more relevant, entertaining and essential than ever in today's era of spin. Contents: "Why I Write", first published 1946 "The Lion and the Unicorn", first published 1940 "A Hanging", first published 1931 "Pol Whether puncturing the lies of politicians, wittily dissecting the English character or telling unpalatable truths about war, Orwell's timeless, uncompromising essays are more relevant, entertaining and essential than ever in today's era of spin. Contents: "Why I Write", first published 1946 "The Lion and the Unicorn", first published 1940 "A Hanging", first published 1931 "Politics and the English Language", first published 1946


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Whether puncturing the lies of politicians, wittily dissecting the English character or telling unpalatable truths about war, Orwell's timeless, uncompromising essays are more relevant, entertaining and essential than ever in today's era of spin. Contents: "Why I Write", first published 1946 "The Lion and the Unicorn", first published 1940 "A Hanging", first published 1931 "Pol Whether puncturing the lies of politicians, wittily dissecting the English character or telling unpalatable truths about war, Orwell's timeless, uncompromising essays are more relevant, entertaining and essential than ever in today's era of spin. Contents: "Why I Write", first published 1946 "The Lion and the Unicorn", first published 1940 "A Hanging", first published 1931 "Politics and the English Language", first published 1946

30 review for Why I Write

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthias

    Part 56 in the "Another autobiographical review that nobody asked for!"-series. Why I Review It was already very late in my boyhood, at thirty years old, when I considered writing book reviews. Being the man of action that I am, which is to say a lazy bum, it was almost to my own surprise that this innocent consideration promptly turned itself into virulent spasms across the keyboard, with my first contributions on Goodreads as the very unfortunate result. Thankfully my friends list at the time on Part 56 in the "Another autobiographical review that nobody asked for!"-series. Why I Review It was already very late in my boyhood, at thirty years old, when I considered writing book reviews. Being the man of action that I am, which is to say a lazy bum, it was almost to my own surprise that this innocent consideration promptly turned itself into virulent spasms across the keyboard, with my first contributions on Goodreads as the very unfortunate result. Thankfully my friends list at the time only consisted of some imported Facebook contacts who had last been active 5 years prior to my sudden burst of literary enthusiasm and who had gotten too busy climbing up corporate ladders to even remember ever having registered to a website about books, let alone notice what I was doing. Maybe it was this anonymity that allowed me to stay here, because as my own ineptitude was gradually becoming clearer to me as I was reading through others' reviews, I still persisted in forcing myself upon this community and fiendishly sent out friend requests in hopes of learning but mainly in hopes of belonging in this hall of learned ladies and gentlemen. I didn't stop to ponder on these hopes, on my true intentions, my real motivations. I just went with that "big bang" moment that seemed to come out of nowhere and I took it from there. I never stopped to ask: Why? George Orwell and his essay on why he writes made me revisit those early days of reviewing and the months (years?) that have transpired since then. I found his considerations relevant to why I am doing what I do, and the structure he employed quite helpful for the organisation of my own scrambled thoughts. Also, it's a very good essay and I rated it five stars, in case you were here for just the review. If you find yourself even remotely interested in reading further through my recollections then I can wholeheartedly recommend George Orwell's original text. Employing Orwell's essay structure, I should start with an understanding of my true nature and with a return to my childhood. Many of you already know that I was a happy, skinny, bespectacled and introverted child with no brothers or sisters and with a wonderful dog. I will not elaborate on that childhood too much since I already did that in other reviews, but these traits do explain a tendency to keep busy with solitary activities. As a child or teenager these activities strangely enough barely entailed reading or writing, aside from comic books and what was required for school. I found reading to be very boring. It felt like watching a movie with subtitles, only without the movie, and much slower. And with the advent of video games I truly had everything my solitary heart desired. The few books I had at that time turned yellow, collected dust and eventually got sold for twenty francs. Fast forward to the internet, with its chat rooms and forums devoted to games and the dominance of the English language in those settings. At a certain point I spent more time on the Internet discussing game strategies rather than playing the games themselves, as I also started commenting on the personal stories and the societal comments people invariably shared on these things. It is now, also through remembering some emails and letters I sent, I realise that it was mainly the writing in itself that I enjoyed, especially in English. All I needed was something worthwhile to write about. Another fast forward to much later to when I finally started reading, also in English. Murakami's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" proved to be the perfect present and as I read and finished that one I couldn't wait to start another book and then another and then another. Forget about slow. Forget about "where are the pictures?". Finally the movies I always wanted were playing in my mind as I sped through the pages. But after a couple of books a sad realisation gripped me as I asked myself: "What was the Murakami book about again? Something about a well and melanoma?". Clearly I had forgotten. I've always been someone who got through life more on the basis of an understanding in the moment rather than a remembering of the past. There are a lot of things to be said for traveling light and taking nothing with you on your travels, but I figured I preferred to try and collect some souvenirs at least. Hence the idea to write reviews. So that's the narrative. But Orwell also comes up with a list of motives, especially when it comes to writing in order to be read, which clearly apply to my case: Sheer egoism "The desire to seem clever." Check! The immediate feedback-system on Goodreads coupled with its exceedingly generous community makes this motive a potentially overpowering one. Aesthetic enthusiasm "The desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed." Check! Hope you got John McNee's books in your libraries! I think I stressed that enough by now. In the case of reviewing it can also be the opposite of aesthetic enthusiasm, for cases where you would like to dissuade people from ever getting near a certain book. Having seen some negative reviews, those can be pretty enthusiastic as well. Historical impulse "The desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for use of posterity." On the one hand I can't say Check! here because I'm dealing in opinions rather than facts, but on the other hand, as is the case with "classics", some general opinions turn into facts and it's nice to either try and debunk them or wholeheartedly defend their status. In essence to see for yourself what all the fuss is about and reach your own conclusions. Moreover the discussions on books and society that often ensue on this website are often very enriching to me and teach me in much the same way a history teacher would, so what the hell: Check! Political purpose "The desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter people's idea of the kind of society they should strive after." Dump Trump!, uhh, I mean Check! So there we have it. A "why" that has been answered, if not fully, at least partially. A reason for writing that Orwell shortly touched upon as well is "for a living". But I think only very few here get compensation in financial terms, not counting gifted books in return for reviews. Unless you guys know something that I don't. In any case, in the end the most important reason lies in the amalgam of all those reasons enumerated above, an amalgam that I can only describe as: I love being here. Just kidding, that's not a reason, that's circular reasoning. But I almost made you tear up, didn't I? It's true though. I do!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gaurav

    What do they know of Orwell who only Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four know? -Irving Howe Why do one write? What is the urgency to write or what is the need to write anything at all? Does one actually have control what one is writing or there is some profound force which influences one’s consciousness or sub-consciousness to do so. Perhaps one writes to get rid of tribulations of life going in his/ her head. For, there must be some way to disburse these anxious ordeals; and what better way it What do they know of Orwell who only Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four know? -Irving Howe Why do one write? What is the urgency to write or what is the need to write anything at all? Does one actually have control what one is writing or there is some profound force which influences one’s consciousness or sub-consciousness to do so. Perhaps one writes to get rid of tribulations of life going in his/ her head. For, there must be some way to disburse these anxious ordeals; and what better way it could be than to write. We may say, arguably though, that an author, or any one for that matter, writes to express, to get away from the insanity which might take one over if one does not decide to flush out the thoughts boiling up in the head; one expresses the turmoil one feels in consciousness, though he may choose different ways to do it- sometimes words are simply used to render the tumult and turbulence he might be going through while sometimes words are deftly used to concoct an escapade which may indirectly covey his thoughts. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. Are there any innate values which shape up an author’s writing method? And what is the role of one’s upbringing, ideals hold in childhood, belief system, in motivating one to be an author. It may be said, though arguably again, that writing is a self-driven and ever evolving personal engagement but development of language is influenced and shaped by other authors one would have followed during early years; it stems from personal experience and the innate connection one bore to literature from early age. Orwell’s essay- Why do I write- is a peculiar but reasonably specific form of writing, it’s an essay which may be quite content to raise an issue, force it on a reader’s attention, but then to ruminate and speculate, neither to orate nor pontificate; above all it will seem personal not objective, will give a sense of listening to an extended conversation by an odd but interesting individual. Orwell’s wish ‘to make political writing into an art’ led to a bold but carefully phrased claim for the originality of his essay. He proposed that everyone who writes has some form of political bias, and the more one is conscious of one’ s political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one’s aesthetic and intellectual integrity. He said that one can not assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his/ her early development. The subject matter of an author will be determined by the age he lives in, his childhood; the kind of stories authors imagine in their childhood have reflected in their styles which they adopted over the years. Orwell proposed that there are four main motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose- egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose, though degree of these motives may vary from one author to another and even in one author their proportions may vary from time to time. The desire to be talked about, to be remembered after death- which satisfies our ego- are quintessential to writers. Orwell said that serious writers are on the whole more vain and self- centered, though less interested in money. So, if not money then what they entices them- is fame not a manifestation of ego? Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable but aesthetic motive is, what Orwell felt, very feeble in a lot of writers; perception of beauty in words and their arrangements is one of the prime motives to write. The other motive he talked about is historical importance – desire to see things as they are, to find out facts and store them up for the use of posterity. The role of history and historian has changed over the years, as philosopher and historian Foucault sought to critically examine the seemingly straight forward questions and the responses they had inspired. He directed his most sustained skepticism toward those responses—among them, race, the unity of reason or the psyche, progress, and liberation—He directed his most sustained skepticism toward those responses—among them, race, the unity of reason or the psyche, progress, and liberation. But those were ages of imperialism that probably that has affected the thought process of the intellectuals then. Orwell maintained that no book is genuinely free from political bias, the opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they abandon individual ambition- in many cases, indeed, they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all- and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. There is another problem, perhaps subtler, which is of language and it may take too long to discuss; Orwell said that of later years he tried to write less picturesquely and more exactly. By the time one perfected any style of writing one has always outgrown it. Orwell developed language of satire as he progressed through his career; he was fully conscious of what he was doing during writing Animal Farm, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. Satire- laughter of free man- is like meditation wherein stories are written without any reference to any political power, it is an imaginative satire for the targets to become wider over time. A good cap fits many heads or can be made to do so with only a little stretching. He deliberately chose to write in the plain style for the very reason that he thought it the best way to reach the common reader and to convey truths. As he felt that the common man was the best hope for civilization, rather than proletarian man or aristocracies or elites of any kind. Orwell’s great skill lies in using the essay as a mode of expression are part of his cult of the ordinary, his faith in common sense and common man. His plain style also reveals an metaphysical intensity about the value of ordinary things, a kind of secular pietism.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shovelmonkey1

    Sometimes it would be nice to get a little closer to the author of your favourite books. See things a little more from their perspective and, you know, really get inside their heads. There are various approaches which can be taken in order to achieve this. Isabelle Arundell was quite a big fan of the work produced by writer, explorer and all round fantasy-adventurer Richard Burton. She achieved closeness by monitoring his globe trotting adventures, hanging out in part of London which he frequent Sometimes it would be nice to get a little closer to the author of your favourite books. See things a little more from their perspective and, you know, really get inside their heads. There are various approaches which can be taken in order to achieve this. Isabelle Arundell was quite a big fan of the work produced by writer, explorer and all round fantasy-adventurer Richard Burton. She achieved closeness by monitoring his globe trotting adventures, hanging out in part of London which he frequented, reading all his books and eventually all this hard work paid off and she married him. Score! Of course this process took approximately ten years so unless you have a large savings account and the patience of a saint then this approach may not be for you. There's also the Anne Wilkes in Misery approach. The eponymous film (and yes, I know it was a book first and foremost, before anyone comments!) starring James Caan showcased the best and most psychopathic way of bagging your own literary super star. Admittedly a lot of this relied purely on chance... Wilkes simply lucked out when author Paul Sheldon drunkenly "parks" his car in a giant snowdrift and she's the only one around to help. However, lopping off the limbs of your favourite writers is probably not the best way to ingratiate yourself or secure a starring role in their next book. Particularly if you're fond of chopping off their typing fingers. Option number three is to get hold of an authors essays- in this case, George Orwell's "Why I write". If you're a fan of all things Orwellian then this is great little book which provides a framework for his literary life; experiences and ideas that Orwell used to create some of his literary masterpieces including 1984, Animal Farm and The Road to Wigan Pier. The four essays contained within this book (Why I write, The Lion and the Unicorn, A Hanging and Politics and the English Language) provide intriguing insights into Orwell's life experiences including the development of his political ideology in the 1930s and 1940s, his time in Burma and a short and personal discussion on the decrepitude of the English Language (if only he'd lived to see how much more bloody the butchering of the English Language has become). Short, informative and excellent. However, if none of the above appeal to you and you're not prepared to read essays or simply wait for your favourite author to conveniently drop into your lap then perhaps hanging around outside Waterstones with a sack, some duct tape and hopeful look on your face is a better route.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    This is a varied group of essays of equally fascinating proportions. Contrary to what the title led me to believe, not all of these centre around writing and this, instead, was only the title of the first essay in this collection of four. The first and last essays, Why I Write and Politics and the English Language (of which I have a full review here) were both my particular favourites and the ones that dealt with purely the art of writing. I felt I learned a lot from both of these and are must-re This is a varied group of essays of equally fascinating proportions. Contrary to what the title led me to believe, not all of these centre around writing and this, instead, was only the title of the first essay in this collection of four. The first and last essays, Why I Write and Politics and the English Language (of which I have a full review here) were both my particular favourites and the ones that dealt with purely the art of writing. I felt I learned a lot from both of these and are must-reads for any aspiring author. The second essay, The Unicorn and the Lion, was the most politically concerned and took the largest segment of space, in this anthology. This dealt with Orwell's contemporary political climate but much of what he wrote could be adapted to our modern day society. His projections for the future were eerily accurate and made for a fascinating read. The third essay, A Hanging, dealt with what the title suggests. This seemed the most random, and morbid, of the four essays collected here but on closer inspection was just as politically inclined as its neighbours. The hanging in question took place during wartime and it discusses the reactions of those witnessing the death, and many others before it. Despite not being entirely the read I had anticipated, I found this a fascinating and worthy addition to my bookshelves, and have fallen in love with the minimalist beauty of the entire Penguin Great Ideas collection.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ivana Books Are Magic

    There are a few essays in this book, most of them I read before. However, a rereading was welcome, because there was only one essay that I had remembered quite well - Politics And the English Language. I read that one ages ago, when I was still a student. I must admit that Politics And the English Language is still one of my favourite essays by Orwell. It is simply brilliant. If there was a way to do it, I would force everyone to read it. Anyway, today I will review only one essay and that will There are a few essays in this book, most of them I read before. However, a rereading was welcome, because there was only one essay that I had remembered quite well - Politics And the English Language. I read that one ages ago, when I was still a student. I must admit that Politics And the English Language is still one of my favourite essays by Orwell. It is simply brilliant. If there was a way to do it, I would force everyone to read it. Anyway, today I will review only one essay and that will be- Why I Write. The other essays in this book I will review when I review the editions I had originally read them in. Why I Write was more personal in tone than I expected it to be. Not that I'm complaining. I consider Orwell to be one of the best essayists in the English language, if not the best. As much as I love the directness of his famous essay about the politics and the English language, I'm always interested in learning more about him, so this essay proved to be a wonderful read. In other words, I was only glad to read about Orwell's relationship with writing from a more personal point of view. Take a look at this, the opening sentence to this essay: "From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books." Now, that's pretty personal, isn't it? Orwell's words made me think of other writers I admire and sure enough they also wrote about writing being essential to them, about feeling that it is a part of their nature. Is the need for writing something we are born with? Is it nurture or nature? I can't help noticing that a lot of writers, great writers, were rather sickly (or isolated/lonely) as children. For many great writers to be, childhood was a challenging time at best. I remember what Kazuo Ishiguro said about writing, how it is important to start writing young and not to wait for mature years, how you can write just as well and in some cases even better as young. How young is too young or is there such a a thing? Is it a coincidence that a lot of great writers had the habit of escaping into dream worlds as kids? I read a few books of Orwell's collected essays so I remember reading about his unhappy and lonely childhood before. Still, I couldn't help being touched when I read this: " I had the lonely child's habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued." In addition, that sentence made me think about how much does childhood affects a writer. Is it perhaps the crucial time in a life of a writer, something one always comes back to, or is a place from where the inspiration comes, from where the feelings are born, both the good and the bad ones? Orwell seems to be aware of all the complex influences on the writer and about this important subject he says the following: "I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writer's motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living." Orwell goes on to explain how there are four main reasons why any writer writes: Sheer egoism, Aesthetic enthusiasm, Historical impulse and Political purpose. He explains it rather well, as you can imagine. I honestly think that any reader (and writer) for that matter will find that part of the essay extremely interesting. From there, Orwell continues to write a bit more about his own writing path, about historical events that influenced him and so on. Orwell says that by the end of 1935, he still didn't reach a solid decision about whether to be a writer or not. Orwell even included a little poem that he wrote as a result of his dilemma- to be or not to be a writer? I rather liked it, so I'll post it bellow: A happy vicar I might have been Two hundred years ago To preach upon eternal doom And watch my walnuts grow; But born, alas, in an evil time, I missed that pleasant haven, For the hair has grown on my upper lip And the clergy are all clean-shaven. And later still the times were good, We were so easy to please, We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep On the bosoms of the trees. All ignorant we dared to own The joys we now dissemble; The greenfinch on the apple bough Could make my enemies tremble. But girl's bellies and apricots, Roach in a shaded stream, Horses, ducks in flight at dawn, All these are a dream. It is forbidden to dream again; We maim our joys or hide them: Horses are made of chromium steel And little fat men shall ride them. I am the worm who never turned, The eunuch without a harem; Between the priest and the commissar I walk like Eugene Aram; And the commissar is telling my fortune While the radio plays, But the priest has promised an Austin Seven, For Duggie always pays. I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls, And woke to find it true; I wasn't born for an age like this; Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you? After sharing this poem, Orwell talks a bit more about political writing, explain what it means and shows what its challenges are. At the conclusion of this essay, he gets a bit softer and opens up again. He talks about the process of writing with a refreshing honestly. There is one sentence that really stayed with me and I must share it - "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. "

  6. 5 out of 5

    katie

    George Orwell is a genius and I hope to read more of his works soon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anuradha

    To understand why this book means to me as much as it does, it is important to do what Orwell does in the beginning of this book - go back to my childhood. When I was eleven years old, and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had one answer: "I don't know what I want to do, but I know I'll never work in politics." Oh, how wrong I was! A combination of having to closely follow elections because my grandfather did, and watching Aaron Sorkin shows, primarily, however, piqued my inte To understand why this book means to me as much as it does, it is important to do what Orwell does in the beginning of this book - go back to my childhood. When I was eleven years old, and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had one answer: "I don't know what I want to do, but I know I'll never work in politics." Oh, how wrong I was! A combination of having to closely follow elections because my grandfather did, and watching Aaron Sorkin shows, primarily, however, piqued my interest in said field, the field I had refused to wade in. Indeed, there are a myriad of reasons why I study politics. There are, however, exactly two reasons for why I want to write about politics, and George Orwell is one of them. The other is Stephen Kinzer. Orwell, throughout his book emphasises on one main fact: that all writing is political. And while that has not shaped my world view or what I write, I believe that it is the cardinal rule we need to accept before we write. Even if, unlike me, you don't write about why we should redefine human trafficking or something equally depressing. General fiction, plays, even thrillers and romance novels, are political. The politics of the writer has a way of seeping into the writing, and that's only a fact of nature. The primary reason I think everyone should read this book is because Orwell practises what he preaches. The key to good writing, he explains is to keep it simple and stick to the point, and that is what he does. Why I Write is but a hundred pages long. Whereas other books on writing, written by other authors I admire, are at least 3 times the length. Why I Write is indeed the antithesis to all the political writing we see today. Of course, I'm going to end my review here. It would be a disservice to the man if I waxed poetic about this book, when the crux of his advice is to do exactly the opposite.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mark Donnelly

    Each one of us has to decide what we want to do with the days that unfold, way too quickly. Orwell's penmanship cuts through the wordiness that only a man that knows what he wanted, where he was at, and where he wanted to go could achieve. As a writer myself, I am on a journey where I also knew with a lighting-bolt shift in consciousness at 31 years of age that I was to write. And so my eyes still in a soft thrill, when I find a writer that I can learn from, to understand me, my craft, and life b Each one of us has to decide what we want to do with the days that unfold, way too quickly. Orwell's penmanship cuts through the wordiness that only a man that knows what he wanted, where he was at, and where he wanted to go could achieve. As a writer myself, I am on a journey where I also knew with a lighting-bolt shift in consciousness at 31 years of age that I was to write. And so my eyes still in a soft thrill, when I find a writer that I can learn from, to understand me, my craft, and life better. Orwell, accomplishes this on so many levels, and why? Honesty, experience, and reflection. He raises the four great motives for why writer's write, at any rate for writing prose, which are the backbone, the keystone, of why he, and other writer's write: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. As kids we ask why, why, why. And this is a great way to learn for them, to understand, to relate to, and as it is here, by asking why, we become better writers. We start to lose our self-consciousness, and gain self-respect, and the most important trait...self-confidence. And as a result gain a deep-seeded respect for the craft of writing. Our mentors, which we all have, have tussled and hustled their way through the red-tape of their minds, their life, to breakthrough as a writer worthy of being a mentor. Refining the style to become more exact rather than picturesque was his pursuit. To expose a lie. To be true to himself. To share with the world the truth according to George Orwell. My, my, how invigorating it is to see a writer love words in this way, and as he states, "Good prose is like a windowpane." This to the end is also my pursuit. I loved it, and he is definitely one of my mentors.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stian

    This is a short little book containing a few of Orwell's writings. These are as follows: A Hanging (1931), The Lion and the Unicorn (1940), Politics and the English Language (1946), and Why I write (1946). The Lion and the Unicorn is the longest essay by quite some distance, and deals with wartime Britain and how Orwell perceives the British "family," its politics, its weaknesses, flaws, and what the state of the nation is in itself, and what role Britain plays in the war. It begins, "As I write This is a short little book containing a few of Orwell's writings. These are as follows: A Hanging (1931), The Lion and the Unicorn (1940), Politics and the English Language (1946), and Why I write (1946). The Lion and the Unicorn is the longest essay by quite some distance, and deals with wartime Britain and how Orwell perceives the British "family," its politics, its weaknesses, flaws, and what the state of the nation is in itself, and what role Britain plays in the war. It begins, "As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me." He writes that "England is not the jewelled isle of Shakespeare's much-quoted message, nor the inferno depicted by Dr Goebbels. More than either it resembles a family, a rather stuffy victorian family, with not so many black sheep in it but with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations who are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. It is a family in which the young are generally thwarted and most of the power is in the hands of irresponsible uncles and bedridden aunts. Still, it is a family. [..] A family with the wrong members in control - that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase." In general this is an interesting essay, especially for those interested in history, but it also outlines some ideas and thoughts that would be further developed in 1984 and Animal Farm and is well worth a read for that alone. The remaining essays are also very interesting, and if it weren't for my laziness I would write more about those too. Just take my word for it: they are pretty short and very enjoyable to read, and they are all well worth your time. A Hanging is so short you can basically read it right now in 5 or 10 minutes, so go for it! Here's a link: http://www.online-literature.com/orwe... I'd like to rephrase a quote by Pyotr Kroptkin to say something about Orwell. Kropotkin, talking about a poetry-loving friend wrote, “Sometimes he would advise me to read poetry, and would send me in his letters quantities of verses and whole poems, which he wrote from memory. 'Read poetry,' he wrote: 'poetry makes men better.' How often, in my later life, I realized the truth of this remark of his! Read poetry: it makes men better." Read Orwell: it makes us better!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    The power of a pen and a mind unapologetically free. It had been long since I read something by Orwell and I somehow craved for an honest prose. Such an encounter with Orwell was like sitting with him face to face and letting him describe all he thought while writing his masterpieces. A much needed confrontation with a writer as raw as him. “When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, 'I am going to produce a work of art.' I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, The power of a pen and a mind unapologetically free. It had been long since I read something by Orwell and I somehow craved for an honest prose. Such an encounter with Orwell was like sitting with him face to face and letting him describe all he thought while writing his masterpieces. A much needed confrontation with a writer as raw as him. “When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, 'I am going to produce a work of art.' I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    Published in 1946, Why I Write is one of Orwell's better known essays. It's really a mini-biography because he talks about his motivations and thought processes relating to his writing at the various stages of his life. He lists political motivation as the most important aspect of writing a novel, for him anyway. He believes that all novels are somewhat political in nature. Also sheer egoism is motivational, the need to be successful, to be remembered. That's just part of it. It's provides an i Published in 1946, Why I Write is one of Orwell's better known essays. It's really a mini-biography because he talks about his motivations and thought processes relating to his writing at the various stages of his life. He lists political motivation as the most important aspect of writing a novel, for him anyway. He believes that all novels are somewhat political in nature. Also sheer egoism is motivational, the need to be successful, to be remembered. That's just part of it. It's provides an insight, a window into the creative mind of a very interesting man, and a great writer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Curious

    Thinkers, Writers, Readers, Teachers and Politicians should read this. And everyone else who says reflecting on our language is important. George Orwell's writing in this book is a little puffed-up but he gets the reader thinking. The first and last chapters are the best. The middle bits are a little politica but still interesting. (I don't have a lot of political knowledge but I read the middle bits. And found them interesting and a bit dry at times.) This is definitely a book i want to keep ref Thinkers, Writers, Readers, Teachers and Politicians should read this. And everyone else who says reflecting on our language is important. George Orwell's writing in this book is a little puffed-up but he gets the reader thinking. The first and last chapters are the best. The middle bits are a little politica but still interesting. (I don't have a lot of political knowledge but I read the middle bits. And found them interesting and a bit dry at times.) This is definitely a book i want to keep referring back to for writing ideas. He also yells at us English users for puffing- up our language and taking the meaning out of it. We use pompous words and phrases that come automatically to our mind. He advises us to become aware of it and try to use more meaningful phrases that require us to think about our thoughts. He says to create metaphors instead of mindlessly setting out old ones like an assembly line. He even gives 6 rules us writers can follow. I've learned these in high school but back then, I didn't think deeply about them nor care. It's a handy review of writing dos and don'ts. His book also kind-of explains why 'crazy' people clip out phrases from newspapers and examine them. Just don't take the ideas in his book that far! I don't think you have to read his 1984 to enjoy this book. But if you like 1984, you've got to read this one!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aditi Jaiswal

    Read. Listen. Think and Reflect. Why I write? I always have this fear of not having a story to tell, not having an original idea to contribute to the world of literary geniuses and to even stand among the intellectuals with a voice. I fear that. I always want to say things that are my own, because to face the truth, we all have a desire to share our experience which we feel is valuable and to make a positive impact with those words, but more often than not we are gripped by the fear and self-doub Read. Listen. Think and Reflect. Why I write? I always have this fear of not having a story to tell, not having an original idea to contribute to the world of literary geniuses and to even stand among the intellectuals with a voice. I fear that. I always want to say things that are my own, because to face the truth, we all have a desire to share our experience which we feel is valuable and to make a positive impact with those words, but more often than not we are gripped by the fear and self-doubt, so when I begin to think that I am not able to convey my thoughts precisely, then I resort to quote the words of creative literary geniuses who often had me entirely at their mercy. The habit of quoting literary notables lead me to a quote by Virginia Woolf, “Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river”, so I thought if I wish to write, all I have to do is to read. It’s that easy. But I am not some exception to the rule, where amidst the constant influx of information, all of us often fall short of words unless we know how to be mindful of what we learn. Even though I started reading voraciously over the past few years when it comes down to pen my thoughts, I always find it difficult to start but as George Orwell said, to write, you must first know what you want to write about. I see a similarity in all the books that I have read till now, the writer is always conscious about what they want to write, and when we know with some clarity, what we have to tell and stay true to our thoughts, we begin to find words because it’s all there, it has always been. I also write because when I read, I don’t want to just cram my head with few words or some purple passages but instead I want those words to change me in some way, no matter how small they are. A change is a change. So when I write my thoughts down about something that I have read, in the process I begin to comprehend it and understand things clearly and see what I might otherwise have missed. Reading more books out of sheer egoism, just for the sake of being proud of the number of reading goals I have achieved is of no use to me. If I don’t remember or if I can’t recall what a book made me feel, I think such reading is by no possible means adequate, it’s not merely an aesthetic experience for me. Reading for me is to let myself immerse in the writing, to let the words pull me inside the pages and when I emerge, I am not the same, I have outgrown myself. That’s what the passages and sometimes words have the power to do to you. To take you in pieces and then make you whole, that’s the true use of literature, to tie up the few loose ends and in turn expand your thinking.

  14. 4 out of 5

    muthuvel

    Why I Read (and Why you probably should) A Collection of four revolutionary essays written by Orwell between 1931 to 1946. Ideas spilled out by the author is very essential for leading a better way of not only politics but everything around it. Why I Write (1946) - Memoir of his early days aspiring to become writer, dropping it during the 20s and rising again for the purpose. Very short and brief essay on why he wrote and maybe why all write. The Lion and the Unicorn (1940) - My favourite and Indee Why I Read (and Why you probably should) A Collection of four revolutionary essays written by Orwell between 1931 to 1946. Ideas spilled out by the author is very essential for leading a better way of not only politics but everything around it. Why I Write (1946) - Memoir of his early days aspiring to become writer, dropping it during the 20s and rising again for the purpose. Very short and brief essay on why he wrote and maybe why all write. The Lion and the Unicorn (1940) - My favourite and Indeed the longest essay of the four! Orwell expressed his favours on Democratic Socialism and the need for England to step into the war (WWII) with bringing down revolutionary changes in the base elements holding up the nation. The Essay helped in decoding the mindset of all kinds of people like soldiers, army/naval officers, rich and the working class during the wartimes, Pro-Hitler movements in England, left-right wings delusional propagandas, the economic policies and it's hypocrisy. Splashed some events on Indian Subcontinent, Franco's Spanish Civil War, Japan's and Russia's Emergence which he felt threatening. The scenarios were so much resonating the present conditions of many countries headed by narcissistic leaders influenced by the political empowerment. For People who don't care all about these things, there's still a chance on reading this essay. I hope everyone is aware enough that watching a Christopher Nolan's Movie always require us some homework, some prerequisites to understand, feel the moments better. So, Read it, Dunkirk Is Coming. A Hanging (1930) - Is a very short essay about a happening that he experienced in his Burmese days. Very Short but poignant with dark humour spilled on it. Politics and the English Language (1946) - This is one of the important essays for Non-Fiction Writers (especially Political) who help muggles in understanding the world. Concentrates on bad writing of literary people and even pointed out some notions in rectifying the errors so that the effect gets diluted saving the language and in turn the political writing and so on. Highly insightful in terms of literary usage.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Published as part of the wonderful Penguin series, Great Ideas, this book contains four of Orwell’s essays, only one of which relates to his early attempts at writing. His message here is that if you want to do something strongly enough you have to be prepared to slog away at it and to be a bit rubbish at it to start with. I was reminded of this quote from Margaret Atwood: “Writing is like trying to catch a greased pig in a dark room. Only become a writer if you are compelled to.” Another essay Published as part of the wonderful Penguin series, Great Ideas, this book contains four of Orwell’s essays, only one of which relates to his early attempts at writing. His message here is that if you want to do something strongly enough you have to be prepared to slog away at it and to be a bit rubbish at it to start with. I was reminded of this quote from Margaret Atwood: “Writing is like trying to catch a greased pig in a dark room. Only become a writer if you are compelled to.” Another essay recounts Orwell’s experience as an army officer in Burma witnessing the hanging of a prisoner. He understood that the formal ritual of state execution – the march to the gallows, the soldierly guards, the stand to attention, the order given – is designed to subsume the brutal truth of what is taking place. The veneer was shattered on this occasion by a large, barking dog bounding loose around the yard and jumping at the prisoner before it could be caught. Afterwards, the uniforms gathered for a stiff drink and a nervous laugh, in the way that people do when a collective wrong has been committed in the hope that a blame shared is a blame reduced. It is not so. The longest essay in the book, The Lion and the Unicorn, is meant, I think, to solidify Orwell’s antifascist views. Given that it was written in 1940 as German bombs were falling on London, some concession can be given for its jingoistic tone but only some. It is sentimental, imperialist tripe, waxing tediously about glorious England (not Britain), that jars horribly with the current times and with the rest of Orwell’s normally fine writing. This is the missing star; it was nearly two. The fourth essay is an extract from Orwell’s Politics and the English Language and is a rant against what we would now call management-speak or PR spin. I remember it well from my public-sector years – why write two or three honest sentences when a page and a half of impenetrable waffle will do? Although such nonsense is often satirised by the likes of Private Eye or the Dilbert cartoons, I fear it is getting worse. It is a linguistic framework, which, going forward, may negatively impact our mental energies and impair networking strategies. Indeed.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    This is the non-fiction Orwell, the man who insists that, in our world, every gesture is a political gesture, every thought is a political one. Great little collection of four of his essays. Thoroughly enjoyed.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shalini

    Orwell can do wonders with merely 4 pages. Whenever I read him be it 1984 or just a short essay, it invokes a great deal of mixed emotions. Why I write is a short essay on Orwell’s writing journey which started at an early age of 4 or 5. I recommend it to anyone who has read anything by Orwell, especially if found any of Orwell’s works unlikable. This essay would give you great insights into why he wrote what he wrote and the circumstances that made him the Orwell. Being the middle child of 3 wit Orwell can do wonders with merely 4 pages. Whenever I read him be it 1984 or just a short essay, it invokes a great deal of mixed emotions. Why I write is a short essay on Orwell’s writing journey which started at an early age of 4 or 5. I recommend it to anyone who has read anything by Orwell, especially if found any of Orwell’s works unlikable. This essay would give you great insights into why he wrote what he wrote and the circumstances that made him the Orwell. Being the middle child of 3 with gap of 5 years on either side, Orwell had somewhat a lonely childhood and had developed habit of imagining fictional persons and having conversations with them. (I’m not sure but I guess these habits are very common in young kids, at least I and all of my friends whom I’ve asked had them). During his childhood, he was making up a continuous story about himself that only existed in his mind. “He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted on to the table, where a match-box, half-open, lay beside the inkpot. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across to the window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf..” And he seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against this will. When he was 16, he knew what kind of books he wanted to write - “enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their own sound.” Why he wrote the kind of novels he wrote : - According to Orwell, the subject matters on which an author writes depends primarily on the age he lived in. By the time he decides what he wants to write, he already has developed an emotional attitude that determines his writing style and ideas and he can never escape that. And if he does, it kills his impetus to write. In Orwell’s words, there are 4 great motives for writing - some of them are also applicable in almost all the professions in the world : 1) Sheer Egoism - The desire to seem clever, to be known and remembered after death and to get your own back on the ones who snubbed you in the childhood seem to be the strongest motive which writers also share with successful professionals in almost all fields. 2) Aesthetic enthusiasm - The perception of beauty in the world and desire to share it with others, Orwell says, is quite weak in a lot of writers. 3) Historical impulse - The curiosity to find out true facts and desire to spread them to all the future generations of people. 4) Political purpose - The desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people; idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. According to Orwell, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude. Orwell thinks that first 3 motives were naturally stronger in him than fourth and if he were born in a peaceful age, he might have written merely descriptive books. But circumstances and the revolutionary age in which he lived made him write more powerful books with certain political bias and detachment. In his words, "when he lacked the political purpose he wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug." Spending 5 years in the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma, gave him some understanding of imperialism and increased his dislike for authority. After the Spanish war and other events in 1936-37, everything he wrote was directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism. He didn’t write to produce a work of art but because there was some lie he wanted to expose, some fact to which he wanted to draw an attention to. “If I had not been angry about that, I would never have written that book.” Orwell is one of the very few writers who has created something literary work that turned my world upside down so I maybe a bit biased but it's a great short essay and everyone who has ever read Orwell should definitely read it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    George Orwell explains his main motivations for writing in these four essays, which are included in the Penguin Great Ideas box set. Basically, he always knew that he would become a writer and his life experiences shaped him, all stemming from when he lived in Burma and saw the injustices of the Imperial Administration that he served as a policeman under. This led George Orwell to become a Socialist, or rather a Democratic Socialist and his journalism exposes the injustices of the system that he George Orwell explains his main motivations for writing in these four essays, which are included in the Penguin Great Ideas box set. Basically, he always knew that he would become a writer and his life experiences shaped him, all stemming from when he lived in Burma and saw the injustices of the Imperial Administration that he served as a policeman under. This led George Orwell to become a Socialist, or rather a Democratic Socialist and his journalism exposes the injustices of the system that he lived under, especially during the inter-war years. His main novels, or at least the ones we most remember him for, were crafted later in his life (Animal Farm and 1984), and really his later beliefs were all shaped during the Spanish Civil War and his subsequent disillusionment that he experienced having witnessed the suppression of the 'dissident' POUM and CNT-FAI by the Communists. He explains that: "The Spanish war and other events in 1936-7 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it." He explains that because of the tumultuous era that he was living in, witnessing the Spanish Civil War, the Great Depression, the Second World War and the rise of political extremes, no one really could not escape from writing about those times very neutrally, unless you wrote pure descriptive scenes that was totally devoid of anything substantial. 'The Lion and the Unicorn', the second essay in this pamphlet, is George Orwells 'mission statement' - it was written during the Blitz and in it he states that the only way for England to win this war was for a revolution to happen in the UK. It goes into serious depth about the nature of 'Englishness' (rather than 'Britishness') and Patriotism, and he sets out a blueprint on how the war could be won as well as what type of society was needed after the war (i.e some sort of 'English' Socialism). Its interesting that he also attacks the left-wing intelligentsia in England as well as the Tory right. Both he argues were bringing the country down and he also believes that Marxism (that he describes as a German theory realised by Russia) would not work here along with its polar-opposite, Fascism. This is quite a hefty essay that saw his ideas never actually came true although he was right to say that after the war there would be some sort of social change, and there was with the establishment of the Welfare State and the Labour election victory, although there was no revolution. If you wanted to know how Orwells description of a dystopian society that 1984 portrays was developed, what shaped this writers ideas, then this pamphlet would suffice. I think that his later ideas stemmed from what he experienced in Spain (as my quote states) and that he actually became fearful of Russian Marxism later on in his life. Interesting little read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Erica Zahn

    Overall rating: 4.5 stars. As much as I love the Penguin Great Minds Collection, I feel the title here is a little misleading – only the first 10 pages out of 120 are the ‘Why I Write’ essay, so about 8% of the book. As a result, I’ll be reviewing the four essays individually, since I feel that’s the most precise approach (and because it’s difficult to assess essays on such different subjects as a collected whole). Why I Write ★★★★ “So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel st Overall rating: 4.5 stars. As much as I love the Penguin Great Minds Collection, I feel the title here is a little misleading – only the first 10 pages out of 120 are the ‘Why I Write’ essay, so about 8% of the book. As a result, I’ll be reviewing the four essays individually, since I feel that’s the most precise approach (and because it’s difficult to assess essays on such different subjects as a collected whole). Why I Write ★★★★ “So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.” (p.9) I was expecting this to be the majority of the book, when it turned out to be quite short, but it still said everything that I would have thought necessary to say. Orwell’s writing, according to Orwell, has the primary motivation you would expect – political concerns – but it was surprising and revealing to know that his writing had a much more ‘literary’ inclination before he decided to focus on political direction. Like a lot of left-wing writers, he clearly decided accessibility was more important than artistry, and I suspect that’s partially responsible for the enduring popularity of his work (even with classics, the works that are easiest to read reach the widest audience). Specifically, Orwell cites four main motivations to write: egoism, aestheticism, historical impulse, and political purpose (he admits an early partiality to the first three – his relationship with the fourth is obvious). Can there really be only four motivations? The most obvious omission is monetary, whether we consider it primarily people writing to make a living, or under the impression that they’ll get rich from it. Orwell does acknowledge this motivation, though: he says it’s ‘feeble’, since writing is hardly a ‘get rich quick scheme’ for the average worker bee, the fame and wealth of the most prominent writers (especially J.K. Rowling today), especially where accompanied by a ‘rags to riches’ narrative, may deliver the false impression that ‘anyone’ can be shot to stardom by writing. And perhaps egoism is linked to political purpose (believing your views are the right ones and that everyone else should follow them). Historically speaking, the factor of ‘historical impulse’ can also be egoistic: I love the inclusion of this factor, which is too often overlooked when so many canonical works stemmed from this motivation, but the earliest examples (Herodotus and other ancient historians) would open their works with a claim to superiority over all preceding historical writers, in style, method, and subject matter altogether. It can also turn philosophical when we see recurring themes in history (in fact, even here, the Trotskyists accused of plotting with Franco (p.9) reminds me a little of the Cuban Five case). By extension, egoism could also be linked to aestheticism, since it presupposes that the writer believes they can create a beautiful work of art. With or without this, I’m inclined to think aesthetic enthusiasm is a more considerable motivator than Orwell makes out, especially in literary fiction and similar genres, and I think all writers must have a strain of egoism, not only to sit down and make their own thoughts permanent on paper, but to demand thenceforth that they be printed en masse for other people pay for the privilege of reading them. I also have doubts about some of the comments that lead on from the main points: he says, for instance (p.5) that people give up their ambitions after 30, but this can’t be the case, especially not for politicians! I thought this was a strange inclusion, unless he’s actually joking and I’ve missed it. They’re not all ‘gifted’ either, as he describes them, but probably are ‘wilful’ as a collective. Some of the specific examples of notorious people, on the other hand, could have done with citations (Eugene Aram? Austin Seven? Duggie? Apparently a philologist and murderer immortalised in a ballad and novel, a then-popular car model, and a nickname for a well-known bookmaker, respectively. Maybe I’m just clueless, but other more obvious references, like Lord Halifax, are cited.) I also question whether, as he says, political and historical motivations wane in a ‘peaceful age’ – what is a peaceful age? When is a peaceful age? Is there ever a peaceful age? Obviously Orwell lived through highly tumultuous times in the 30s and 40s, so perhaps to him the Edwardian period beforehand would have seemed tranquil by comparison, but I still doubt that targets for politically motivated writing could fade away entirely when we’ve never in human history had a truly ‘peaceful’ time. He somewhat reconciles us with the limitations of his view by conceding that the impulse to write is partly mysterious – I think this is an important point. Many writers have talked about the unspecified ‘need’ or impulse to write, and not all of them are aesthetically motivated. It was great to see Orwell’s own motivations laid out on the page, and I consider his self-analysis very accurate, although, while his general view of writers is revealing in its own way, I don’t find it universally applicable. Although Orwell’s earlier writing was considerably more flowery, the more direct, ‘stripped-down’ style of his major works has its own artistic merit. (His own admission of loneliness and making up stories at a young age is also one a lot of writers can relate to.) The potential in combination of artistic appeal and political undertone should not be overlooked: by making his writing a pleasurable aesthetic experience, Orwell appeals, views in hand, to a far wider audience than he could have anticipated (perhaps a more modern, ‘popcorn’ example of this would be, again, J.K. Rowling). As he says himself, though, this can be a difficult balance when construction and language depend on the priority of the writing: you have to kill your darlings to master good political writing, his editor complained that he’d once “turned a good book into journalism”: in terms of primary motive, he’d shown his hand, and it wasn’t necessarily a good thing to be so honest. Ultimately, the perfect balancing act is probably not possible, writers tend to be of a disposition prone to overthinking it, and Orwell concludes that “every book is a failure” at the end of the day – words to live by. The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius ★★★★☆ I've run out of room in this review, but you can read my thoughts here. A Hanging ★★★★★ “It is curious, but till that moment I had never realised what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive…He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone – one mind less, one world less.” (pp.97-8) Unfortunately, I don’t have as much to contribute to a review at this point: I have experience writing, and have lived in England my whole life, but I’ve never witnessed a hanging, so I can’t contribute my own perspective in the same way as I have. My response will have to focus more on the piece itself, and rather less on the issue of its subject matter. There’s a stark lack of interest here in the ‘crime and punishment’ aspect of the subject: there’s no reference to the crime (whatever he did, we aren’t told), nor on framing him as a criminal. The focus is entirely on the prisoner, the executioners, and carrying out the punishment itself. They manhandle and frog-march the prisoner, gripping to him despite his frailty, treating him as a threat despite his helplessness. Once he’s been dehumanised by his fellow man, the dog is the only one who recognise him, greeting him as a friend and prompting another severe response by the guards. For his own part, the prisoner is never accorded the right to speak or act of his own volition, except when he steps aside to avoid the puddle in his path, revealing his surviving consciousness of everyday behaviours and the irony of the situation, removing the life of a healthy man, fundamentally no different from the others present. I’ve always wondered why people are executed first thing in the morning: apparently it results from a combination of legal requirements, minimisation of turmoil for the victim, avoidance of public protest, and time for the aftermath. Here, we are introduced to an eerie atmosphere and ominous mood, with “a sickly light, like yellow tinfoil” illuminating the yard, followed by the feeling of almost unbelievable relief once breakfast arrives and it’s all over – despite the overwhelming finality of the act, the hanging itself is brief, and the onlookers spend the majority of the day preoccupied with lighter things, the execution quickly forgotten. I associated this release of tension with the feeling that the ‘job’ is done, the same way colleagues might go out for a drink together after a day’s work, but a friend of mine interpreted that they wished to forget the horror of the execution by focusing on other things (a bit like the conviviality of the reception after the ordeal of a funeral service). Orwell leaves us on this note: even after the most extreme punishment, life goes on, at least for those not subjected to execution themselves. We allow ourselves to treat human life as negligible once we legislate and formalise taking it away. Politics and the English Language ★★★★☆ “Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognise that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end…Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even…send some worn-out and useless phrase…into the dustbin where it belongs.” (p.120) Here Orwell considers the major faults of his contemporaries in the use of English, the murkiness introduced by newer linguistic trends, and the dangers of political language used for rhetorical and opportunistic ends. First I think I should consider Orwell’s most specific linguistic complaints. Thankfully many of the worn-out metaphors he cites (p.106) are either obsolete or have fallen into the ‘dead’ category (i.e. they’re so ubiquitous that the image presented does not register). On the other hand, it’s possible that if such a piece were written today, new metaphors would form the same gripe. (Mixed metaphors, then and now, can be highly entertaining, but generally fail to make serious writing evocative.) Orwell is very direct about his interpretation: it shows that they are “not interested in what they are saying”, though I would think this most applies to metaphors whose subjects don’t fit, rather than commonality. However, I don’t agree with all his points about diction and word choice: I hardly think words like ‘basic’ and ‘primary’ can be considered pretentious diction – I can see where Orwell is coming from, but he takes it too far on some points. One point I must strongly disagree on, regardless of linguistic changes over the years, is his opposition to foreign loan words – they add an educated air to a piece, which perhaps Orwell resents, but may provide a considered nuance or reference to the writer’s point in context, and not all foreign words or phrases have direct English equivalents (especially German compound words, which would generally form the clunky, semi-nonsensical phrases which Orwell also finds objectionable). Any failure to understand from the less educated can be remedied with a footnote or, in today’s world, even a Google search. Orwell complains they are ‘vague’ where I would argue quite the opposite. Unlike many classic authors, Orwell had no linguistic background himself, and as an ancient historian myself I can’t help but notice his anti-classical tendencies, which I fear may have clouded his perspective on this issue. Ultimately, I feel that complex language is what allows people to gain eloquence and education from what they read – there’s no harm in one or two points in a written work that need looking up, and indeed, I find myself in that place with some of Orwell’s more dated references. Anyone who can parse out a foreign loan word will understand it, and others can simply learn it, in the same way everyone works to broaden their vocabulary and cultural understanding. I fear that those who are unwilling to do this have little business reading such literature in the first place, at least not before they’ve accustomed themselves to that level. I agree that there is significant social damage caused when language is allowed to dissolve. This essay places much emphasis on the ‘overcomplicating’ of writing by Orwell’s contemporaries, as a way of waffling (i.e. saying a lot while saying nothing), or to obfuscate whatever point is actually being made. I fear I may also be guilty of overphrasing myself (indeed, even in these reviews), especially with regard to verbal phrases, which I would argue accord delicacy to writing and are not redundant, but I will have to be wary of this from now on. However, I fear he may have let his hatred of the intelligentsia get in the way here: a lot of his complaints are typical of academic and/or theoretical writing. That’s not to say this area is above criticism: the sweeping statements accompanied by theoretical terms can give an air of authority where none is warranted, while allowing the author to leave their remarks unexplained: the onus ends up on you, the reader, to justify the statement yourself, or to feel stupid if you don’t understand or are inclined to disagree. This is most true when the critic is an expert or intellectual authority figure. However, that’s not to say all writing need be totally direct: I feel general statements are fine, as long as you elaborate on what you actually mean. This seems to me the best way to make your overarching point clearly while avoiding glibness, a higher level of expression used while, as Orwell would say, saying what you actually mean. It also allows room for theoretical discussions to take place – just because an argument is not expressed in wholly ‘concrete’ terms doesn’t mean it is meaningless; again, I worry this prejudice may be linked to Orwell’s hatred of academics. However, I must put my particular gripes aside and focus on the true subject of this piece: political language. On this issue Orwell’s points have aged rather better, and I think most readers will find him sound regardless of their own views going in. I see how triumphant language (including the word ‘triumphant’) can be used politically for self-glorification, and the same tactic used to vilify the chosen ‘enemy’. However, this is not always unwarranted if political leaders wish to alert the public to the real dangers at stake. For instance, people have probably overused the term ‘fascism’, then and now, but one culprit is the actual pertinence of the ideology and its appeal, then and now. It’s true that people ‘twist’ weightier words like this, and do the same thing on the other end with ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, easily according their writing a powerful rhetorical verve while invoking concepts with no objective shared meaning in their audience. (Conversely, the euphemistic renaming of atrocities and outrages, p.115, is equally worrying for the opposite end.) On this point, where such serious issues are at stake, I’m more inclined to agree with his earlier call for specificity (p.111). There’s certainly the risk of trying too hard to seem lofty, either in formal academic writing or messages to the general public, and, just as he warns others, he should be careful not to over-generalise – this is the area where his points are by far the most effective. Although I obviously don’t agree with all his points, no one can deny that Orwell’s English works. Few writers compete with him for clarity and direction, and his style certainly falls in line with his socialistic goal of accessibility and appeal to a general audience. Reading this piece, I felt that some of his complaints must be even more pertinent today, but perhaps we better remember the elegant writers of the past, and bear witness ourselves to deteriorating standards today, resulting in an imbalanced view. What we can gain most from this piece is a reminder of the true purpose of language – not to aggrandise the speaker, or twist the truth of a matter, but to express ourselves, communicate with one another, and, above all, to find the strength gained from mutual understanding.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Paine

    This book is brilliant. I can't give it 5* because I felt deceived by the title - the longest essay in this book is actually about politics in the UK at the time of WW2 and Orwell's hopes and arguments for a socialist revolution (not as scary as it sounds). Nevertheless I found that essay very interesting, mainly because a lot of the observations Orwell made back then about the British people and politics could also be made today, therefore crystallising in my mind why some things are the way th This book is brilliant. I can't give it 5* because I felt deceived by the title - the longest essay in this book is actually about politics in the UK at the time of WW2 and Orwell's hopes and arguments for a socialist revolution (not as scary as it sounds). Nevertheless I found that essay very interesting, mainly because a lot of the observations Orwell made back then about the British people and politics could also be made today, therefore crystallising in my mind why some things are the way they are. The final essay on political writing and the English language is invaluable, and I've been trying my best in this little review not to commit any of the writing blunders he exposed in it (I probably have)! It basically taught me to stop faffing around with meaningless language and to aim to write, with precision, exactly what I mean.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    There are several points I'd like to bring across in this review, which will be rather brief due to the fact that there isn't anything interesting in this book that I could elaborate on or gush about. 1) The title is misleading. Neither does this book concern itself with the topic why Orwell decided to write, nor really with the how. Oh well, it does mention rather generic reasons in the first essay, but honestly, these reasons are kind of obvious and applicable to everyone. Instead, Orwell delv There are several points I'd like to bring across in this review, which will be rather brief due to the fact that there isn't anything interesting in this book that I could elaborate on or gush about. 1) The title is misleading. Neither does this book concern itself with the topic why Orwell decided to write, nor really with the how. Oh well, it does mention rather generic reasons in the first essay, but honestly, these reasons are kind of obvious and applicable to everyone. Instead, Orwell delves into the topic of the English temperament, the faults of the English political system at that time and generally - 2) A lot of complaining. In the second essay, which also happens to be the longest, he goes on ranting and rambling and repeating himself all the while mentioning certain traits that are, according to him, typical for English people only. Most of the statements he makes about the English temperament in particular are essentially applicable to any nation, depending on its point in history. Thus, they are easily rebuked, not believable due to a lack of any arguments and only illustrate that Orwell was a bitter, presumptious man. 3) There is a lack of any type of arguments to emphasise or prove his statements. Truly, this is more a steam of consciousness about everything he doesn't like. And I cannot really say that any deeper understanding of politics comes across in his essays. Generic, angry and arbitrary as they are Orwell's own understanding of politics does not seem any deeper than that of an average person. 4) The only thing that this book brings across quite well is the presumptuousness, pretentiousness and ignorance of its author. There is an obvious reluctance to see and admit that there is more depth and compelixity to the topics that he discusses. Not recommended.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Esther | lifebyesther

    GENERAL: - Orwell's thoughts on the political side of writing. LIKES: - It's Orwell, so the writing is superb. - The last chapter on writing - His thoughts on geopolitics were very interesting and informative. DISLIKES: - Thinks that India should not be independent. - Wish he spent more time on the writing process. - Felt like I understood what he was saying but didn't know enough to agree/disagree. GENERAL: - Orwell's thoughts on the political side of writing. LIKES: - It's Orwell, so the writing is superb. - The last chapter on writing - His thoughts on geopolitics were very interesting and informative. DISLIKES: - Thinks that India should not be independent. - Wish he spent more time on the writing process. - Felt like I understood what he was saying but didn't know enough to agree/disagree.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Clem (the villain's quest)

    “In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues....” Instagram | blog Interesting but not mindblowing. I didn't learn anything new. “In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues....” Instagram | blog Interesting but not mindblowing. I didn't learn anything new.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Henry Manampiring

    A collection of essays from the guy invented 'doublespeak', 'groupthink', 'Big Brother', whose own name is immortalized into the English language ('Orwellian'). Roughly 80% of the book is about the English people and its political dynamics during WWII. Unless you have interest in the subject AND have the slightest familiarity with the histirical context, you will waste your time. The last 20% of the book is actually rare gem. One is Orwell's eye-witness account of a hanging when he was posted in B A collection of essays from the guy invented 'doublespeak', 'groupthink', 'Big Brother', whose own name is immortalized into the English language ('Orwellian'). Roughly 80% of the book is about the English people and its political dynamics during WWII. Unless you have interest in the subject AND have the slightest familiarity with the histirical context, you will waste your time. The last 20% of the book is actually rare gem. One is Orwell's eye-witness account of a hanging when he was posted in Burma. Here you will see his skill with evocative words. The last section is a critique at political euphemism in modern English language, full with jargons which serves nothing but obscuring the truth. Example: "The pre-emptive strike against the alleged terrorist-harboring country has the unwanted result of collateral damage" which should actually be "We invaded another country without evidence, and in the process killed innocent civiliants, women and babies"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Batool

    Orwell discusses his own personal need ways to to write, and he also talk about politics. this book contain 4 essays that Orwell wrote during his life. the one with the title "A Hanging": This rather misplaced essay was taken from his time in Burma. Orwell witnesses a hanging and discusses the rather unusually casual attitude of the hangmen. it was the best one for me! the last essay "Politics and the English Language: This brief essay attacks writers for being lazy by relying on recycled phrases i Orwell discusses his own personal need ways to to write, and he also talk about politics. this book contain 4 essays that Orwell wrote during his life. the one with the title "A Hanging": This rather misplaced essay was taken from his time in Burma. Orwell witnesses a hanging and discusses the rather unusually casual attitude of the hangmen. it was the best one for me! the last essay "Politics and the English Language: This brief essay attacks writers for being lazy by relying on recycled phrases instead of WRITING. I can imagine Orwell reading a newspaper one morning over a cup of coffee and throwing the newspaper in rage over the sloppy articles and stolen phrases of the time. I imagine he wrote this essay after such a morning." Every writer should read this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Canavan

    i thought this was really interesting. i love the way that orwell lists everything out before he starts to really get to his point. i feel thats the way that most logical thoughts form anyway. i think he makes a really strong argument for why people do the things they do, be it writing or not. how they grow up and where they find the most affirmation. his numbered reasons for writing really remind me of why any human would have motivation to do anything creative really. sometimes the fear of any i thought this was really interesting. i love the way that orwell lists everything out before he starts to really get to his point. i feel thats the way that most logical thoughts form anyway. i think he makes a really strong argument for why people do the things they do, be it writing or not. how they grow up and where they find the most affirmation. his numbered reasons for writing really remind me of why any human would have motivation to do anything creative really. sometimes the fear of any creative pursuit being futile can halter a creative outlet from coming to fruition. at least thats how i feel often about art. he was quite inspiring actually. good stuff from a solid mind.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maroua

    George Orwell will always be the pulsation of my bookish heart <3 . This article - as all of his work - deserve a FAT SOLID FIVE STARS .

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aylin

    It’s an easy-to-read book not only for learning the writing motives of Orwell and his literary criticism but also understand his political views, dynamics of the English society in the interwar period and influence of literature on political orientation. I recommend this collection of diverse and short articles for those who want to get a glimpse into Orwell's mind. It’s an easy-to-read book not only for learning the writing motives of Orwell and his literary criticism but also understand his political views, dynamics of the English society in the interwar period and influence of literature on political orientation. I recommend this collection of diverse and short articles for those who want to get a glimpse into Orwell's mind.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hossein Eskandari

    It is a short book, but still, I had to skim through it and jump over some lines to get to the finish line. But finishing it, I felt some new ideas forming in my mind. The second chapter "The lion and the Unicorn" was too long and boring to me. but for some unknown reason the following part shouted out to me loud and clear: "Patriotism has nothing to do with Conservatism. It is actually the opposite of Conservatism, since it is a devotion to something that is always changing and yet is felt to be m It is a short book, but still, I had to skim through it and jump over some lines to get to the finish line. But finishing it, I felt some new ideas forming in my mind. The second chapter "The lion and the Unicorn" was too long and boring to me. but for some unknown reason the following part shouted out to me loud and clear: "Patriotism has nothing to do with Conservatism. It is actually the opposite of Conservatism, since it is a devotion to something that is always changing and yet is felt to be mystically the same. It is the bridge between the future and the past. No real revolutionary has ever been an internationalist." I agree with Orwell on his suggestion about political writing and apparently it works. As evidence we may simply refer to Orwell's writings which have been very well received and are among the most influential in their own genre.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wendle

    I excepted this to be a simple, easy read about Orwell’s motivations and techniques when it comes to writing. It was actually a lot more. In the first essay his focus is on the writing, including, as he sees it, the main motives for writing and the general disposition of any writer. That’s where the simple stuff that most people will expect ends, though. Right there on page 10. The remaining 110 pages are where things get interesting. I’ve never found myself quite so into politics. Of course, i k I excepted this to be a simple, easy read about Orwell’s motivations and techniques when it comes to writing. It was actually a lot more. In the first essay his focus is on the writing, including, as he sees it, the main motives for writing and the general disposition of any writer. That’s where the simple stuff that most people will expect ends, though. Right there on page 10. The remaining 110 pages are where things get interesting. I’ve never found myself quite so into politics. Of course, i keep up to date with what’s going on and have strong-to-vehement opinions on it all, but this was the first time i remember being truly engaged on the right level. I think it helps that Orwell comes at it from a good angle. That angle being it’s a fucking mess and a hell of a lot more needs to change than simply the party in power. He’s my kind of reasonable (which is to say, perhaps, not at all)–he’s equally insulting and fed up of it all. He’s not pushing for a particular agenda or trying to persuade anyone of anything, just stating the facts as he sees them, and his opinion on where and how things are fucked up and unfair. Some reviews i read from people who did not enjoy this book as thoroughly as I did claim it’s not about why Orwell writes, and I’m left wondering if they’ve ever read any of his other books. Animal Farm, 1984… politics is why he writes. Reading him talk in such an honest and straightforward manner about his political views was thrilling. Without the metaphors and refined prose of a fictional narrative Orwell is sharp, witty, and on point. I could have coped with this book being twice as long, honestly. A longer review can be read at my book blog: Marvel at Words.

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