A generous and varied selection–the only hardcover edition available–of the literary and political writings of one of the greatest essayists of the twentieth century.
Although best known as the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell left an even more lastingly significant achievement in his voluminous essays, which dealt with all the great social, political, and literary questions of the day and exemplified an incisive prose style that is still universally admired.
Included among the more than 240 essays in this volume are Orwell’s famous discussion of pacifism, “My Country Right or Left”; his scathingly complicated views on the dirty work of imperialism in “Shooting an Elephant”; and his very firm opinion on how to make “A Nice Cup of Tea.” In his essays, Orwell elevated political writing to the level of art, and his motivating ideas–his desire for social justice, his belief in universal freedom and equality, and his concern for truth in language–are as enduringly relevant now, a hundred years after his birth, as ever.
George Orwell (1903–1950) served with the Imperial Police in Burma, fought with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, and was a member of the Home Guard and a writer for the BBC during World War II. More about George Orwell “Orwell is the most influential political writer of the twentieth century…He gives us a gritty, personal example of how to engage as a writer in politics.” –New York Review of Books“[Orwell] evolved, in his seemingly offhand way, the clearest and most compelling English prose style this century…But of course he was more than just a great writer.
“This kind of thing happens everywhere,” he wrote, “but is clearly 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.”He goes on to imagine that “a totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist.”Orwell was right.Never say “never” and always avoid “always”, or at the least handle them with care.Overusing such words is an invitation for critics to hold you to your own impossible standard.Indeed, one rears its head in the second paragraph: So Orwell exposes himself right there in paragraph two.Geoffrey Pullum, Mr Liberman’s stablemate at Language Log, goes so far as to dismiss Orwell’s essay as “dishonest”.Think of fresh ones wherever you can.(ii) Prefer short words to long ones.(iii) Try cutting a lot of your word-count, especially those words that add little extra meaning.(iv) Don’t over-use the passive voice.And whether passive or active, be clear who did what to whom.(v) Prefer everyday English to foreign, scientific or jargon words.(vi) Good writing is no place for the tyrant.The first five all include either a “never” or an “always”.Critics point out that a strict application of these rules would make for very strange writing.The most relevant of the rules, in this context was of course number (i).Avoiding clichés keeps writers from crafting a lazy string of mixed metaphors, such as a nightmare casting a shroud in a guise of contagion that resembled a deer so unlucky as to be both caught in headlights and paralysed.