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George Orwell Diaries 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0871404107
ISBN-10: 0871404109
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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Orwell was at home in his diaries, writing most for himself, not for posterity. He trusted these pages, whose primary subject was the world, not George Orwell, and certainly not the inner George Orwell. Writing, for Orwell, was an illness you didn't conquer in private any more than you did on the printed page. — Jack Shafer


“Starred review. [A] lushly annotated edition of Orwell’s diaries from 1931 to 1949…. Born Eric Arthur Blair, Orwell, as these diaries reveal, lived a varied and even dichotomized life. …Editor Davison (English/De Montfort Univ.) supplies necessary contextual information and footnotes generously, but stays in the shadows and allows us to truly enjoy Orwell’s impressive chronicles.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Read with care, George Orwell’s diaries, from the years 1931 to 1949, can greatly enrich our understanding of how Orwell transmuted the raw material of everyday experience into some of his best-known novels and polemics. They furnish us with a more intimate picture of a man who, committed to the struggles of the mechanized and “modern” world, was also drawn by the rhythms of the wild, the rural, and the remote.” (Christopher Hitchens - Vanity Fair)

“One cannot help but be struck by the degree to which [Orwell] became, in Henry James’s words, one of those upon whom nothing was lost. By declining to lie, even as far as possible to himself, and by his determination to seek elusive but verifiable truth, he showed how much can be accomplished by an individual who unites the qualities of intellectual honesty and moral courage.” (Christopher Hitchens, from the Introduction of Diaries)

“Among the vivifying things about his Diaries, issued now in one volume for the first time, is how they restore some first-person flesh and blood to what can seem like his disembodied head. What’s more, they show Orwell to be nearly Jeffersonian in his combined passion for politics and for the natural world, not merely for fishing but also for the enlightened and fervent cultivation of vegetables, fruit trees, animals and flowers… These diaries show him with his hands covered in fresh dirt, hard at work, in sync with the seasons, curious about everything under the sun, tending to what he needed and grateful for beauty as well as sustenance. They present a man in full.” (Dwight Garner - New York Times)

“Never before published in the United States, this wonderfully annotated collection of George Orwell’s diaries from 1931 to 1949 is sure to fascinate any fan of his work. From his down and out years to his stint working at the BBC during WWII (“something halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum…. Our radio strategy is even more hopeless than our military strategy.”), the reader can catch a glimpse of this essential English writer’s internal life, and watch the ideas that became Animal Farm and 1984 bloom, percolate, and grow.” (Emily Temple - Flavorpill)

“Reading the Diaries end-to-end in a single volume offers us a different take on Orwell: less as a thinker, or a figure of political conscience, than as a complex and dimensional human being.” (David Ulin - Los Angeles Times)

“Orwell’s achievement grew out of seemingly modest virtues: decency; good, hard sense; and clean, clear prose. Yet they added up to something monumental… The diaries as a whole do exactly what you would expect: They confirm his greatness.” (Craig Seligman -

“Orwell lived in London during most of World War II, including during the Battle of Britain. Entries during this period have the author’s defining features on display, including unimpeachable intellectual honesty, concern about the degradation of truth, physical courage, and unpretentious writing… All the traits that made Orwell so great can be found in the Diaries.” (Jordan Michael Smith - Christian Science Monitor)

“A window into the way Orwell's mind worked.” (Barry Gewen - New York Times Book Review, Front page)

“Reading these diaries leaves one, as always when encountering the words of George Orwell, with a confirmed admiration for the sterling qualities that have made him a benchmark for integrity and a lodestar for writers and thinkers across the ideological spectrum. Embedded in the DNA of his writing is that austere, penetrating analytical ability, averse to cant or any form of hypocrisy and pretension, unsparing of everything and everyone—especially himself. He simply can't help being that way: Once pen is put to paper, or fingers to typewriter, those qualities appear, second nature to his writing, even the most casual.” (Martin Rubin - San Francisco Chronicle)

“...[T]he diaries as a whole do exactly what you would expect: They confirm his greatness.” (Craig Seligman - Newsday)

“We should celebrate the publication of Orwell’s diaries. The publication of personal texts by other authors might smack of cheap opportunism, purely a money-making ploy. But I think publishers got it right with Orwell.” (Scott Beauchamp - Book Riot)

“How appropriate that the political moralist George Orwell (1903-50) should be published by a company called Liveright! Orwell, who despised every form of careerism, instinctively gravitated to the kind of quiet rural existence that we associate with ancient Greek philosophers or Anglican clergyman of the 18th century. Certainly, these diaries reveal that the author of Animal Farm was happiest cultivating his garden, observing the weather, enjoying the beauty of spring flowers and watching over the health of his hens.” (Michael Dirda - Washington Post)

“It is a blessing, then, to now have the opportunity to read his Diaries, edited meticulously by Peter Davison, who as the editor of the twenty volumes of Orwell's Complete Works has an unequaled knowledge of the material… They throw a revealing light on Orwell the thinker, and offer welcome stimulus to revisit the books and essays in which that mind left its lasting imprint.” (Brooke Allen - Barnes and Noble Review)

“Edited with exemplary skill and grace by Peter Davison.” (William H. Gass - Harper's)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (August 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871404109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871404107
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

GEORGE ORWELL (1903-1950) was born in India and served with the Imperial Police in Burma before joining the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell was the author of six novels as well as numerous essays and nonfiction works.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on August 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Those who appreciate the novels, reviews, and essays of George Orwell will enjoy reading this book, which is enriched by the informed and professional editing of Peter Davison.

Mr. Orwell, an English socialist, hated tyranny and political lies. His prose was pure and based on his own honest, penetrating observations.

The various diaries are split between his wartime experiences and his personal time, mostly gardening. This last word may be to gentle for describing the arduous efforts he expended near the end of his life in exacting a living while on the remote and hard island of Jura. His fine eye toward the natural world of birds, berries, onions, trees, chickens and fish was precise and generous but unromantic.

George Orwell was a wonderful writer and political observer who died in 1950, before reaching his rightful old age.

(While not in the same elite literary class as Mr. Orwell, the foreword to this book by Christopher Hitchens reminds one of another fine writer on politics who died too young.)

Those who have not read much of Mr. Orwell's literature, beyond "Animal Farm" or "1984", should read "The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell" (4 Volumes) as edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus. Or, based on this effort, any book edited by Peter Davison.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David R. Anderson on October 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
George Orwell (the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, 1903-1950) lived a short life. But from the time he first put pen to paper, he wrote virtually every day, or so it seems. He wrote the novels, essays, poems, criticism, political commentary and literary notebooks that fill the twenty volumes of his Complete Works (Secker & Warburg, 1998). And he kept diaries off and on, eleven all told, from 1931 to 1949. This new book, masterfully compiled and edited by Peter Davidson, who also edited the "Complete Works", contains them all.

The first diary records his experience as a field hand harvesting hops in October 1931. This was hard, weather-dependent work that barely paid the pickers enough to keep body and soul together. Three years later, on a similar quest, he spent February and March in Wigan, Yorkshire, and other coal mining towns. His diary records the unrelenting misery and hardship the miners and their families endured and provided the raw material for his novel, "The Road to Wigan Pier." Of the other diaries, five volumes are grouped around Orwell's life as a townsman and family farmer, the so-called "Domestic" diaries. Another three deal with life in London before and during the early years of World War II.

The stark difference between the quality of life described in the peacetime and wartime diaries adds dramatically to the interest of both groups. Orwell's clear-headed account of the dystopian character of English life during the war reveals how totally the props were knocked out from under what had been a relatively well-ordered, if class driven, civil society.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Noovella on February 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I’m a huge George Orwell fan. Down and Out in Paris and London and 1984 are two entirely different but amazing works for art, and you’ll find a little of both in his diaries.

The book begins with a fine introduction by the late Christopher Hitchens: “By declining to lie, even as far as possible to himself, and by his determination to seek elusive but verifiable truth, he showed how much can be accomplished by an individual who unites the qualities of intellectual honesty and moral courage.”

You’ll find some of the most perceptive examinations on poverty in 1930s England as Orwell goes undercover as a day laborer working in the fields and orchards picking hops and fruit. His writing talent is well served by his acute observation as well as an open nonjudgemental attitude toward everyone and everything he comes across.

“As to our living accommodation, the best quarters on the farm, ironically enough, were disused stables. Most of us sleep in round tin huts about 10 feed across, with no glass in the windows and all kinds of holes to let in the wind and rain.”

His love for animals, nature and farming is abundantly noted in his journals. There are large sections musing on daily gardening, hens laying eggs, goat’s milk…. One of his goat’s is named Muriel, just like in Animal Farm. He loved to fish. He also gives us a daily weather report. This can be a bit tedious, but it gives us a excellent sense of a man rooted in real things such as the earth or, e.g., the impact of a storm.

The Morocco diaries capture the flavor, politics, animals, and people at that time.“…there is an obvious great difference in the water supply between peasant’s plots and the plantations of Europeans and wealthy Arabs.
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There has been a great deal of literary hoopla around the recent publichation of the diaries of George Orwell on both sides of the pond. Deservedly so! Orwell (real name was Eric Arthur Blair) is a modern prophet. His targets are:
a. The rule of totalitarianism-eg.. "Animal Farm" is a classic fable of life in a communist society.
b. The destructive power of propaganda as a tool in the arsenal of governments who wish to retain power and control over society.
c. A hatred of the stultified British class system.
d. Orwell believed in speaking truth to power. His is a strong voice for democracy and freedom being exercised by the individual.
Orwell was born in India in 19-3 but grew up in Great Britain. He came from the upper middle class world of Eton where he matriculated. Blair served in the Burmese and Indian Civil Service where he saw British colonialism close up. He later became a journalist and a member of the Communist Party. Orwell was wounded while fighting in the Spanish Civil War. During World War II he served in the Home Guard and broadcast to Asia on the BBC. He wrote many books and countless articles. He died at 47 from T.B. Since his death his books have become popular nd his is now a famous literary name.
The eleven diaries contained in this volume run from 1931 until near the author's death. They cover such topics as:
a. His time picking hops along with tramps in Great Depression era England.
b. His journalistic reports on coal miners and their lives in the West and North of England.
c. The most interesting diary deals with World War II. Orwell was a eyewitness to the London bombing and worked in the BBC offices in London. He comments on the political and military scene with clarity and insight.
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