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The Orwell Reader: Fiction, Essays, and Reportage Paperback – March 8, 1961

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; F First Harvest Edition edition (March 8, 1961)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156701766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156701761
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The honesty and realism of Orwell never ceases to amaze. He opens 'Shooting an Elephant', the first story in this collection, by telling us that he was hated by many people. He will spend the rest of the essay showing us why. The pointless death of an animal no longer harmful becomes the legal murder we witness in 'A Hanging'. In both cases we see people becoming their jobs, counting doing one's duty more important than being human.

He sees "the dirty work of Empire at close quarters" and knows that " imperialism is an evil thing" but continues to do his duty as both imperialist and colonist would see it. The amazing thing is that he is not alone in this. In "A Hanging" the hangman is a convict and after the deed is done we see both Europeans and natives laughing and drinking together. In "Shooting an Elephant" he is stuck between "hatred of the empire" and "rage against the evil-spirited little beasts" that made his job impossible. But again, we witness crowds of natives expecting him to be a Sahib.

Orwell's stories show us the demoralizing duties, the pompous gravitas of Imperialism. It dehumanizes both rulers and ruled, turning them into the role they play rather than allowing them to become who they might have been. Both fortunately and unfortunately, he also knows that, "the British Empire is dying [...] it is a great deal better than the younger Empires that are going to supplant it."

This collection is pure Orwell. His unsentimental love of ordinary people, coupled with the easy, natural, sympathetic description of complex characters, relationships and motivations, reveal Orwell as a man who was genuinely at home with ordinary people. Only he could write movingly of how imperialism traps (freezes!
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The blurb on the back of the book calls THE GEORGE ORWELL READER "a feast of reading for the thinking person." It is. For years this book was virtually my Bible, occupying a permenent place on the nightstand and accompanying me on every long trip, until it assumed its present, scribbled on, food-stained, dog-eared appearance.

Orwell has been called "the conscience of his generation", but more than that, he possessed an intellectual honesty which is utterly extinct among today's political writers - all of them, Left and Right, are either blinkered, ivory-tower idealogues, rabble-rousing demogogues or line-toeing party hacks. Whether you agree with Orwell's own political views (often, I don't) is immaterial; his ability divine and expose hidden motives, to sniff out hypocrisy, and to call a spade a spade and then use it to slice open those who refused to do so, are simply unmatched. Seldom if ever since Johnathan Swift has anyone written with such an utter disregard for tact, diplomacity, or political orthodoxy. A die-hard Socialist who was shot fighting with a quasi-Marxist militia during the Spanish Civil War, Orwell actually spent at least three-quarters of his intellectual life scourging and ridiculing Leftism and Leftists (those who "got their crockery from Paris and their political opinions from Moscow"), not out of self-sabotage, but because he hated cant, lying and cruelty and found a surplus of these traits on his own side of the isle.

The READER combines all three types of Orwell's work, including a sampling of some of his best essays and reportage ("Shooting An Elephant", "Second Thoughts on James Burnham", "Politics and the English Language", "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool", etc.
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I am no stranger to the sin of pride. I pride myself on being systematic and as a result being as objective as possible (hopefully.)I believe I have read every published writing Orwell has ever written.Reading this collection reminded me of the colonial partition of Africa. Have you ever studied the crazy patchwork of counties created in Africa without regard to tribal boundries? Orwell's writing has been divided up by an editor who disregarded the unity of the works being reviewed..this is a grave disservice to Orwell.

This collection consists of exerpts from Orwell's early novels, essays and and a short selection from 1984. The writings are in chronological order starting from the Burma period to the novel "1984" written in 1948. The book has collections which appear in many other works; I am always worried that I have missed something because of the many overlapping editions of Orwell works spanning decades.

Orwell's novels appear in strange fragmentary chapters in "The Orwell Reader" which hide Orwell's complete writing from us. Orwell's great ability as a descriptive writer is hiden from us in fragments of selections.Orwell's novels tend to be one dimensional. The novels lack introspective dialogue and depth, but have an interesting journalistic quality which we refer to today as "atmosphere."

The selection from "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" describes Gordon Comstock, the protagonist, researching fetal development after discovering his girlfriend is pregnant. This incident shocks him from his wandering penury to face the responsibilities of life. This novel reflects personal letters in which Orwell mentions the evil of abortion and opines about a future UK devoid of children... facing demographic crisis. Very prophetic. Abortion was a subject in other essays.
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