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Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas)

35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0143036357
ISBN-10: 0143036351
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

"Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

Considered perhaps the twentieth century's best chronicler of English culture, Orwell wrote fiction, polemical journalism, literary criticism and poetry. He is best known for the dystopian novel ""Nineteen Eighty-Four"" (published in 1949) and the satirical novella ""Animal Farm"" (1945) they have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author. His 1938 book ""Homage to Catalonia"", an account of his experiences as a volunteer on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, together with numerous essays on politics, literature, language, and culture, are widely acclaimed.

Orwell's influence on contemporary culture, popular and political, continues decades after his death. Several of his neologisms, along with the term ""Orwellian"" now a byword for any oppressive or manipulative social phenomenon opposed to a free society have entered the vernacular."

Other George Orwell Titles Available from Amereon:

  • Animal Farm

  • Burmese Days

  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying

  • Dickens, Dali and Others

  • 1984

  • Orwell Reader

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Why I Write

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.

I was the middle child of three, but there was a gap of five years on either side, and I barely saw my father before I was eight. For this and other reasons I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my schooldays. 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. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life. Nevertheless the volume of serious - i.e. seriously intended - writing which I produced all through my childhood and boyhood would not amount to half a dozen pages. I wrote my first poem at the age of four or five, my mother taking it down to dictation.


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Great Ideas
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036357
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.4 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,828 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

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on June 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Why I Write is a collection of four pieces by one of the best writers of the twentieth century. George Orwell is best known for his political fables Animal Farm and 1984, but was also a prolific essayist and author of numerous short stories, many of them based on his own experiences in British-controlled Burma. This books includes three essays--"Why I Write", "The Lion and the Unicorn", and "Politics and the English Language"--and the short story "A Hanging."

"Why I Write" offers the reader a look into one great writer's motivations for writing, as Orwell lays out the only real reasons anyone writes. "The Lion and the Unicorn" is fascinating, not only for its often humorous descriptions of the British national character, but for the political ideas expressed in it and the knowledge, made clear by Orwell at the beginning, that this was written in the midst of the Blitz. "Politics and the English Language" is a brief guide to the fatal flaws of modern writing--all of which have lasted beyond Orwell--and how to mend them. "A Hanging" is reminiscent of another of Orwell's famous short stories, "Shooting the Elephant," as it describes an otherwise mundane action in ominous, metaphoric terms.

While hardly exhaustive, this collection of Orwell's essays is a good introduction to Orwell, his writings, and his political views. Makes very good reading for a trip, which is where I read it.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
In evaluating "Why I write?," I am not evaluating Orwell: he is - in my opinion - beyond evaluation. Brilliant, unorthodox, humanistically transparent - he is a model of existential integrity. In evaluating "Why I write?" I am offering an evaluation of this particular compilation of essays. I am trying to answer the question of "Why should I buy the 'Why I write?'"

This particular compilation of Orwell's essays consists of "Why I write?," The Lion and the Unicorn," "A Hanging," and "Politics and the English Language." As you might have already gleaned from you search, the books of Orwell's essays are all over the market place. This one - consisting of four iconic essays - is a great primer.

The "Why I write?" humbles with introspection and humanistic self-acceptance. "The Lion and the Unicorn" showcases Orwell's keen journalism and the capacity to be on the outside of the phenomenon in question, even when that phenomenon is his own culture. "A Hanging" is a normalizing glimpse into how we deal with our own mortality superimposed onto a social statement against capital punishment. And the "Politics and the English Language" is a brilliant examination of the human consciousness, a study of the interplay of thought and language, an anti-dote to propoganda, a treasure trove of linguistic hypotheses, and, if nothing else, a useful commentary on the rationale behind the "1984" Newspeak and Doublethink.

As such, this particular collection of Orwell's essays reveals the breadth of his thematic spectrum - without the biographical weight of more exhaustive essay compilations.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D.

Author of "Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time" (New Harbinger, 2008)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Sherriff on May 28, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well, there was Our Man eager to read the four essays that are mentioned in the product description. But lo and behold when you buy the Kindle edition by Crabbit House for a steal at under $2.00, it only includes the one 15-screen essay, Why I Write, which is freely available on Google. The other three essays, that are in the description, are not included in the collection. A steal all right, but not the good kind.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steve Burns TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
Here is your chance to go into the thoughts and political beliefs of the famous writer George Orwell with the filter of his fictional writings removed. This work contains four short essays. In the first essay "Why I write" you really get an understanding of the man and his motivations to write. He is very candid in this essay and you get to know the man behind "Animal Farm" and "1984".

In his second essay "The Lion and the Unicorn" he lays bare his political beliefs. In this short work he lays out his thoughts about Communism, Fascism, and Socialism and the struggle between them in England during World War II. What I really liked about this essay is that he wrote it while bombs were falling on London and with the outcome of World War II still undecided. While I strongly disagree with Orwell's Socialist ideals, they may have been more appropriate for his time period in his country. I enjoyed reading his opinions and learning about the social situation at that time in history.

His third very brief essay tells about his witness to a hanging in Burma.

The final essay is excellent in its examples of how in his time writers using the English language were drifting away from clarity and into using metaphors, similes, and figures of speech. He calls for a return to the clear and precise use of the language. He writes of six rules that will make that happen.

If you enjoy George Orwell's writings, I believe you will enjoy this book.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Henry Oliner on July 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
This short (120 pages) book of 4 essays from one of the great modern writers is worth the read for three reasons:

1. The last essay, 'Politics and the English Language' should be required of all political writers and business writers as well. Though 50 years old it is equally pertinent today; well summarized in the 6 rules in the next to the last page.

2. The Hanging showed his descriptive skills, "Eight o'clock and a bugle call, desolately thin in the wet air, floated from the distant barracks." His description of the hanging of a Hindu man had more clarity than any modern photograph.

3. The Lion and the Unicorn, the longest of the essays, described the state of the English culture and its challenge from the growing European Fascists. It is an excellent picture of the British before their moment of truth. "It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and the silly.... A family with the wrong members in control." " A nation trained to think hedonistically cannot survive amid peoples who work like slaves and breed like rabbits, and whose chief national industry is war." Orwell's solution is democratic socialism; more acceptable in its day, less convincing 50- years later with the hindsight of many failures in socialism.

These essays are valuable to students of writing and to those who want to know more about the background of a great modern writer known for the classics Animal Farm and 1984.
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