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My Country Right or Left 1940-1943: The Collected Essays Journalism & Letters of George Orwell (Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters George Orwell) Paperback – October 1, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Though his life was brief (1903-1950), Orwell was extremely prolific. In addition to penning two of the last century's greatest novels, he wrote reams of essays, journalistic pieces, and letters. Covering a 30-year period, this extensive four-volume set, originally published in 1968, collects the best of his nonfiction. Each volume is divided by year and intermixes his correspondence with news stories and discourses on numerous subjects. There is far more to Orwell than Animal Farm and 1984, and this beautiful collection reveals what a true intellect he was. Though probably more for academics, the books are priced reasonably enough for public library consideration.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"* "It is an astonishing tribute to Orwell's gifts as a natural, unaffected writer that, although the historical events he is unfolding are all too bitterly familiar, the reader turns the page as though he did not know what was going to happen. Here, then, is a social, literary, and political history... which, while being intensely personal never forgets its allegiance to objective truth." -THE ECONOMIST"

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Product Details

  • Series: Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters George Orwell (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 477 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine (October 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567921345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567921342
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,407,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Though remembered today primarily for ANIMAL FARM and 1984, George Orwell was also one of the most brilliant essayists of the 20th Century. This volume (the second of four recently re-released in paperback) shows the range and depth of his journalistic writing. Orwell was a Socialist and avowed leftist, but he never felt compelled to toe the party line. What makes his journalistic writings so lively and thought-provoking is that he constantly challenges the reader to look at entrenched ideas from a fresh perspective. This volume contains his justly famous essay on England, "The Lion and the Unicorn", and pieces on such wide-ranging subjects as Hitler's "Mein Kampf", Tolstoy and Shakespeare, and a spirited appreciation of Rudyard Kipling (politically and artistically not the sort of writer one would expect Orwell to defend). Interspersed with the essays is a selection of Orwell's letters from this period, as well as his fascinating War-time Diary. You may not always agree with Orwell's opinions, but you will never be bored. Orwell was a master stylist, but what really strikes the reader is how startlingly relevant the essays are, sixty years after they were written. An absolutely first-rate collection by a major writer who is long-overdue for reassessment.
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...Country Right or Left is part of a four volume set of essays commissioned by Orwell's wife Sonia. Whatever the criticisms that have been made of her stewardship of Orwell's legacy, these four volumes contain much of the best of Orwell's essays, letters and diary excerpts. This volume covers the early war years and much of the writing is shaded by that war.
This is Orwell at his finest, on one hand a confirmed socialist dedicated to fighting the right whether the Tory party or fascism; one the other hand an anti-Stalinist and critic of the left and always an anti-totalitarian.
Contained within "My Country Right or Left" is some of Orwell's best writing. In "Pacifism and the War", a notorious piece at the time, he accuses pacifists of aiding the fascist cause. "The Art of Donald McGill" is an essay about, of all things, postcards that are popular among the middle and lower classes. The postcards themselves, Orwell argues, say much about England's political and social attitudes. It's actually a perceptive piece of pop art and social commentary. Among my favorites is the essay concerning Mark Twain (Mark Twain- Licensed Jester). Orwell, a great admirer of Twain's, is critical of him for not being forceful enough in his social criticism. He accusation is that Twain pulls his punches far too often. It's a great piece of criticism and is Orwell at his finest.
What holds a large amount of this Volume together are the letters to the Partisan Review, a New York publication that contracted with Orwell to write commentary on England during this early war period. The issues vary from English politics, reflections on the clothing worn by the masses, attitudes towards democracy and so on. All well written, never dull and very often wrong in their predictions.
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This is my first volume of essays, articles and letters by Blair/Orwell, which I read thanks to Jim Egolf's recent review here. The man contradicts himself quite a bit, but I do not regret the time spent. Who wants to get bored by people that one always agrees with?
The main theme of the book, due to the time of the sample, is England in war with totalitarianism/fascism/nazism. Though Orwell was in his heart a leftist, he had enough insight from own experience to understand the nature of totalitarianism, he was a dedicated anti-Stalinist, and he staid away from party politics.
And yet: his long essay 'The Lion and the Unicorn', one of the core texts of this book, gives a political vision, that puzzles me. He displays a surprising naivete about the strength of economic planning in socialism. Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight, we know that a central planning bureaucracy can be the right approach for a short term effort, like for a war, but will be hopelessly lost in inefficiencies in 'normal' times. Orwell was deeply convinced that state capitalism or socialism was the future, there would be no return after the war.
I have decided to ignore his political recipes, but to enjoy his social analyses: England is a rich man's paradise, but the ruling class is too stupid to run the country.
One of his main contributions to our understanding of the confict of the time: his juxtaposition of the ideology of hedonism (which nearly led the West into the abyss) against the ideology of social sacrifice, which helped the Nazis to succeed, luckily only temporarily.
I wonder if he fully understood the real antagonism of Hitler to the West or if he got deceived by the temporary diversion of the pact with Stalin.
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My earlier review on the first volume of this series may be of interest to the reader and help him understand the content of this volume.

Like the first volume, this volume is composed of letters, essays, book reviews and journals dating (generally) to the early war period when the fate of the world seemed bleakest. At the risk of seeming lazy, I will highlight what seems most interesting to me and look at selections I believe are unique to this collection. I can never be sure, however.

The Letter to The Editor of Time and Tide...conveys the panic caused by the unfounded belief in an impending invasion of England by Nazi Germany. Orwell displayed an amazing detail of knowlege about such things as the use of dynamite against entrenched street fighters taken from his days in Spain. Orwell later tried to persuade the Home Guard (I believe) or LDV to train volunteers in insurgent warfare, but later reflected that the ruling class would have other issues with that idea.

Phamplet Literature...The essay on phamplets reflects Orwell's giant collection of Depression era phamplets housed in the London Museum. This is essay is a literary time capsule since phamplets are often included in real time capsules. Phamplets give future generations a glipse into the nut culture of a particular period of history. The interesting question posed by this subject is whether the internet itself is a kind of populist electronic phamplet...blogspots drowning out legitimate literature and journalism. How would Orwell have reacted to this new electronic, immmense phamplet?

Literature and Totalitarianism...Do you remember in "1984" how the state altered its dogma to the changing political military circumstances it created? East Asia then Oceania then Eurasia...
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