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Essays (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) Hardcover – October 15, 2002

4.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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. We need him today because [of] his passion for the truth.” –The Sunday Times (London)

“Had Orwell lived to a full term, he might well have gone on to become the greatest modern literary critic in the language. But he lived more than long enough to make writing about politics a branch of the humanities, setting a standard of civilized response to the intractably complex texture of life.” –The New Yorker

“The real reason we read Orwell is because his own fault-line, his fundamental schism, his hybridity, left him exceptionally sensitive to the fissure–which is everywhere apparent–between what ought to be the case and what actually is the case. He says the unsayable.” –Financial Times

“Orwell was the conscience of his generation.” –V. S. Pritchett

From the Inside Flap

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.
Though 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.

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Product Details

  • Series: Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics
  • Hardcover: 1416 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library; Second Printing edition (October 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375415033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375415036
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 2.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is quite simply the most comprehensive one-volume edition of Orwell's essays available. It includes the greatest hits one would expect ("Shooting An Elephant," "Such, Such Were the Joys," "My Country Right Or Left," etc.) and (amazingly!) well over two hundred others. Such inclusiveness almost belies the title "Selected Essays." Especially welcome are the many selections from Orwell's column "As I Please"--delightfully informal excursions that range in gravity from meditations on totalitarianism to quirky reviews of then-contemporary literary phenoms. Thankfully, they're all unabridged and are based on the unexpurgated texts issued by Secker & Warburg just a few years ago. John Carey provides a lengthy and nuanced introduction, and there's even a rather full Chronology that puts Orwell into a useful historical context. All of this is offered in a surprisingly compact edition with a readable-but-elegant typeface and very good paper--no mean feat for a book of over a thousand pages!
One's only real regret is that there isn't an index, not even of titles. Fishing through the table of contents for old favorites is cumbersome, and the failure of the publishers to provide running heads on the pages means you can't really just flip through to find what you're looking for.
Nevertheless, this is a long overdue and wonderfully produced collection of one of our most readable, thoughtful, and unpretentious writers. If you're a fan of Orwell, no other collection can possibly do--and if you're not, this is the perfect way to get to know him. For me, at least, this will provide bedside reading for a long time to come.
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Format: Hardcover
It's a little unfair to try and assign a grade to a life-spanning collection of essays like this one. By its very nature it has to run the gamut from Orwell's five-star smash hits like 'How the Poor Die', 'Politics versus Literature', and, of course, 'Politics and the English Language', through light, whimsical pieces such as 'Good Bad Books' or 'A Nice Cup of Tea', all the way to mechanical hackwork or tedious, failed conceits. (In the latter case I am thinking particularly of Orwell's 'Imaginary Interview' with Jonathan Swift, a style which has never, to my knowledge, been well done.) One can't very well assess the book as a whole, because it isn't. On the other hand, there is this to say: when Orwell is good, he is very good, and even when he is bad, he remains highly readable.

The collection, as a collection, is not as good. I do not want it thought that I am saying this is not a worthwhile book: it is. Simply by being an easily obtainable hardcover collection of Orwell's short and medium-length prose, it does a valuable service. Before this book came out, the only way to get a comprehensive collection of Orwell's essays in hardcover was to find a set of the four-volume "Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters" on the second-hand market, and the price demanded for that grows more exorbitant every year.

However, there are three major problems with the compilation. One is only slightly irritating, but the other two genuinely harm the utility of the book.

1. No page headings- This has been mentioned by other reviewers. The page headers say only "Essays", where in most other collections they would make mention of the essay you are currently reading. (This is true even of other Everyman's Library titles.
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Format: Hardcover
These three stars don't reflect my opinion of Orwell as an essayist. Anyone who has read Orwell's non-fiction knows that he is one of this century's greatest journalists/essayists. The poor rating targets the layout of the volume.
It's an insult to a writer of Orwell's stature to have put together such an extensive volume (1,424 pages!) of his best work so amaturishly. There's no index, no notes section and no specification of which essay you're on at the head of the page. The table of contents is practially useless, as most of the essays are numbered.
Physically, the book is beautiful: a matte cover, with a great portrait of Orwell, cream-wove paper, sewn binding and a sewn in bookmark. But it is in no way user friendly. If you're looking to dive into Orwell's essays and journalism check out the David R. Godine editions.
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Format: Hardcover
Building on the new 20 volume Complete Orwell (unaccountably still not available in an American edition), Everyman's Library does Orwell proud with this book, certainly the best single-volume collection of Orwell ever. Not only does it contain all of the major essays and many lesser pieces, it presents all 80 of Orwell's wonderful "As I Please" columns written for "Tribune."
Orwell's range and talent are ably displayed here, from his literary essays, his writings on politics, autobiographical writings (including the harrowing "Such, Such Were the Joys" about his youth spent in a third-rate boarding school), his musings on popular culture ("Boy's Weeklies" and "The Art of Donald McGill" are classics of the genre), and his lighter works (Orwell writes, for example, on how to make the perfect cup of [strong] tea and what his version of the perfect public house would be).
Reading this book should also prove a useful antidote for those who have been convinced by the usupation of Orwell by certain right-wing writers that Orwell really was a conservative of some sort. While Orwell deeply loved traditional values and firmly opposed Soviet communism, his hatred of imperialism, capitalism, fascism, the class system and mindless wealth are marked and consistent throughout and we can be assured that he would have written harshly of Margaret Thatcher had he lived long enough to see that era.
John Carey contributes a useful introduction; the book includes a good bibliography and a very helpful timeline of Orwell's life correlated to the literary and historical happenings of the era.
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