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George Orwell: An Age Like This 1920-1940: The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters (Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters George Orwell) Reprint Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1567921335
ISBN-10: 1567921337
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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 1)
  • Paperback: 600 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine; Reprint edition (October 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567921337
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567921335
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,849,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I'm not going to review all four volumes of this collection separately; what I say below applies to them all.
There are lots of reasons to read Orwell's letter, essays and journalism:
1. He's a great writer. It's a pleasure to read him, just for entertainment value. There's a little piece of doggerel from Orwell's school days that he quotes several times that is now stuck in my head:
The rain it raineth every day
Upon the just and the unjust fella
But more upon the just because
The unjust has the just's umbrella
I don't know why that sticks with me, but it's a great illustration of Orwell's use of solid, colloquial and even humorous English.
Moreover, in addition to providing wonderful model prose he occasionally writes essays about writing and language (the use of "Basic English", oratorical versus conversational English, what drives a writer, the totalitarian perversion of word meanings, etc.), which are insightful and interesting.
2. If you're interested in the Second World War (or for that matter, the Spanish Civil War), Orwell's writings amount to a sort of diary, a primary document. Even his book reviews almost inevitably contain some reference to the political and historical scene.
3. Orwell loved socialism (yes, the man who write _1984_ was a democratic socialist), but he loved freedom more. His simultaneous battle for socialism and against totalitarianism (i.e., the Soviet Union) is engaging, even -- or maybe particularly -- where he drops the ball.
I think Orwell's heart was in the right place -- he had seen close up (and written a good deal about) the suffering of the poor.
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Format: Paperback
I read this set many years ago, and it's great. There were better novelists, but Orwell was the best 20th Century essayist, at least in English, that I know of. Together with "Down and Out in Paris and London," "Homage to Catalonia," and "The Road to Wigan Pier," these four large volumes comprise the best of Orwell's nonfiction. As an essayist, Orwell was consistently clearminded, idealistic, honest and to the point. He is a pleasure to read, and he is one of my intellectual heroes.
I don't have a copy in front of me as I write this, but I'm pretty sure this first volume contains Orwell's unforgettable essays on the inner life of colonialism, "Shooting an Elephant" and "A Hanging". I highly recommend this set to anyone who is the least bit interested in Orwell.
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In a way, Orwell's reports on English poverty in the 1930s are an update on F.Engels's solid and shocking study on the situation of England's working class nearly a hundred years before. (Engels was not only Marx's financier, he contributed major works himself. His place among communist icons is of a different quality from later politicians like Lenin, Stalin etc. His book on the working class was straightforward sociology and it wrote history.) However Orwell was not a scientist, his texts remain journalism and he devoted less time to it in total, though his personal commitment while it lasted was breathtaking. He lived it. He lived with them, his subjects. I am of split mind about that.
I am not sure that I think all that highly of Orwell as a reporter. There is something missing. He remains strangely aloof, there seems to be little passion, little empathy, little sympathy, but a certain condescension and impatience with the victims of circumstances.
His reports and analyses on the situation in Spain are of a different caliber. They are a passionate attempt to explain the conflicts inside the Republican, anti-Franco camp to whoever wanted to listen. As we know from history, it was useless.
The book is a guide through parts of European history, written by a contemporary observer. Letters help understand the personal situation of the writer. Reviews add to our understanding of the man more than of the reviewed books.
Some of his reviews would be smash hits here in Amazon, e.g. the one on Mumford's Melville bio. Less popular might be his aside that Conrad's genius is proven by the fact that women don't like his books. He had a hard time figuring out Henry Miller, who was something new, but if he was something good was not so easy to decide.
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