Although George Orwell is celebrated as the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, posterity may regard his other writing as even more significant. From the early 1930s until his death in 1950 – a period which saw the Great Depression, World War II and the advent of the atom bomb – he produced a stream of essays and reviews dealing with all the great political, social and literary questions of the day. As a Socialist who had once been a junior official in the British Empire – which then encompassed a large part of the globe – he had a distinctive slant on world affairs, acutely aware of Britain’s decline, America’s rise and the complex threat from Soviet Russia.
Orwell was especially concerned with the relationship between language and truth, like his literary idol, Jonathan Swift, whose prose style he regarded as exemplary: plain, spare, energetic and laconic. These are the qualities we find in Orwell’s own style at its best, but, unlike Swift, he is never bitter or sour. Even surveying his own wretched schooldays he achieves a blend of engagement and dispassion which is uniquely his own.
For this edition, published to coincide with the centenary of Orwell’s birth in 2003, John Carey has selected everything of interest to the non-specialist, ranging from Orwell’s analysis of international politics to his very firm views on how to make the best cup of tea.
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