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A record of a great writer's nonfiction work and an evolving picture of the last years of his life, during the time when he published Animal Farm and 1984....

Title : Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 2 My Country Right or Left 1940 - 1943
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ISBN : 9780156186247
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Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 2 My Country Right or Left 1940 - 1943 Reviews

  • Rosa
    2018-11-06 07:05

    This was amazing and really interesting! Although it took me really long to finish it (6 months), I enjoyed (almost) everything about it.

  • Mitchell
    2018-10-28 07:50

    This second volume of Orwell’s collected works cover the period from 1940-1943. This was a time when Orwell had published several novels and made a name for himself as an investigative journalist and socialist writer, and as such there are far fewer letters to other writers and far more published opinion pieces and articles.Given that the book covers the opening years of World War II, when Orwell was living in London, I was disappointed to find that surprisingly little of the book involved the war – even when bombs must have been raining down around him during the Blitz, he was still writing book reviews and discussing poetry and the state of contemporary literature. When the war was discussed, it was in political terms, without any of the personal angle which I preferred in his earlier writing, such as Down and Out In Paris And London or Homage to Catalonia. Then, of course, I found that the book has an appendix of 100+ pages covering his war-time journals. I can understand why the editors chose not to intermingle them with the rest of the book – a lot of the diary entries contain observations and winning phrases which he’d specifically noted down for later use, so you’d end up with too much repetition – but if I’d known it was there beforehand I probably would have chosen to read the diaries alongside the rest of the book, just for chronological continuity.In any case, the war-time journals themselves are one of the best parts of the book – I always love Orwell, but his writing is much more enjoyable when there’s a personal aspect to it. It’s fascinating to read a day-by-day (or sometime week-by-week) account of the Blitz in general, let alone coming from the pen of such a gifted and famous writer. Much of his diaries – like much of the rest of the book – consist of political observations, arguments and predictions, but there are also lots of brief fragments of feelings and impressions on the whole situation scattered throughout. The entirety of his entry for October 19, 1940:The unspeakable depression of lighting the fires every morning with papers of a year ago, and getting glimpses of optimistic headlines as they go up in smoke.Or an addendum to a mostly political entry on November 23:Characteristic war-time sound, in winter: the musical tinkle of raindrops on your tin hat.Or, amusingly, on 27 March, 1941:Abusive letter from H.G. Wells, who addresses me as “you shit,” among other things.The predominant thing I took away from the book as a whole – something that was also present in the first volume – was how political WWII was. As a war, it’s been completely deified by modern society. Now, I believe (as Orwell did at the time) that Nazi Germany was nonetheless in the wrong, and the Allies in the right, terms I wouldn’t use to describe any war of the past decade. But right or wrong, Orwell’s writing clearly demonstrates how overwhelmingly political any war is – the complex plotting between conservatives and liberals, right-wing and left-wing, socialists and fascists and pacifists and communists. Many of his essays and diary entries are devoted to nutting out the motives behind propaganda and political decisions, or measuring the morale of a hoodwinked public. We take it as a given that everybody in England pitched in, with stiff upper lip, to defeat the Nazis. That was never true – there were grumblings and demonstrations and people quite potently arguing that England should stay uninvolved, or even join Germany. Antisemitism was rife, sometimes even from Orwell himself, and the US soldiers stationed in the UK were deeply disliked by the locals. Perhaps half a century from now people will think the Iraq War was universally condemned, with every single person in coalition countries united against it, when in fact many supported it. It can go either way, regardless of how the war itself pans out. The only reason I thought the Iraq War was so complex and politically motivated, and that WWII wasn’t, is that I happened to be alive during the Iraq War. Historical wars settle on an accepted narrative, for better or worse. Even the Vietnam War is starting to settle into a general consensus – just not the one the US would like.So, as always, Orwell makes me think about stuff, whether I agree with him or not. I’m very much looking forward to the next book and keeping an eye out for a hint of the Holocaust. He hasn’t mentioned anything about it yet, and I still can’t wrinkle out of Wikipedia and history books whether or not people in Allied countries knew it was happening.

  • Kathy
    2018-10-26 08:07

    The Essays, Journalism and Letters of Orwell, My Country Right or Left was an interesting writing collection by George Orwell. This collection wasn’t the book wasn’t what I expected. Then the last half the book with is wartime diary was just flat out fascinating.I won’t lie, when I read George Orwell in high school, it left a mark on me. I ate up both 1984 and Animal Farm. The critique he had on society was so interesting and dark. So I was interested in reading more from him. I requested this book off of book mooch ages ago and then it got put on my shelf and forgotten about until I moved. This seemed like one of the perfect books to read to get something a little bit more serious on my reading list this year.One of the things that really surprised me was how interested Orwell was in both propaganda and the use of new words. I wasn’t anticipating him speaking so favorably of propaganda and in a way wanted more done by the British in the WWII. In a way it shouldn’t be so unusual. In 1984, propaganda was essential to the running of their world and the support of the military. I’m just not as convinced that propaganda is so essential and can do in essence mind control. After growing up with ads and skewed news stories everywhere, I’m skeptical by most propaganda. But I do know that the more often we characterize something as being evil, the more likely it can leave an impact. This book also allowed me to see Orwell’s personality. He just came to life. He seemed like such a character. Someone who was so passionate about life and wanted to serve his country.Several of the essays didn’t always impact me in the same way as I would have hoped. He would talk about political leaders and I didn’t know them. It doesn’t take long for party leaders to be forgotten in history if they weren’t fully in charge. I knew Churchill, but some of the other names, I didn’t know.My favorite part of this book was his war diaries. Those were great. More meaningful then his letters reporting about the war. In a way it was interesting and not surprising to see how the air raids weren’t always taken seriously. Such is human nature. The talk about life and events were interesting. It showed me different views of the world which I love.

  • Rob
    2018-11-15 02:57

    How did it feel to be involved in WW2? This book gives an insight into one mans war namely George Orwell. He of course is not an average or neutral observer but to have have someones reactions recorded as they occurred is always more interesting than hindsight or hearsay.Orwell's essays are an absolute pleasure to read. He must be one of the best essayists in the English language. They (the essays) are an exposition of clarity and style which any writer of any kind should have as something to measure them self against.For a man of the left who, while despising Hitler AND Stalin, also was no apologist for the British Empire, Orwell was always picking a political path that while fastidious was also quite trenchant. At one point he characterizes pacifists as fascifists. The book gives many clues to the way his mind was working up to his masterpiece '1984'.

  • Joe
    2018-11-01 06:57

    With Hitler and the Nazis bombing down his door in this second volume of essays and letters, Orwell manages to still knock out a few (477 pages worth) peices on England, the War, and the potential end of literature as we know it. It's the blitz baby and George is right there taking it all down in his diary, letters and essays as he reflects on Shakespeare, the Spanish Civil War and tea. Whether you are a facist, communist or just plain British, Orwell has something to say to you.

  • Ecoute Sauvage
    2018-10-23 08:42

    One of the most pitilessly, admirably, honest observers ever. Was early to join the now-unpopular school of thought that held Winston Churchill to be a coward (viz: Gallipoli) and a fraud (viz: loading arms on to the Lusitania, a civilian passenger ship). His integrity shines throughout.

  • Patrick Butler
    2018-10-30 06:57

    One of the few true democratic liberals,a man with conscience,and aware always about power and how it absolutely corrupts...One of the great political thinkers. His takes onLiterature and the war are just so good.He was wrong about a few things,but right on the important stuff.

  • Xan Holbrook
    2018-11-10 09:02

    Pugnacious yet erudite, tough but compassionate, one of the best writers to have ever drawn breath.

  • Colin
    2018-11-15 05:43

    As always, Orwell's clarity and perceptiveness never cease to amaze. "Literature and Totalitarianism," "Looking back on the Spanish War," and "The Lion and the Unicorn," each drew and interesting perspective towards the political world we currently reside.

  • blakeR
    2018-10-29 09:44

    When I started this Orwell was my favorite author ever, and one volume of his most personal writings have done nothing to change that status. His typically clear, incisive prose is on full display, while his perpetually calm and reasoned attitude -- especially when speaking about his contemporaries -- continues to give him an aura of being the only adult in a room full of squabbling children. It's very hard to disagree with him when he uses such plain logic.Orwell's opinion on other writers and famous figures is fascinating and often transformative, highlights being H.G. Wells, T.S. Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, W.B. Yeats, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Twain, Churchill and Gandhi. His tone towards these folks is one of straightforward modesty, though he does occasionally lapse into a strange mixture of bullheaded arrogance and idealistic naiveté (especially as regards Socialism). The most glaring example of this is his repeated certainty in the first years of WWII that Britain could only win by undergoing revolutionary class upheaval, a prediction which turned out almost shockingly narrow-minded. I couldn't help feeling simultaneously amused and sad at knowing just how wrong his "end of capitalism" proclamations have turned out. He'd sure be horrified today, wouldn't he?Specific highlights are "No, Not One," "Pacifism and the War" for a glimpse at what those he criticized thought of him, and "Looking Back on the Spanish War," which recalled his excellent and under-read Homage to Catalonia (see my review). But really the whole thing is valuable as a prolonged glimpse into one of the great minds of Western Civilization during such a volatile period. It actually surprised me that his Wartime Diaries included at the end of the book were perhaps my favorite part, just because they provide such an amazingly clear window into not only the complex political machinations behind the simplified history that we all learn (e.g.: propaganda; British domestic politics and popular wartime attitudes; Anglo-Indian relations; the tense and turbulent relationship between Britain and Russia), but also because of their vivid and often beautiful portrayal of what life for a common citizen during those times must have been. There's a span between pp. 420-28 where Orwell describes the horror of air raids and food shortages, and it's absolutely amazing to think that actual people suffered through these things only 70 years ago. It's especially powerful for a U.S. audience, since we can literally not comprehend how it must have felt to be subject to threats on our very sovereignty. To put it in terms a North American could understand: it would be like knowing 9/11 is happening beforehand and then experiencing it every night, all night long for months on end. Orwell's portrayal is riveting, but only because he writes without pretense; his goal is only to describe popular morale and give examples but his innate talent makes it so much more. Some of his more poignant entries:19 October 1941: The unspeakable depression of lighting the fires every morning with papers of a year ago, and getting glimpses of optimistic headlines as they go up in smoke.22 January 1941: The onion shortage has made everyone intensely sensitive to the smell of onions. A quarter of an onion shredded into a stew seems exceedingly strong. E. the other day knew as soon as I kissed her that I had eaten onions some 6 hours earlier.4 March 1941: At Wallington. Crocuses out everywhere, a few wallflowers budding, snowdrops just at their best. Couple of hares sitting about in the winter wheat and gazing at one another. Now and again in this war, at intervals of months, you can get your nose above water for a few moments and notice that the earth is still going around the sun.Overall this book is important not only for Orwell completists but as a historical document. The diaries alone are a treasure in this respect. For ardent fans of Orwell as well as WWII history buffs it's a must-read, but even casual fans or poli-sci enthusiasts will appreciate his political and economic views. I plan on reading the next two volumes, though probably not the first as I am more interested in seeing how his thought develops, now that I know where he was at in his mid-30s. Not Bad [email protected]

  • Matthew
    2018-10-28 04:45

    If Volume 1 was a portrait of the writer as a young socialist, then part two is when George Orwell goes to war. It is a little difficult to tell, since the four volumes are misleadingly referred to as Orwell’s collected non-fiction whilst admitting to some editing and omission in the introduction. However, what appears to come across is that Orwell has almost a monomania in his writing about whatever issue is most current in his mind.At the time of the Spanish Civil War, then this preoccupied him. At this time it is the war. If it was simply a matter of depending on his public works, we could assume that this is all that he found paid work in writing about. However his private letters and diaries reflect the same concerns and preoccupations.There are perhaps two themes that run through much of Orwell’s writing at this time. The first is patriotism. For Orwell, the fault of many on the Left at this time is their failure to realise the importance of patriotism. He gives his famous account of his country in The Lion and the Unicorn, including descriptions repeated by conservatives who failed to spot some of the irony in the original text. Orwell is critical and exasperated by his country, but ultimately he will always identify with it, and he deplores the left who oppose it.This can lead to an occasional narrow-mindedness to other countries and his views on India can seem patronising and contemptuous to us now, though he was better than many of his contemporaries in his attitudes towards the colonies. There is in fact a streak of conservatism in Orwell’s vision of socialism – he can support his country, the war, the occupation of India and leaving the capitalists in place in a socialist society, albeit as managers of a planned economy rather than free entrepreneurs. Orwell had seen the deadly effects of communism at first hand during the Spanish Civil War and was understandably more moderate in his wish to apply socialism to Britain.The other running theme is pacificism. Orwell has little time for the pacifists and dismisses them as ‘objectively pro-Fascist’. He believes that their attitudes are naïve and will only allow fascism to triumph for a long time. He is also not too keen on the defeatism that he detects in much of the Left at the time.There is sadly little time for Orwell’s essays in this volume, and we get many matter-of-fact descriptions of the war in Orwell’s letters to the Partisan Review and his own wartime diary (which takes up about a fifth of this volume). These provide an interesting insight into what it is like being caught up in the war. Major events can get very little description and minor events can occupy a lot of space, showing that what seems important to us now may not have seemed so then.Orwell’s predictions about the war are not always correct, less so than he himself sometimes seems to think. His belief that socialism would be necessary to win the war also proved to be mistaken, though it is the nature of socialists to always seek to be optimistic about the triumph of their beliefs.There is always a danger for anybody who lives by trying to predict the future – economists, political analysts, meteorologists, astrologists etc. If they are wrong when they predict the future, then we may well question how accurate their analysis of contemporary events is. Of course Orwell was willing to admit that his predictions could be wrong, and less complacent than many.Of course, Orwell can take a break from the war and discuss other matters. There is always time for literature reviews, even if Orwell felt they were irrelevant at this time. A few essays are included in which he has time to criticise Tolstoy’s hostility to Shakespeare, be dismissive of Mark Twain’s courting of public opinion (which Orwell felt had prevented Twain from being as good a writer as he might be) and to analyse the good-bad works of Kipling and the silliness of Yates.Overall, this is an interesting collection and gives the reader a feel for life during the war and a political age where leading figures really cared about significant political issues.

  • Sidharth Vardhan
    2018-10-25 06:49

    The following is my list of chosen articles (in order of importance)1. No, Not One 2. The Lion and the Unicorn 3. New Words4. Looking Back on the Spanish War5. The Frontiers of Art and Propaganda 6. Tolstoy and Shakespeare7. Wells, Hitler and the World State 8. Review of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler 9. Poetry and the Microphone10. Review of Beggar My Neighbor by Lionel Fielden11. The Art of Donald McGill 12. Charles Reade13. Rudyard Kipling 14. The Rediscovery of Europe 15. Pamphlet Literature16. Who Are the War Criminals? The book contains author’s articles on a great variety of subjects and since these articles were independently published at first, thereisa lot of repetition of repetition both within and inter the collection- for none of which author is to blame. The diaries in the end are best example of this type of redundancy. The letters, specially smaller ones are mostly redundant – dwelling mostly on contemporary environment and government policies – and they often repeats what can also be said in other articles.‘No, Not One’, for example is, Orwell’s argument against pacifism. The letters that subsequently followed – by his critics and his own reply to them all; establishes nothing beyond the point the author had already made.‘Looking back at Spanish war shows how Orwell’s experience of war contributed to ideas of his book, ‘1984’.Most of the articles concern at least one of following two themes:(i) Language and literature (since author is a writer as well as critic)(ii) war (Note that these were years of WWII)Many of these themes are explored in "Animal Farm' and '1984'. In these essays, you find a sophisticated discussion of what prompted the ideas which make them legendary. The thing that ones loves about Orwell is his simpleness of the language in which he speaks - staying away, in fact questioning the jargon every now and then.

  • Mary Catelli
    2018-11-14 04:49

    More essays than letters, unlike the first volume -- an interesting view into the era. Ends with about a hundred pages of diary.Has reviews, here, too, though more general than the last volume, which had a number that concentrated on the Spanish Civil War. Has rather more general essays on literature and writing. In one, he decries the practice of degrading writers because they hold the wrong opinions -- though a few essays earlier, he is writing on Yeats, who described a hierarchical society with great wealth in few hands, and instantly describes it as "unjust." Completely unaware that he is giving himself away. Unequal certainly, but Yeats would not have praised it if he thought inequality unjust.The gleeful watching of how he thoroughly abuses those who held his own pre-war opinions swings about to the abuse side here, after the dramatic irony of watching him unfold the opinions.He also unfolds a view of Socialism that turns on the assumption that a Socialist state automatically wins the loyalty of the populace. Tom Simon observes in "The strawman fallacy in Utopian fiction" that 1984 has only a bit of straw in it, but that lay in its lack of ruling philosophy and the assumption they ran on pure lust for power. I suspect that weakness stems from this; admitting that the tyranny sprang from trying to force round pegs into square holes -- and blaming the pegs when it failed -- would meant that his own desired square holes were unachievable.A number are columns sent to America to fill them in on the war and England. A combination of information on the ground and Orwell's innocent certainty that the war could not be won without socialism. He points to how Hitler militarized his country on seven years to prove how effective it is. Also interesting tidbits about life, including such things as that if you went to someone's place for dinner it was normal to stay the night owing to the problems getting back home.

  • J.T Wootton
    2018-10-30 02:54

    This essay sums up Orwell's feelings after World War One. His ability to pick out moments in history and describe, at least from his perspective, the mindset of others in his position is key to many of these shorter essays. For the most part it seems to be about the transition of the memories held by those involved in war efforts in comparison to those who were not involved in them. He cites his own experience of how trendy pacifism was for him but how it inevitably left him cold when he interacted with people who had a details interaction with warfare. The way in which hardship is turned to nostalgia and reinforces ones understanding through experience. As alluded to in the title it's an essay examining his ambivalence over right and left positions. If anyone would like to know his reasons for being so adamant to evade the doctors and fight in the Second World War then this is the essay for you. After reading this I have started to read his wartime diaries. If you enjoyed this essay then you should definitely read them.

  • J.M. Hushour
    2018-10-31 04:50

    Given the period of this 2nd collection, it is hardly surprising that most of Orwell's writings here focus on the outbreak of WW II. The letters he wrote to the Partisan Review in America and the number of "war diary" entries certainly focus on this and are of only historical interest as a window into England's internal political situation at the time. There are though, as always,a number of gems: "Tolstoy and Shakespeare", "The Frontiers of Art & Propaganda", "The Art of Donald McGill" (a rumination on snarky, "obscene" postcards), "Looking Back on the Spanish War"and "Poetry and the Microphone". In addition, his book reviews are interesting but are well-grounded in the political climes of the time in which he was writing.

  • Malcolm
    2018-11-14 07:07

    Much of what Orwell was writing then could be written now.A fantastic collection of not simply how the country was but also an insight into understanding what we are today

  • Alf Chaiton
    2018-10-31 08:47

    Everyone should read Orwell! You couldn't be spending your time better.

  • Alex
    2018-10-21 03:39

    Didn't read the whole book since political journalism is the last thing I'm interested in. But the lit crit part of it is great.

  • Craig Bolton
    2018-10-19 09:45

    My Country Right or Left 1940-1943: The Collected Essays Journalism & Letters of George Orwell (Collected Essays Journalism and Letters of George Orwell) by Sonia Orwell (2000)

  • Linda B
    2018-10-26 10:02

    BRILLIANT essays. I love Orwell and one day hope to own the four volumes of this.

  • Guy
    2018-10-23 06:05

    Great book to dip into for a quick read.

  • Christopher
    2018-10-19 03:04

    For the true groupie of Orwell.