george orwell: S and D

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leaving THOSE TWO BOOKS aside, what are the good ones?

someone gave me a copy of "burmese days" with the front cover torn off a while back. is that one any good?

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Saturday, 8 April 2006 09:42 (sixteen years ago) link

Um, they are all good.

Down and Out in Paris and London is my particular favourite, though.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Saturday, 8 April 2006 11:37 (sixteen years ago) link

I went on an extended Orwell jag many long years ago. I have to second Down and Out in Paris and London. It's one of those books I have re-read multiple times.

In terms of novels, I found Burmese Days and Keep the Aspidistra Flying to be fairly readable, but I have completely forgotten anything about Clergyman's Daughter, which is not a good sign at all.

Apart from novels, I liked Homage to Catalonia quite well - even the middle section about all the turns and twists of Spanish anarchist vs. communist politics was interesting to me. Road to Wigan Pier is just workmanlike journalism with no particular flair or interest. It's much better to read his various short essays than Wigan, IMO.

Aimless (Aimless), Saturday, 8 April 2006 15:14 (sixteen years ago) link

S: Down & Out, the essays (esp. Vols. 2 and 3)
D: Burmese Days, Animal Farm

I would neither S nor D 1984. I've tried starting Going Up For Air a few times and can't seem to get five pages into it.

My apologies for including THOSE TWO BOOKS.

Burmese Days was his first novel and it shows, and yet it was written after Down & Out which is fantastic. So. I might just not be all that into his fiction!

Casuistry (Chris P), Saturday, 8 April 2006 19:37 (sixteen years ago) link

six years pass...

I don’t want to imply that these gardening diaries are, on every page, bewitching. Many entries are like so: “11.4. 38: One egg. 11.5.38: One egg. 11.6. 38: Two eggs.” They are frequently terse, factual, telegrammatic.

does this factoid come out somewhere else well-known? i've seen it before but can't remember where. i used to own that big modern library collection of his essays or whatever, and i've read 'down and out', but aside from that i don't think i'm real up on my orwell.

j., Friday, 17 August 2012 07:12 (nine years ago) link

six years pass...

"In 2016, the world changed."

This is embarrassing.

His analysis of Trump's victory includes fake news, conspiracies, lies, facebook and ends on AI -- anything but policy, the oposing candidate, the desertion of the working class from what was on offer, and the simple fact that Trump was on the Republican ticket.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 19 May 2019 10:35 (three years ago) link

There is something to this, however, its definitely there in the way we interact with books at a certain point in time.

Most people read it when they’re young and feel bruised by it – it offers more suffering and less reassurance than any other standard high-school text – but don’t feel compelled to rediscover it in adulthood. That’s a shame.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 19 May 2019 10:37 (three years ago) link

When I was a high school freshman, we read 1984 and Animal Farm as part of a State-mandated course on Anticommunism. Don't remember what else---prob textbook---and barely remember AF at all, but we were Boomers, children of the duck-and-cover instructions, fallout shelters (would you let your neighbors in?), yay for the Cuban Missile Crisis: "Eyeball to eyeball and the other fellow blinked," said JFK, before oops to him and Lee Harvey too--- plus Dr. Strangelove, On The Beach etc., so the DO YOU SEE of 1984 was not such a shocker---ditto the sad ending, standard for almost all tales of rebellion back then, it seemed---though that was a few years before I read Catch-22, and way before seeing Sweet Sweetback's Baadaaass Song. Think my classmates mostly agreed that we were required to read about main characters in bed together, even if it was the beginning of the end (as in monster movies).
I've read and enjoyed almost all his other books since, may go back to those two. (PS: re Anticommunism, we noticed that Lionel Trilling's intro pointed out that Orwell was extrapolating from more than Soviet traits etc., that he got the idea for the Ministry of Truth, and maybe the whole plot, while writing propaganda for the BBC during WWII.)

dow, Sunday, 19 May 2019 22:20 (three years ago) link

"think my classmates mostly agreed *that it was nice* that we were required to read about main characters in bed...", I meant.

dow, Sunday, 19 May 2019 22:22 (three years ago) link

Not that there weren't some jolts in there, like the rats pointed at Winston's face. Harsh, bare imagery, often highlighted in institutional green over dirty walls, certainly went with our high school (Or my early-ado sense of it).

dow, Sunday, 19 May 2019 22:27 (three years ago) link

the orwell i urge on people the most these days is "second thoughts on james burnham"

difficult listening hour, Monday, 20 May 2019 01:06 (three years ago) link

Power worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible. If the Japanese have conquered south Asia, then they will keep south Asia for ever, if the Germans have captured Tobruk, they will infallibly capture Cairo; if the Russians are in Berlin, it will not be long before they are in London: and so on. This habit of mind leads also to the belief that things will happen more quickly, completely, and catastrophically than they ever do in practice. The rise and fall of empires, the disappearance of cultures and religions, are expected to happen with earthquake suddenness, and processes which have barely started are talked about as though they were already at an end. Burnham’s writings are full of apocalyptic visions. Nations, governments, classes and social systems are constantly described as expanding, contracting, decaying, dissolving, toppling, crashing, crumbling, crystallizing, and, in general, behaving in an unstable and melodramatic way.... Within the space of five years Burnham foretold the domination of Russia by Germany and of Germany by Russia. In each case he was obeying the same instinct: the instinct to bow down before the conqueror of the moment, to accept the existing trend as irreversible. With this in mind one can criticize his theory in a broader way.

difficult listening hour, Monday, 20 May 2019 01:11 (three years ago) link

Looks good for a go at that. He desperately needs to be saved from his fans

xyzzzz__, Monday, 20 May 2019 09:15 (three years ago) link

His analysis of Trump's victory includes fake news, conspiracies, lies, facebook and ends on AI -- anything but policy, the oposing candidate, the desertion of the working class from what was on offer, and the simple fact that Trump was on the Republican ticket.

Surely if you're writing about 1984 specifically then those angles are less relevant than the disinformation angle? More generally you can't write about Orwell without writing about class and socialism (and he would be considered an extremist lefty by the standards of most of the people who smugly namedrop him nowadays). I assume the book covers that stuff somewhere but I'm not interested enough in Orwell to read a biography of him.

Matt DC, Monday, 20 May 2019 10:54 (three years ago) link

isn't it just a biography of the novel "1984"?

ie (i assume) at least in part a study of the ideological uses it's been put to? which doesn't seem to me an *intrinsically* terrible idea tho i'm not sure who i'd trust to write it well

mark s, Monday, 20 May 2019 11:03 (three years ago) link

If you include these other things then I dunno disinformation on its own becomes less relevant? Also disinformation is an active part of elections. There's a book there but by focusing on 2016 without a treatment of the past to talk about a shift just looks a bit thin to me. Maybe he does do it.

His book is a biography of 1984 the book, which is just as well as it can exclude Orwell.


xyzzzz__, Monday, 20 May 2019 11:16 (three years ago) link

i'm guessing (hoping) that priming the 2016 pump is more a way of getting guardian reader attention RIGHT NOW in this overnoisy moment than a speed-read rehearsal of the book;s actual argument

tired: "it's called 1984 but actually it's about 1948, i.e. set 36 years earlier than the title"
wired: "it's called 1984 but actually it's about 2020, i.e. set 36 years LATER than the title"

mark s, Monday, 20 May 2019 11:28 (three years ago) link

”But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Dunty”

mark s, Monday, 20 May 2019 11:28 (three years ago) link

No, it's "He loved Mr Blobby." Been decades since I read it, but I enjoyed Bernard Crick's George Orwell: A Life, which seemed more inquisitive and speculative than most bios: he was diligent, did his paper work and also came up with good quotes from class mates etc., but wasn't presenting The Big Reveal or any other meal ticket sure shot.

dow, Monday, 20 May 2019 17:16 (three years ago) link

one year passes...

btw, this was an excellent discussion of Orwell.

The day ends in Y, so the centrist journos are invoking one of the two Orwell books they've read. Instead of reading them, why not revisit last year's @ResonanceFM show with @owenhatherley & @hekale on Orwell's works and legacies?

— Suite (212) (@Suite_212) July 11, 2020

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 12 July 2020 12:57 (two years ago) link

three months pass...

So he just got inducted into Gallimard's 'Bibliothèque de la Pléiade', which is an official French literary canon in all but name.

pomenitul, Wednesday, 11 November 2020 17:42 (one year ago) link

I found 'Burmese Days' and 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying' to be fairly readable, but I have completely forgotten anything about 'Clergyman's Daughter', which is not a good sign at all.

― Aimless (Aimless), Saturday, April 8, 2006 8:14 AM (fourteen years ago)

A month or so ago I tried to re-read A Clergyman's Daughter and bailed out in under 20 pages. It was not well-written. I'm moving it into 'Destroy' category. Everything else can stay in 'Search'.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Wednesday, 11 November 2020 18:18 (one year ago) link

Search: "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool." One of my favorite essays. I love the moment where he says, "Lear is about renunciation," and all the pieces of his argument come together at once. It all fits so perfectly you can almost hear the click as it snaps into place.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 18 November 2020 16:48 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

This bit us quite good.

In fairness Orwell's domestic reporting has a lot of good stuff in it

— Matthijs Krul (@McCaineNL) July 25, 2022

xyzzzz__, Monday, 25 July 2022 10:55 (two weeks ago) link

Didn't mean to post the tweet in response to this:

I have very mixed feelings about Orwell (of course) but he got it at least about excluding kids from pubs.

— Tom Gann (@Tom_Gann) July 25, 2022

xyzzzz__, Monday, 25 July 2022 10:56 (two weeks ago) link

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