“Literature is doomed if liberty of thought perishes” –George Orwell
This month’s book review may interest all the writers and would be writers out there. Written by Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell, Why I Write is part of Penguin’s Great Ideas series. Pocket-sized works of, largely, non-fiction inspired by pioneers, radicals, and visionaries, including subject matters such as philosophy, science, politics, and war.
Orwell, born in 1903, is most famous for his fictional works including the political satire Animal Farm, published in 1945, and the dystopian nightmare vision of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which, first published in 1949, is a sci-fi story centred around a country known as Oceania (in 1984), controlled by an overbearing, paranoid government insistent on manipulating every aspect of its citizens’ lives. A place where information is suppressed, history re-written, and propaganda reigns supreme. It is also, one could argue, as a work of fiction written over 70 years ago, a story that feels eerily remarkably current.
Considered one of England’s most accomplished authors and social commentators, this collection includes four of Orwell’s essays. However, the title is deceiving, with only the first, brief essay dedicated to writing. The other three examine Orwell’s views on society, politics, and the economy during WW2, which I found equally fascinating. “As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me” he wrote in one.
At only 100 pages long, Why I Write is short enough to read in one sitting and littered with humorous nuggets of writing advice. I’ll leave you with one of my favourites which, if you’re a writer, you’ll completely understand. If not, and it’s a profession you’re thinking of taking up, all I can say is, be warned!
“Writing is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
2 thoughts on “Book Review—Why I Write by George Orwell Published by Penguin; 1st edition (2 Sept. 2004)”
Orwell was a fascinating man, if I remember correctly he was at different times as a policeman in Burma and a miner.
A few years ago my wife gave me, a Penguin book “England Your England” for Christmas, it is an interesting read and probably at 39 pages long one of the four essays in the Penguin book.
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Yes… I agree. Orwell was, as you say, Phil, a fascinating individual! Well ahead of his time. The title you quote wasn’t one listed in this book, but I’m sure it made as equally interesting reading as this collection!
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