George Orwell: English Rebel

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Book review: George Orwell: English Rebel by Robert Colls | New Humanist

Subscribe Already registered? Yet Colls also has a tendency to tick Orwell off. Colls also reprimands Orwell for refusing to see his various northern hosts and guides as both socialists and members of the working class, but then Raymond Williams had made the same point in his own short book on Orwell, whose insights and possibilities contrast sharply with this glorified literature review.

More interestingly, Colls makes clear just how often Orwell changed his mind, shifting between positions — on war, capitalism and England, mainly — at a rapid rate, always refusing to acknowledge or apologise for the sudden shift. Admitting both was evidently too sophistic for Orwell. They build the impression of an author who should by now be left well alone. He should be read, of course — few writers of his or any era were as brave or as talented — but his incessant invocation, his secular sainthood, is revealed as an absurdity.

Sort order. Start your review of George Orwell: English Rebel. Sep 13, Sarah Presto agitato rated it liked it Shelves: orwell , biography-memoir , netgalley , literary-criticism , england. Orwell lived in turbulent times. He is of course best known for writing Animal Farm and , books that attack totalitarianism.

What is less well known is that he also frequently wrote about little cultural details, like naughty picture postcards or how to make the perfect cup of tea. In , a novel concerned with larger and darker themes, we see how Winston Smith is drawn to commonplace objects like a glass paperweight.

George Orwell's doublethink

Orwell never lost his grounding in ordinary life, no matter what the topic was, and he considered it worth preserving. Orwell is considered a leading political writer, but his writing rarely addressed the nitty-gritty facets of electoral politics.


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His focus was on big picture concepts. Colls brings Orwell down to earth on some of the issues, helping us see where Orwell, master of plain speaking and plain writing, was wriggling out of having to explain how his political concepts would actually work. The final section gets bogged down in whether, if he had lived, Orwell would have been a Cold War warrior or neo-Conservative or New Left or socialist or Tory anarchist, etc.

If we take his actions during his life as a guide, I suspect Orwell would have shied away from labels and would have changed and refined his positions over time, throwing in a few twists to keep biographers guessing. View all 3 comments. Feb 08, Rose rated it it was ok.

Can't seem to decide if it is a biography or a study and suceeds as neither. Not well organized, though does make good case for Orwell's essential Englishness. Feb 28, Lyn rated it liked it. It took me a long time to finish this book which read more as a thesis than a biography for the general public! I was frequently irritated by the author's determined development of his thesis but, nevertheless, I learned much about Eric Blair in all his light and shade, in all his contradictions.

Not many of us would stand the contradictions test over our lifetimes if our opinions It took me a long time to finish this book which read more as a thesis than a biography for the general public! Not many of us would stand the contradictions test over our lifetimes if our opinions had been recorded. Feb 10, Blair rated it liked it. Some interesting material but I found Colls' approach to be a bit obscure and a bit irritating.


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It's an intellectual biography rather than an account of Orwell's life, but it mystifyingly passes over elements of his life and then mentions them in passing. Some sections feel more like summaries of the books and essays than any sort of analysis of them. May 19, Jeanette Lukens rated it it was ok. This was probably my own fault for not researching more about the purpose of the book. I got kind of lost because of my lack of background in British politics, and I felt a little bit like the author didn't have any real admiration for Orwell. I loved what I did learn, though.

May 27, Jeremy rated it it was amazing Shelves: biography , history-english. An entertaining and thought-provoking biography of George Orwell focussing on his Englishness. Exhaustively researched and genuinely interesting and illuminating.

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Oct 01, Mr. AJ Curtis rated it liked it. A good book, but unevenly distributed.