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The Orwell Reader

George Orwell
The guy with the torch isn't me, but sometimes it feels that way. Which is just to say that I'm still working on this project. I hope to be filling out The Writing section sometime in the future. But you don't have to wait on me; you can go on and read the books, etc. on your own.

Why Orwell? Background The Writing
Biographies The World Wide Orwell In Other Words
Essays By Others

Why Orwell?

In his lifetime, George Orwell was not famous nor even widely read, he held no government position and exerted no real influence on world affairs. Of his books, only Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm are at all still read or even remembered. Why then should YOU be interested in George Orwell? Simply because Orwell, more clearly than most, saw and wrote the TRUTH.

Orwell did not invent the TRUTH; no one did. The TRUTH has been around since the very beginning (and maybe even before that). And, Orwell's TRUTH is not merely "The Truth According To Orwell"; it is THE TRUTH. It is that TRUTH which has been at all times and still is struggled after by all religions, by all men and women. It is something enduring which is in everyone and everything that exists. When (and if) we get down to really feeling it, it's pretty obvious. Thus, the writings of George Orwell, the best of which is Nineteen Eighty-Four, present a deeply emotional (and disturbing) picture of both the TRUTH and the consequences of our turning from it. Orwell presents us with a picture of humanity; of US. Orwell's genius is that he could see it so clearly and create such simple but incredibly powerful images and ideas with which to express this TRUTH.

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Background (mine, not his)

I first became acquainted with George Orwell when in high school I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, his last and, I believe, his greatest work. Unlike most others who have read this book, it was not assigned reading; I merely found it among the other books kept on my parents' bookshelf. (Thinking back, I was probably attracted to this book by its stark and simple title. "What did it mean?", I must have wondered.) I don't really recall the actual reading of Nineteen Eighty-Four (not much conscoiously moved or impressed me when I was a kid). And I did not read another of his books or anything else by Orwell until after graduate school.

Then, in my early thirties, merely looking for "something" to read, I decided to re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four. As I began to read, I was stunned to find how Orwell so deeply touched something within me, and I realized what a profound effect my first reading of Nineteen Eighty-Four must have had. (The only other book with which I have had the same experience is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, which I also read at about the same time I read Nineteen Eighty-Four.) Orwell spoke so directly and clearly to me; he understood and could so simply but accurately articulate all of the feelings which I had always had, but of which I had never before been so distinctly and consciously aware. As I followed Winston Smith's agonizing struggle to find and maintain his identity within a group so dedicated to the eradication of all individuality, my own long standing feelings of isolation (alienation), of "being different" and outside began to take a more intellectual and philosophic shape. For the first time, I began to think about myself in terms of the larger world and its "group dynamics". I no longer saw my alienation (and isolation) as being based only on my own psychological make-up, but realized that this group dynamic (when linked with my own psychology) was a significant factor.

Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four was like somehow miraculously coming home. This was so curious, because the actuality of Winston Smith's life and place, and of Orwell's, too, were, apparently so unlike my own. But I soon realized that it was not the outward circumstances of the story, or even of Orwell the man, which struck such deep recognition; it was the ideas, the understandings, the emotional content and connection, the fabulous truth that Orwell knew and revealed which resonated so deeply within me, within my own feelings.

After reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, I felt compelled to inhale every other bit of Orwell's writing. I began with Animal Farm and, as I could find them, I then read every one of his other books (mostly in chronological order) and a number of his collected essays. Then I re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four.

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The Writing


  • Down And Out In Paris And London (1933)

  • A Clergyman's Daughter (1935)

  • Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1936)

  • The Road To Wigan Pier (1937)

  • Homage to Catalonia (1938)

  • Coming Up For Air (1939)


  • Inside The Whale And Other Essays (1940)

  • The Lion And the Unicorn (1941)

  • Critical Essays [in the U.S., Dickens, Dali And Others] (1946)

  • Shooting An Elephant And Other Essays (1950)

  • Such, Such Were The Joys (1953)

  • The Orwell Reader (1956)

  • The Collected Essays, Journalism And Letters Of George Orwell - 4 volumes (1968)


  • George Orwell: The Lost Writings, Edited by W. J. West (1985)

  • Orwell: The War Commentaries, Edited by W. J. West (1985)

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  • A Life, Bernard Crick (Secker & Warburg Ltd.), 1980
  • The Unknown Orwell, Peter Stansky and William Abrahams (Granada Publishing Limited), 1974

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The World Wide Orwell

  • George Orwell, and particularly Nineteen Eighty-Four, are also discussed by Roger Spooner.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Movie: A short description and commentary on the 1984 film version of the book.
  • Danny Yee's book reviews of Animal Farm and Homage To Catalonia.
  • The Memory Hole An essay on Orwell's predictions and our present from "Snuff It: The Quarterly Journal of the Church of Euthanasia".
  • A Newspeak page has been put up by Andrea De Vecchi.

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In Other Words

Quotes on government and politics, which convey the general spirit of Orwell's warnings.

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