Friday, November 16, 2007

As I Please: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell (1943-1945)

A couple of years ago I bought the complete essays and journalism of George Orwell, which comes in four volumes. I’ve just read the third volume, which is called As I Please after the regular Tribune column he wrote.

Much of the writings in this volume is comprised of the above mentioned columns for The Tribune. These columns cover a lot of the political situation in Britain near the end of World War II, so you’d have to be into the history of the period to fully understand and appreciate a lot of what is being written about. For me a lot of the columns weren’t that interesting, and I often found my mind wandering. The two previous collections I found much more interesting. (Maybe this is more to do with my lack of concentration.)

There are a few of his famous essays amongst the day to day fare of the columns, most notably his writings on Salvador Dali and P.G Wodehouse.

Perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the book are the snapshots of Orwell’s domestic life. For some reason on other the one thing in this book that really stuck in my mind was an As I Please column where Orwell talked about the drudgery of the doing the dishes, and how there was no possible way to make this necessary and dreary (to Orwell at least, I myself don’t mind doing the dishes) work more easily endured. One can’t imagine any of today’s male columnists writing about doing the dishes.

Another interesting part of the book was where Orwell described a job he would very much enjoy doing. It was trying to find out the authorship of anonymous pieces of war propaganda by studying the writing style of the authors.

I didn’t find this volume as edifying as the earlier volumes. A lot of it seemed like padding. This volume is more for completists. Having said that, reading all the major essays by George Orwell should be mandatory for any liberal education.

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