Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays – George Orwell

 

 

This was my introduction to George Orwell’s non-fiction. Supposedly during his lifetime, Orwell was known foremost as an essayist; this was quite surprising to me as it was only a couple of years ago that I’d ever even heard mention of Orwell writing non-fiction.

This collection of essays really impressed me. Firstly, the subject matter was varied, discussing Orwell’s observations during his time in Burma, his stay in a French hospital (very horrific), and also his views on books, literary figures and so on.I think his observations about society are still very much valid, and I thoroughly enjoyed his thoughts, his dry wit. Very informative.

My favourite essays were “Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool,’ “Politics and the English Language,” and “Politics and Literature.” “Politics and Language” in particular was quite enlightening and offered some advice on good writing habits: “If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythm of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphorious.”

And for proof that politics hasn’t changed much over the years, “Politics and English Language” has the following words : “Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

Highly recommended.

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4 thoughts on “Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays – George Orwell

  1. I will definitely be reading this at some point. I’ve read both 1984 and Animal Farm and really enjoyed them both. I’ve been meaning to read more of his stuff for a while (specifically his non-fiction), and just haven’t gotten to it. I’ll start with this one, maybe sometime this summer. Thanks!

  2. I think I would enjoy this. When I read 1984 I enjoyed the parts that sounded like non-fiction the best. The quote about politics is so very true. And I feel like social media has taken it to an all new level.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Shelley 🙂 When you read the essays about language you will definitely be reminded of Newspeak in 1984. Another great quote from Politics and Language goes as follows : “But if thought corrupts language, language corrupts thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better.” Orwell was ahead of his time!

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