Diaries

Diaries

by George Orwell
     
 

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A major literary event—the long-awaited publication of George Orwell's diaries, chronicling the events that inspired his greatest works.

This groundbreaking volume, never before published in the United States, at last introduces the interior life of George Orwell, the writer who defined twentieth-century political thought. Written as individual books

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Overview

A major literary event—the long-awaited publication of George Orwell's diaries, chronicling the events that inspired his greatest works.

This groundbreaking volume, never before published in the United States, at last introduces the interior life of George Orwell, the writer who defined twentieth-century political thought. Written as individual books throughout his career, the eleven surviving diaries collected here record Orwell’s youthful travels among miners and itinerant laborers, the fearsome rise of totalitarianism, the horrific drama of World War II, and the feverish composition of his great masterpieces Animal Farm and 1984 (which have now sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author). Personal entries cover the tragic death of his first wife and Orwell’s own decline as he battled tuberculosis. Exhibiting great brilliance of prose and composition, these treasured dispatches, edited by the world’s leading Orwell scholar, exhibit “the seeds of famous passages to come” (New Statesman) and amount to a volume as penetrating as the autobiography he would never write.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Among the vivifying things about [Orwell's] Diaries…is how they restore some first-person flesh and blood to what can seem like his disembodied head. What's more, they show Orwell to be nearly Jeffersonian in his combined passion for politics and for the natural world, not merely for fishing but also for the enlightened and fervent cultivation of vegetables, fruit trees, animals and flowers…These diaries show him with his hands covered in fresh dirt, hard at work, in sync with the seasons, curious about everything under the sun, tending to what he needed and grateful for beauty as well as sustenance. They present a man in full.
—Dwight Garner
Publishers Weekly
Reviewed by David Brooks. George Orwell has become a literary saint because of his moral commitment and intellectual honesty. In his diaries, edited by Davison (co-editor of Orwell’s Complete Works), you see those two virtues coming into formation. In the early part of his career, Orwell spent much of his time living down and out with the poor, recording their habits and conversations, and his own efforts to stay nourished and alive. Orwell made judgments to himself, and his tone could be especially nasty when a Jew did something he disapproved of. But in general he is not in a judging mode, and he is certainly not describing his inner feelings. He often simply notes things: how much dried milk poor mothers get, how much beer they serve their children, what coffee shops allow tramps to sit undisturbed.The highlight of these diaries is the years of WWII. The diaries show Orwell working through the ideas that became Animal Farm. He spent the middle of the war years churning out propaganda at the BBC, and compares life there to “something halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum.... Our radio strategy is even more hopeless than our military strategy.” But at the same time, Orwell was thinking deeply about the world of spin and propaganda. At one point, he notes: “All propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth.” In April 1942, he despairs: “We are all drowning in filth. When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgment have simply disappeared from the face of the earth.” The diaries are not always scintillating reading. Orwell’s journal entries can be described as horror interrupted by gardening. For long stretches, he simply records the weather, how the beans are coming in, how much weeding he did. But when times got hard, his pen came alive—in the 1930s with the poor, in the early 1940s during the war, and in the late 1940s, as he grew ill. The characteristic Orwell voice is there—the intense clarity, the obsessive need to get some sort of honest rendering of reality. This book is not for beginners. It is for Orwell aficionados who already know the man’s life. Christopher Hitchens (Why Orwell Matters), who followed so faithfully and well in his footsteps, provides a fine introduction. Despite the longueurs, it is a pleasure to be around Orwell’s mind and his perfectly clear prose style. Illus. Agent: Bill Hamilton, AM Heath, U.K. (Aug.) David Brooks is an op-ed columnist at the New York Times and author of The Social Animal.
Christopher Hitchens - Vanity Fair
“Read with care, George Orwell’s diaries, from the years 1931 to 1949, can greatly enrich our understanding of how Orwell transmuted the raw material of everyday experience into some of his best-known novels and polemics. They furnish us with a more intimate picture of a man who, committed to the struggles of the mechanized and “modern” world, was also drawn by the rhythms of the wild, the rural, and the remote.”
Dwight Garner - New York Times
“Among the vivifying things about his Diaries, issued now in one volume for the first time, is how they restore some first-person flesh and blood to what can seem like his disembodied head. What’s more, they show Orwell to be nearly Jeffersonian in his combined passion for politics and for the natural world, not merely for fishing but also for the enlightened and fervent cultivation of vegetables, fruit trees, animals and flowers… These diaries show him with his hands covered in fresh dirt, hard at work, in sync with the seasons, curious about everything under the sun, tending to what he needed and grateful for beauty as well as sustenance. They present a man in full.”
Emily Temple - Flavorpill
“Never before published in the United States, this wonderfully annotated collection of George Orwell’s diaries from 1931 to 1949 is sure to fascinate any fan of his work. From his down and out years to his stint working at the BBC during WWII (“something halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum…. Our radio strategy is even more hopeless than our military strategy.”), the reader can catch a glimpse of this essential English writer’s internal life, and watch the ideas that became Animal Farm and 1984 bloom, percolate, and grow.”
David Ulin - Los Angeles Times
“Reading the Diaries end-to-end in a single volume offers us a different take on Orwell: less as a thinker, or a figure of political conscience, than as a complex and dimensional human being.”
Craig Seligman - Bloomberg.com
“Orwell’s achievement grew out of seemingly modest virtues: decency; good, hard sense; and clean, clear prose. Yet they added up to something monumental… The diaries as a whole do exactly what you would expect: They confirm his greatness.”
Jordan Michael Smith - Christian Science Monitor
“Orwell lived in London during most of World War II, including during the Battle of Britain. Entries during this period have the author’s defining features on display, including unimpeachable intellectual honesty, concern about the degradation of truth, physical courage, and unpretentious writing… All the traits that made Orwell so great can be found in the Diaries.”
Martin Rubin - San Francisco Chronicle
“Reading these diaries leaves one, as always when encountering the words of George Orwell, with a confirmed admiration for the sterling qualities that have made him a benchmark for integrity and a lodestar for writers and thinkers across the ideological spectrum. Embedded in the DNA of his writing is that austere, penetrating analytical ability, averse to cant or any form of hypocrisy and pretension, unsparing of everything and everyone—especially himself. He simply can't help being that way: Once pen is put to paper, or fingers to typewriter, those qualities appear, second nature to his writing, even the most casual.”
Craig Seligman - Newsday
“...[T]he diaries as a whole do exactly what you would expect: They confirm his greatness.”
Scott Beauchamp - Book Riot
“We should celebrate the publication of Orwell’s diaries. The publication of personal texts by other authors might smack of cheap opportunism, purely a money-making ploy. But I think publishers got it right with Orwell.”
Vanity Fair
Read with care, George Orwell’s diaries, from the years 1931 to 1949, can greatly enrich our understanding of how Orwell transmuted the raw material of everyday experience into some of his best-known novels and polemics. They furnish us with a more intimate picture of a man who, committed to the struggles of the mechanized and "modern" world, was also drawn by the rhythms of the wild, the rural, and the remote.— Christopher Hitchens
New York Times
Among the vivifying things about his Diaries, issued now in one volume for the first time, is how they restore some first-person flesh and blood to what can seem like his disembodied head. What’s more, they show Orwell to be nearly Jeffersonian in his combined passion for politics and for the natural world, not merely for fishing but also for the enlightened and fervent cultivation of vegetables, fruit trees, animals and flowers… These diaries show him with his hands covered in fresh dirt, hard at work, in sync with the seasons, curious about everything under the sun, tending to what he needed and grateful for beauty as well as sustenance. They present a man in full.— Dwight Garner
Flavorpill
Never before published in the United States, this wonderfully annotated collection of George Orwell’s diaries from 1931 to 1949 is sure to fascinate any fan of his work. From his down and out years to his stint working at the BBC during WWII ("something halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum…. Our radio strategy is even more hopeless than our military strategy."), the reader can catch a glimpse of this essential English writer’s internal life, and watch the ideas that became Animal Farm and 1984 bloom, percolate, and grow.— Emily Temple
Los Angeles Times
Reading the Diaries end-to-end in a single volume offers us a different take on Orwell: less as a thinker, or a figure of political conscience, than as a complex and dimensional human being.— David Ulin
Bloomberg.com
Orwell’s achievement grew out of seemingly modest virtues: decency; good, hard sense; and clean, clear prose. Yet they added up to something monumental… The diaries as a whole do exactly what you would expect: They confirm his greatness.— Craig Seligman
Christian Science Monitor
Orwell lived in London during most of World War II, including during the Battle of Britain. Entries during this period have the author’s defining features on display, including unimpeachable intellectual honesty, concern about the degradation of truth, physical courage, and unpretentious writing… All the traits that made Orwell so great can be found in the Diaries.— Jordan Michael Smith
San Francisco Chronicle
Reading these diaries leaves one, as always when encountering the words of George Orwell, with a confirmed admiration for the sterling qualities that have made him a benchmark for integrity and a lodestar for writers and thinkers across the ideological spectrum. Embedded in the DNA of his writing is that austere, penetrating analytical ability, averse to cant or any form of hypocrisy and pretension, unsparing of everything and everyone—especially himself. He simply can't help being that way: Once pen is put to paper, or fingers to typewriter, those qualities appear, second nature to his writing, even the most casual.— Martin Rubin
Newsday
...[T]he diaries as a whole do exactly what you would expect: They confirm his greatness.— Craig Seligman
Book Riot
We should celebrate the publication of Orwell’s diaries. The publication of personal texts by other authors might smack of cheap opportunism, purely a money-making ploy. But I think publishers got it right with Orwell.— Scott Beauchamp
Washington Post
How appropriate that the political moralist George Orwell (1903-50) should be published by a company called Liveright! Orwell, who despised every form of careerism, instinctively gravitated to the kind of quiet rural existence that we associate with ancient Greek philosophers or Anglican clergyman of the 18th century. Certainly, these diaries reveal that the author of Animal Farm was happiest cultivating his garden, observing the weather, enjoying the beauty of spring flowers and watching over the health of his hens.— Michael Dirda
Barnes and Noble Review
It is a blessing, then, to now have the opportunity to read his Diaries, edited meticulously by Peter Davison, who as the editor of the twenty volumes of Orwell's Complete Works has an unequaled knowledge of the material… They throw a revealing light on Orwell the thinker, and offer welcome stimulus to revisit the books and essays in which that mind left its lasting imprint.”— Brooke Allen
Harper's
Edited with exemplary skill and grace by Peter Davison.— William H. Gass
Christopher Hitchens
“One cannot help but be struck by the degree to which [Orwell] became, in Henry James’s words, one of those upon whom nothing was lost. By declining to lie, even as far as possible to himself, and by his determination to seek elusive but verifiable truth, he showed how much can be accomplished by an individual who unites the qualities of intellectual honesty and moral courage.”
Michael Dirda - Washington Post
“How appropriate that the political moralist George Orwell (1903-50) should be published by a company called Liveright! Orwell, who despised every form of careerism, instinctively gravitated to the kind of quiet rural existence that we associate with ancient Greek philosophers or Anglican clergyman of the 18th century. Certainly, these diaries reveal that the author of Animal Farm was happiest cultivating his garden, observing the weather, enjoying the beauty of spring flowers and watching over the health of his hens.”
Brooke Allen - Barnes and Noble Review
“It is a blessing, then, to now have the opportunity to read his Diaries, edited meticulously by Peter Davison, who as the editor of the twenty volumes of Orwell's Complete Works has an unequaled knowledge of the material… They throw a revealing light on Orwell the thinker, and offer welcome stimulus to revisit the books and essays in which that mind left its lasting imprint.”
William H. Gass - Harper's
“Edited with exemplary skill and grace by Peter Davison.”
New York Times - Dwight Garner
“Among the vivifying things about his Diaries, issued now in one volume for the first time, is how they restore some first-person flesh and blood to what can seem like his disembodied head. What’s more, they show Orwell to be nearly Jeffersonian in his combined passion for politics and for the natural world, not merely for fishing but also for the enlightened and fervent cultivation of vegetables, fruit trees, animals and flowers… These diaries show him with his hands covered in fresh dirt, hard at work, in sync with the seasons, curious about everything under the sun, tending to what he needed and grateful for beauty as well as sustenance. They present a man in full.”
Flavorpill - Emily Temple
“Never before published in the United States, this wonderfully annotated collection of George Orwell’s diaries from 1931 to 1949 is sure to fascinate any fan of his work. From his down and out years to his stint working at the BBC during WWII ("something halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum…. Our radio strategy is even more hopeless than our military strategy."), the reader can catch a glimpse of this essential English writer’s internal life, and watch the ideas that became Animal Farm and 1984 bloom, percolate, and grow.”
Los Angeles Times - David Ulin
“Reading the Diaries end-to-end in a single volume offers us a different take on Orwell: less as a thinker, or a figure of political conscience, than as a complex and dimensional human being.”
Bloomberg.com - Craig Seligman
“...[T]he diaries as a whole do exactly what you would expect: They confirm his greatness.”
Christian Science Monitor - Jordan Michael Smith
“Orwell lived in London during most of World War II, including during the Battle of Britain. Entries during this period have the author’s defining features on display, including unimpeachable intellectual honesty, concern about the degradation of truth, physical courage, and unpretentious writing… All the traits that made Orwell so great can be found in the Diaries.”
San Francisco Chronicle - Martin Rubin
“Reading these diaries leaves one, as always when encountering the words of George Orwell, with a confirmed admiration for the sterling qualities that have made him a benchmark for integrity and a lodestar for writers and thinkers across the ideological spectrum. Embedded in the DNA of his writing is that austere, penetrating analytical ability, averse to cant or any form of hypocrisy and pretension, unsparing of everything and everyone—especially himself. He simply can't help being that way: Once pen is put to paper, or fingers to typewriter, those qualities appear, second nature to his writing, even the most casual.”
Book Riot - Scott Beauchamp
“We should celebrate the publication of Orwell’s diaries. The publication of personal texts by other authors might smack of cheap opportunism, purely a money-making ploy. But I think publishers got it right with Orwell.”
Washington Post - Michael Dirda
“How appropriate that the political moralist George Orwell (1903-50) should be published by a company called Liveright! Orwell, who despised every form of careerism, instinctively gravitated to the kind of quiet rural existence that we associate with ancient Greek philosophers or Anglican clergyman of the 18th century. Certainly, these diaries reveal that the author of Animal Farm was happiest cultivating his garden, observing the weather, enjoying the beauty of spring flowers and watching over the health of his hens.”
Barnes and Noble Review - Brooke Allen
“It is a blessing, then, to now have the opportunity to read his Diaries, edited meticulously by Peter Davison, who as the editor of the twenty volumes of Orwell's Complete Works has an unequaled knowledge of the material… They throw a revealing light on Orwell the thinker, and offer welcome stimulus to revisit the books and essays in which that mind left its lasting imprint.”
William H. Gass
“Edited with exemplary skill and grace by Peter Davison.”
Barry Gewen - New York Times Book Review
“A window into the way Orwell's mind worked.”
Library Journal
Orwell's extensive diaries, published in Britain in 2009, are finally available in print form in the United States (daily postings from the diaries have been appearing online at http://orwelldiaries.wordpress.com). This volume contains 11 diaries, beginning in August 1931 and ending in December 1948, 11 months before Orwell's death. Two missing diaries, from the Spanish civil war, are thought to be housed in the former KGB archives in Moscow. The diaries reveal intimate details of Orwell's life—the death of his first wife, raising his son, his financial struggles, and his travels. Many entries served as primary material for later works, e.g., a 1936 diary used to write The Road to Wigan Pier. While there are many mundane entries, e.g., on chores and the weather, there are also lengthy ruminations about political and world events, as in the "Diary of Events Leading Up to the War" (titles probably by the editor) and his detailed and compelling notes during World War II. Davison, who has edited Orwell's complete works, provides helpful explanations and many notes. Christopher Hitchens's introductory essay is one of his last literary efforts. VERDICT The diaries will appeal to all—literary scholars, historians, and students of 20th-century literature—seeking the inner life of this profoundly influential writer. Strongly recommended.—Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A co-editor of George Orwell's Complete Works offers a lushly annotated edition of Orwell's diaries from 1931 to 1949. Born Eric Arthur Blair, Orwell, as these diaries reveal, lived a varied and even dichotomized life. A reader who visited the majority of these pages could never guess that they recorded the activities of the author of Animal Farm, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and 1984, a book he completed while suffering from the tuberculosis that would kill him. (Among the most poignant pages here are Orwell's lists of his hospital routines just weeks before he died.) Many of the author's entries deal with his activities on his farm. We learn how many eggs his hens laid each day, his battles with hungry rabbits and deer, his killing of the occasional snake, his observations of the weather, and his maintenance of the property. One moment of great excitement was his near-death in a whirlpool in the Gulf of Corryvreckran. Earlier sections of the diary deal with his abject poverty in the 1930s. He traveled around picking hops (a process he describes in some detail); he was down and out in Paris and London; he traveled to the Mediterranean. In all these places, he noted human customs and flora and fauna. In 1939, Orwell kept daily track of events that were leading toward world war but interwove odd moments about earwigs, a dead cat and the properties of goat manure. In the diary he kept during World War II, he found himself becoming accustomed to continual bombing in London. He joined the Home Guard but noted that their rickety weapons would hardly retard the expected German invasion. Editor Davison (English/De Montfort Univ.) supplies necessary contextual information and footnotes generously, but stays in the shadows and allows us to truly enjoy Orwell's impressive chronicles.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871403292
Publisher:
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
08/12/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
624
Sales rank:
894,791
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair, 1903–1950) wrote fiction, journalism, criticism, and poetry. His nine books include the classics Animal Farm and 1984.
Peter Davison edited the twenty volumes of Orwell’s Complete Works (with Ian Angus and Sheila Davison).
Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011) is the author of God Is Not Great, Hitch-22, and Why Orwell Matters.

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