Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays

Overview

George Orwell was first and foremost an essayist. From his earliest published article in 1928 to his untimely death in 1950, he produced an extraordinary array of short nonfiction that reflected—and illuminated—the fraught times in which he lived and wrote. "As soon as he began to write something," comments George Packer in his foreword to this new two-volume collection, "it was as natural for Orwell to propose, generalize, qualify, argue, judge—in short, to think—as it was for ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (23) from $8.81   
  • New (7) from $20.39   
  • Used (16) from $8.80   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$20.39
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(2392)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
2008-10-13 Hardcover 1 New 0151013616 Ships Within 24 Hours. Tracking Number available for all USA orders. Excellent Customer Service. Upto 15 Days 100% Money Back Gurantee. Try ... Our Fast! ! ! ! Shipping With Tracking Number. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Bensalem, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$43.07
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(424)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0151013616! ! KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! ! ENJOY OUR BEST PRICES! ! ! Ships Fast. All standard orders delivered within 5 to 12 business days.

Ships from: Southampton, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$43.07
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(701)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0151013616! ! ! ! BEST PRICES WITH A SERVICE YOU CAN RELY! ! !

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$45.88
Seller since 2011

Feedback rating:

(748)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0151013616 SERVING OUR CUSTOMERS WITH BEST PRICES. FROM A COMPANY YOU TRUST, HUGE SELECTION. RELIABLE CUSTOMER SERVICE! ! HASSLE FREE RETURN POLICY, SATISFACTION ... GURANTEED**** Read more Show Less

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$45.88
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(933)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0151013616 Friendly Return Policy. A+++ Customer Service!

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$45.88
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(280)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0151013616 XCITING PRICES JUST FOR YOU. Ships within 24 hours. Best customer service. 100% money back return policy.

Ships from: Bensalem, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$105.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(162)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
Sending request ...

Overview

George Orwell was first and foremost an essayist. From his earliest published article in 1928 to his untimely death in 1950, he produced an extraordinary array of short nonfiction that reflected—and illuminated—the fraught times in which he lived and wrote. "As soon as he began to write something," comments George Packer in his foreword to this new two-volume collection, "it was as natural for Orwell to propose, generalize, qualify, argue, judge—in short, to think—as it was for Yeats to versify or Dickens to invent."

Facing Unpleasant Facts charts Orwell's development as a master of the narrative-essay form and unites classics such as "Shooting an Elephant" with lesser-known journalism and passages from his wartime diary. Whether detailing the horrors of Orwell's boyhood in an English boarding school or bringing to life the sights, sounds, and smells of the Spanish Civil War, these narrative essays weave together the personal and the political in an unmistakable style that is at once plainspoken and brilliantly complex.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Best known for his late-career classics Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell-who used his given name, Eric Blair, in the earliest pieces of this collection aimed at the aficionado as well as the general reader-was above all a polemicist of the first rank. Organized chronologically, from 1931 through the late 1940s, these in-your-face writings showcase the power of this literary form. The range of subjects is considerable, from "Shooting an Elephant" to remembrances of working in a bookshop ("The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence..."); from recollections of fighting in the Spanish Civil War to culinary oddities such as a "Defence of English Cooking" and "A Nice Cup of Tea"; to the broad-stroke masterwork of boarding-school irony, "Such, Such Were the Joys." New Yorker contributor Packer (The Assassins' Gate) keenly assembles and introduces this selection, bringing into high relief Orwell's range of experience and committed humanism, showing how, as Orwell put it, "to make political writing into an art." (Oct. 13)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

George Orwell (1903-50) is best remembered for his dark and prophetic political novels, Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). In addition to four other novels, he also produced some of the best book-length nonfiction of the modernist era, including Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) and Homage to Catalonia (1939). Harcourt is now republishing in two volumes his collected essays, compiled by Packer (The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq ). What is most astonishing about these essays are their continuing freshness and relevancy more than half a century after Orwell's death. All are worth reading for some combination of literary, historical, or cautionary merit. His criticism of art and politics (and sometimes both) remains spot-on, and the "unpleasant facts" he considers, including war, poverty, homelessness, lack of adequate medical care, and even schoolboy bullying, are unfortunately still familiar topics. Orwell's crisp and clear journalistic writing style remains highly accessible to 21st-century readers, with the occasional, now obscure reference illuminated by Packer's notes. Essential for academic libraries; highly recommended for public libraries.-Alison M. Lewis, formerly with Drexel Univ. Lib., Philadelphia

Kirkus Reviews
The first of two volumes of the British author's essays, compiled by journalist George Packer. Orwell (1903-50) was no Flaubert closeted in aesthetic concentration. He was a vigorous participant in the chaotic life of his time, traveling to dangerous places (Burma under British rule, Spain fragmented by civil strife) and venturing into the culture of poverty-in his documentary masterpiece Down and Out in Paris and London and in such memorable transcriptions of personal experience as reports on his day spent in a filthy workhouse ("The Spike") and a similar adventure in a festering prison ("Clink"). Readers familiar with Orwell's work will not be surprised to find the aforementioned, or a kindred depiction of "Marrakech" as a swamp of poverty, overpopulation and disease, or a thoughtful if embittered retrospective essay, "Looking Back on the Spanish Civil War," which forms a bridge to his great nonfiction book Homage to Catalonia. Some may be surprised, however, to encounter a memoirist who displays a quirky affection for the minutiae of the quotidian ("The Case for the Open Fire," "In Defence of English Cooking," "Bookshop Memories") and a keen observer who always zeroes in on the broader ramifications of a simple subject (e.g., describing English football in "The Sporting Spirit" as "an unfailing cause of ill will"). The journalistic virtue Orwell does not possess in abundance is, oddly enough, objectivity. Readers will feel his inquiring, combative, judgmental sensibility lurking everywhere in his best work: bitter self-criticism in the twin classics "A Hanging" and "Shooting an Elephant"; stoical courage and depressive exhaustion in his immensely detailed "War-time Diary" (1940); hisneed "to make political writing into an art" in "Why I Write"; and the salutary indignation that enlivens his justly famous remembrance of public-school experiences ("Such, Such Were the Joys"). A generous display of the great English journalist's distinctive honesty, clarity and reverence for the pertinent fact and the perfect phrase.
The Barnes & Noble Review
The English language has played a cruel joke on George Orwell's reputation. It takes the form of an adjective, "Orwellian," that is (alas) all too useful in describing certain tendencies in political life. But the word's durability and lasting popularity has a perverse effect: it conveys precisely the opposite of Orwell's own sensibility or his qualities as an author.

The Orwellian universe is a nightmare in which the historical record is constantly rewritten at the whim of those in authority, and reality itself defeated by the brute force of slogans framed with perfect cynicism. Such is the world emerging from Animal Farm and 1984, his last two novels, published in the 1940s, at the height of Stalinism. They have survived as something more than historical documents, for the urge to turn language into a weapon has outlasted the Cold War, too. But no reader who is familiar only with those books really knows George Orwell. For that, you must read his essays, which provide an education in the urgent need to avoid lying to oneself.

Orwell wrote other, less politically topical novels; they remain in print mainly because his name is on them. Each has its moments, but they are not Orwell's best moments, really -- most of which came in the course of his nonfiction writing. Most of it appeared in the form of articles, reviews, and columns written (often very quickly) for magazines and newspapers. Two volumes compiled and edited by George Packer, All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays and Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays, attempt to winnow out representative selections of the best work to be found among Orwell's journalism.

I want to insist on that last word in spite of a certain literary and academic squeamishness that insists on equating journalism with the ephemeral -- and both with the trivial. Orwell feels no obligation to respect this attitude, or the distinctions underlying it. He ignores the difference between the trivial and the profound; his writing is all of a piece. There is not much difference between the quality of mind Orwell brings to scrutinizing Jonathan Swift or T. S. Eliot for literary magazines and his newspaper columns about the behavior of American G.I.s in London or the proper way to prepare a cup of tea.

His friend Arthur Koestler once said that snobbery is, in the final analysis, a willful form of stupidity: a way of narrowing one's attention to the world through the lazy expedient of disdain. Orwell is at war with snobbery. There is even something willed about it, leading him to write not only alert and thoughtful analyses of pulp fiction, "smutty" postcards, and adventure magazines aimed at schoolboys, but also an unforgettable account of his own preadolescent years in a boarding school where the fine grades of class were turned into a blunt instrument for mental torture. (That memoir, "Such, Such Were the Joys," which appears as the final item in Facing Unpleasant Facts, was among the last things Orwell finished; but in some ways it is the best starting point for a reader first discovering Orwell's nonfiction.)

Orwell carried his egalitarian crusade a step further by making everything he wrote -- even a short review of a forgettable play -- both pointed in argument and well turned as prose. The results are not uniformly excellent: Only a mediocrity is always at his best. But each of Orwell's pieces, no matter what the format or the occasion, displays a force of concentration that comes from trying to do the best work he can, at the time. It is pride of craftsmanship. But I think there may be more to it than that.

Everyone remembers Orwell's most sinister creation: Newspeak, the official language of the Inner Party in 1984. The vocabulary of Newspeak shrinks all the time; so does its user's power even to imagine challenging Big Brother. This was an extrapolation of the very worst tendencies of Stalinist jargon, but Orwell saw comparable tendencies emerging under the pressure of mass media. He spent much of World War Two writing for BBC radio, an experience that shaped his account of Oceania's bureaucracy. His essay "Politics and the English Language," published in early 1946, acknowledged the seductive force of standard phrases: "They will construct your sentences for you -- even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent -- and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself."

Orwell's struggle against political totalitarianism is always unmistakable. Here, he is flagging something else -- something less readily challenged by overt polemic: the tendency to brainwash ourselves through sheer laziness. "This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases," he goes on to say, "can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain." Every page of Orwell's nonfiction seems either to set up a protective barrier against such invasions or to scrutinize the various reasons we have to crave the numbness.

What makes Orwell a humane essayist, rather than a tiresome scold, is that he accepts the existence of this craving and doesn't propose to abolish it entirely. He was a socialist but never a utopian. An insistence on the permanent intimacy between the best and the worst parts of our nature is as close to a dogma as he ever gets. "On the whole," he writes, "human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."

As a longtime reader of Orwell, I would say the same thing about these two volumes of his selected essays: they are good, but not too good, and not quite all the time. All Art Is Propaganda seems the better edited of the two, containing most of the major critical writings. (The omission of his essay on George Gissing, a Victorian novelist he resembled in a number of intriguing ways, is unfortunate. And room should have been made for at least one of Orwell's commentaries on James Burnham, who was a kind of proto-neoconservative.) A few of the pieces in Facing Unpleasant Facts can be aptly described, per the subtitle, as "narrative essays." Most are nothing of the sort, though -- being rather examples of the familiar essay, in which the flow of observations is not tethered to any effort at storytelling.

For someone encountering Orwell's nonfiction for the first time, they are a good point of departure. But in the best case, they will encourage readers to explore the four volumes of The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell or the hefty Everyman Library edition of his nonfiction. --Scott McLemee

Scott McLemee writes the weekly column "Intellectual Affairs" for Inside Higher Ed. He is a member of the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780151013616
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/13/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

GEORGE ORWELL (1903–1950) served with the Imperial Police in Burma, fought with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, and was a member of the Home Guard and a writer for the BBC during World War II. He is the author of many works of nonfiction and fiction.

GEORGE PACKER  is a staff writer for the New Yorker and author of The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq and other works. He lives in Brooklyn.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

The Spike

The Adelphi, April 1931

It was late afternoon. Forty-nine of us, forty-eight men and one woman, lay on the green waiting for the spike to open. We were too tired to talk much. We just sprawled about exhaustedly, with home-made cigarettes sticking out of our scrubby faces. Overhead the chestnut branches were covered with blossom, and beyond that great woolly clouds floated almost motionless in a clear sky. Littered on the grass, we seemed dingy, urban riff-raff. We defiled the scene, like sardine-tins and paper bags on the seashore.

What talk there was ran on the Tramp Major of this spike. He was a devil, everyone agreed, a tartar, a tyrant, a bawling, blasphemous, uncharitable dog. You couldn’t call your soul your own when he was about, and many a tramp had he kicked out in the middle of the night for giving a back answer. When you came to be searched he fair held you upside down and shook you. If you were caught with tobacco there was hell to pay, and if you went in with money (which is against the law) God help you.

I had eightpence on me. "For the love of Christ, mate," the old hands advised me, "don’t you take it in. You’d get seven days for going into the spike with eightpence!"

So I buried my money in a hole under the hedge, marking the spot with a lump of flint. Then we set about smuggling our matches and tobacco, for it is forbidden to take these into nearly all spikes, and one is supposed to surrender them at the gate. We hid them in our socks, except for the twenty or so per cent who had no socks, and had to carry the tobacco in their boots, even under their very toes. We stuffed our ankles with contraband until anyone seeing us might have imagined an outbreak of elephantiasis. But it is an unwritten law that even the sternest tramp majors do not search below the knee, and in the end only one man was caught. This was Scotty, a little hairy tramp with a bastard accent sired by cockney out of Glasgow. His tin of cigarette ends fell out of his sock at the wrong moment, and was impounded.

At six the gates swung open and we shuffled in. An official at the gate entered our names and other particulars in the register and took our bundles away from us. The woman was sent off to the workhouse, and we others into the spike. It was a gloomy, chilly, lime-washed place, consisting only of a bathroom and dining room and about a hundred narrow stone cells. The terrible Tramp Major met us at the door and herded us into the bathroom to be stripped and searched. He was a gruff, soldierly man of forty, who gave the tramps no more ceremony than sheep at the dipping pond, shoving them this way and that and shouting oaths in their faces. But when he came to myself, he looked hard at me, and said:

"You are a gentleman?"

"I suppose so," I said.

He gave me another long look. "Well, that’s bloody bad luck, guv’nor," he said, "that’s bloody bad luck, that is." And thereafter he took it into his head to treat me with compassion, even with a kind of respect.

It was a disgusting sight, that bathroom. All the indecent secrets of our underwear were exposed; the grime, the rents and patches, the bits of string doing duty for buttons, the layers upon layers of fragmentary garments, some of them mere collections of holes held together by dirt. The room became a press of steaming nudity, the sweaty odours of the tramps competing with the sickly, sub-fæcal stench native to the spike. Some of the men refused the bath, and washed only their "toe rags," the horrid, greasy little clouts which tramps bind round their feet. Each of us had three minutes in which to bathe himself. Six greasy, slippery roller towels had to serve for the lot of us.

When we had bathed our own clothes were taken away from us, and we were dressed in the workhouse shirts, grey cotton things like nightshirts, reaching to the middle of the thigh. Then we were sent into the dining room, where supper was set out on the deal tables. It was the invariable spike meal, always the same, whether breakfast, dinner or supper—half a pound of bread, a bit of margarine, and a pint of so-called tea. It took us five minutes to gulp down the cheap, noxious food. Then the Tramp Major served us with three cotton blankets each, and drove us off to our cells for the night. The doors were locked on the outside a little before seven in the evening, and would stay locked for the next twelve hours.

Copyright © George Orwell

Compilation copyright © 2008 by The Estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell

Foreword and Introduction copyright © 2008 by George Packer

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

contents

Foreword by George Packer • vii

Introduction by George Packer • xv

The Spike • 1

Clink • 11

A Hanging • 23

Shooting an Elephant • 29

Bookshop Memories • 38

Marrakech • 44

My Country Right or Left • 52

War-time Diary • 59

England Your England • 109

Dear Doktor Goebbels—Your British Friends

Are Feeding Fine! • 139

Looking Back on the Spanish War • 143

As I Please, 1 • 167

As I Please, 2 • 172

As I Please, 3 • 175

As I Please, 16 • 180

Revenge Is Sour • 184

The Case for the Open Fire • 189

The Sporting Spirit • 193

In Defence of English Cooking • 198

A Nice Cup of Tea • 201

The Moon Under Water • 205

In Front of Your Nose • 209

Some Thoughts on the Common Toad • 214

A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray • 219

Why I Write • 224

How the Poor Die • 232

Such, Such Were the Joys • 245

Notes • 296

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)