Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation

Overview

"Admirable...consistent with its subject's unassuming intelligence.... Meyers relates [Orwell's] life crisply and judiciously."—The New York Times
Respected biographer Jeffrey Meyers delves into the complex life of the man whose visionary work gave us the great anti-utopias of modern literature. "The breadth of his research is impressive" (New York Times Book Review), drawing on a close study of the new edition of Orwell's Complete Works, personal interviews, and unpublished material in London's Orwell Archive. ...

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Overview

"Admirable...consistent with its subject's unassuming intelligence.... Meyers relates [Orwell's] life crisply and judiciously."—The New York Times
Respected biographer Jeffrey Meyers delves into the complex life of the man whose visionary work gave us the great anti-utopias of modern literature. "The breadth of his research is impressive" (New York Times Book Review), drawing on a close study of the new edition of Orwell's Complete Works, personal interviews, and unpublished material in London's Orwell Archive. Meyers's "briskly paced, absorbing narrative...offers keen insights" (Boston Sunday Globe) on Orwell's intellectual development, as well as his human failings—his childhood insecurities, his political dilemmas, and his conflicted relationships with women. "Leagues in front of" Orwell's previous biographers, Meyers "convincingly demonstrates the essence of [Orwell's] character" (Denver Post), revealing a "much more helpful and believable portrait" (Paul Theroux). "The breadth of his research is impressive."—New York Times Book Review "A respected biographer and no stranger to his subject."—Newark Star-Ledger "[B]riskly paced, absorbing narrative...offers keen insights."—Boston Sunday Globe "[Meyers] convincingly demonstrates the essence of [Orwell's] character."—Denver Post "[A]dmirable for its portrayal of Orwell the man and writer—dark, disturbed, obsessing, contrary....both moving and edifying."—Paul Theroux "[L]ikely to be seen as the most insightful and balanced portrait...for a long time to come."—Joseph Frank "Meyers has uncovered fascinating aspects of Orwell's life that put a new face to one of Britain's most influential authors."—Phillip Knightley, author of The First Casualty

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
The breadth of his research is impressive.
New York Times
Admirable...consistent with its subject's unassuming intelligence.... Meyers relates [Orwell's] life crisply and judiciously.
Newark Star-Ledger
A respected biographer and no stranger to his subject.
Boston Sunday Globe
[B]riskly paced, absorbing narrative...offers keen insights.
Denver Post
[Meyers] convincingly demonstrates the essence of [Orwell's] character.
Paul Theroux
[A]dmirable for its portrayal of Orwell the man and writer—dark, disturbed, obsessing, contrary....both moving and edifying.
Joseph Frank
[L]ikely to be seen as the most insightful and balanced portrait...for a long time to come.
Phillip Knightley
Meyers has uncovered fascinating aspects of Orwell's life that put a new face to one of Britain's most influential authors.
John Carey
Succinct, graphic, freshly researched, this is easily the best life of George Orwell to date.... What comes most vividly out of Meyers's book is not any simple contrast between darker and lighter sides, but the extent to which Orwell the man and Orwell the writer differed.
Sunday Times (London)
From The Critics
There are few examples in the field of modern letters where the cliche of suffering for one's art is as gruesomely true as it is with George Orwell. Even though he succeeded in several professions (novelist, colonial policeman, journalist, soldier, radio propagandist), Orwell, arguably the twentieth century's greatest satirist, had an almost pathological urge not to belong. Biographer Meyers shows us an unhappy man who translated misery into powerful, era-defining fiction and reportage. He was also an elusive and willfully contradictory figure. "Bourgeois bum, Tory Anarchist, Leftist critic of the Left, puritanical lecher, kindly autocrat," writes Meyers, who, though obviously a fan of Orwell's writing, does not believe him to be above fault. Meyers offers a smart, insightful reading of the many works by the man he places in the "English tradition of prophetic moralists" along with William Blake and D.H. Lawrence.
—Chris Barsanti
Library Journal
Two major biographies sit on shelves dedicated to George Orwell (1903-50)--Bernard Crick's Orwell: A Life (LJ 3/15/81) and Michael Shelden's Orwell: The Authorized Biography (LJ 10/1/91). Is another detailed look at Orwell really necessary? The answer is an unqualified yes. Meyers, a prolific biographer and critic, has contributed widely to the Orwell literature, and this is his first reassessment of the writer in 25 years. It is also the first important study to utilize the 20-volume The Complete Works of George Orwell (Secker & Warburg, 1998). With freshness, clarity, and compression, Meyers presents the now familiar saga of Orwell's difficult and ultimately tragic life, effectively interweaves excerpts from letters and interviews with Orwell's contemporaries (appending his account of difficulties with interviewees), and generously describes and critiques Orwell's writings, placing him firmly "in the English tradition of prophetic moralists." His writing about Orwell's persistent womanizing may surprise some readers, and his account of Orwell's activities during the Spanish Civil War is especially lucid. More readable and insightful than Crick's effort, though not as substantial as Shelden's, which is better suited to true Orwell aficionados, this will be welcomed by general readers and Orwell admirers. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/00.]--Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Booknews
Delves into the complex personal history of the writer whose visionary work gave us the great anti-utopias of 20th-century literature, drawing on the new edition of Orwell's , interviews with family and friends, and research into unpublished material in the Orwell Archive. Meyers is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has written biographies of other literary greats. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Brendan Kenneally
The breadth of Meyer's research is impressive. He is at his most interesting identifying the many real-life models that Orwell used for his writing, particularly in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.
New York Times Book Review
Richard Bernstein
Mr. Meyers relates the life crisply and judiciously, with Orwell emerging as a darkly enlightened sort of character whose vision of the world came out of real experience...Mr. Meyers does not claim to have produced a great deal of new information, but his focus on Orwell's inner life and on the connection between the unsparing lucidity of his work and the gritty self- destructiveness of his personality add up to an altered vision...Mr. Meyers's fine biography is a reminder of the uniqueness of the man who titled one of his essays "Revenge Is Sour," of just how much he lived, and of how morally and intellectually cauterizing was his thought.
New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
A discerning psychological reading of a highly fraught writer's life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393322637
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 402
  • Sales rank: 1,116,213
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Meyers, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has written biographies of D. H. Lawrence, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 10, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Complete but distant

    I have been on a George Orwell reading spree for the past few months, re-reading many of his classic books, but this is the first opportunity I have had to read a true biography of my favorite author. (I did listen to the audiobook version of Michael Shelden's "The World of George Orwell," but I wanted a more literary version.) I must say that I appreciated this closer look into especially the early life of this fascinating man, and indeed I was much surprised at many of the darker facts surrounding Orwell, including his many marital infidelities and unhygienic, thoroughly unhealthy lifestyle that led to his untimely demise. However, although I know Jeffrey Myers is a respected scholar and biographer, I couldn't help but feel that a lot of his thoughts were disjointed and at times inappropriately placed within the narrative. This made the author come off as distant and sometimes uninterested in his subject, when I know from Meyers' studies at the Orwell Archive that the exact opposite is true. Indeed, I thought a problem with this book was that at times it read simply too much like a literary study of Orwell's, yet when this was done, it lacked the weight of other critical studies I have read. Overall, however, this was a welcome look into the life of George Orwell, one that did not turn into an unwelcome hagiography but instead provided a complete glimpse into the life of one of the greatest writers in British history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2010

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