I've recently started reading more of George Orwell's work; I'd read 1984 but came across Down and Out in Paris and London which I enjoyed tremendously. I also attend a book club at school and we just finished reading and discussing Keep the Aspidistra Flying. I've noticed Orwell's very clear style, succint, but not lacking modifiers. I'd just like to see if any others here fans of Orwell's work, and other observations people have made.
I can't say that I've read much Orwell - 1984 and Animal Farm are about the extent of my experience with his work - but I've read one or two things about his work and realised that yes, there is something very nice about his style.
I seem to recall reading somewhere that one of his guiding principles was that, when possible, use a shorter sentence rather than a long one. Something I struggle with in my own work, and probably my own speech patterns But it's an interesting approach.
I've only read 1984 and Animal Farm, but I started reading one of his other novels (I don't remember the title) and didn't like it. I think these two were really his best.
I've read 1984 but I'd like to read Animal Farm sometime. I enjoyed 1984 for the most part and I'm curious about his other famous book.
I think you (f00lishhhh) are right to point out Orwell's attention to style. In fact, as a thinker who was interested in all aspects of human society, he knew the importance of language use. A taste of it is given in an introductory note to 1984 (if my memory is correct), where Orwell discusses the differences between "on to" (written in two words) and "onto" (one word); but more famous remarks on style can be found in an essay he wrote in 1946, "Politics and the English Language", which can be found here:
Note that Orwell's approach is prescriptive (or normative) not descriptive: he has an opinion on how people should write (and speak) or shouldn't. The reasons behind his prescriptive approach to language are not aesthetic but rather, as the title of the essay suggests, "political" (understood in a much broader sense than having elections and running a government), because they have to do with "mental vices" (in other words, his criticism of bad language seems to be related to the way it both reflects and propagates bad thinking and/or behavior).
The quality usually remembered as the foundation of Orwell's rules for effective writing is that of "clarity" or "precision" (see for instance http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/george-orwells-5-rules-for-effective-writing/), but it seems that "clarity" is in fact just a way of achieving a consciousness of what is said (as opposed to using ready-made phrases that sound good but eventually follow the line of some party or other). Trimming speech therefore seems to aim at novelty, and the writer must be a "rebel" fighting against ready-made thoughts and phrases -- which in a way relates to our modern conception of literature (see Barthes for instance).
Orwell wrote to change the world and to force people to think, and this is what led him (as G.B. Shaw before him) to reflect about the use (his own and everyone's) of language, which explains why his quest for a certain perfection in writing is paid today by many people still reading his "thought-provoking" (to use a modern catch-phrase he surely would have criticized) books. The essay "Politics and the English Language" ends with these words, which have not lost their relevance:
|If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language--and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists--is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable. and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase--some JACKBOOT, ACHILLES' HEEL, HOTBED, MELTING POT, ACID TEST, VERITABLE INFERNO or other lump of verbal refuse--into the dustbin where it belongs. |
An interesting fact is that Orwell knew perfectly well how an aggressive politics of clear-cut clarity (with a reduction of available nuances, which he of course did not advocate) could be linked with dictatorship, as illustrated by "Newspeak", the language imposed to the population in 1984 (see for instance http://knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/1984/New_speak/).
Writings of Orwell's can be found online, especially on http://www.george-orwell.org/ (many writings available in full text); those who prefer PDF versions of printed editions should check out "archive dot org", for instance using:
I am into politics, so I especially enjoyed Animal Farm and 1984. I have to get around to reading 'The Road to Wigan Pier'. Is it worth it?
Haven't read The Road to Wigan Pier but I bet it's worth it. I've read passages of Burmese days lately and his capacity to render a situation through people's (sometimes conflicting) points of view is amazing.
Animal Farm was the only school-required book which I've read in two sittings.
Well, I read others in one sitting, then I quit reading it and went on to Sparknotes.
For those who can have access to recent issues of The New Yorker, there was an interesting article on Orwell's views and writings in the issue of April 13, 2009 (p. 54-63). In particular, the article compares and assesses the different types of writing Orwell used in his career (report, fiction, etc.).
|lagoon wrote: |
|I am into politics, so I especially enjoyed Animal Farm and 1984. I have to get around to reading 'The Road to Wigan Pier'. Is it worth it? |
I'm studying politics at the moment, and The Road to Wigan Pier was one of the first on the reading list. I've just finished it, and to sum it up, it's political commentary on 1930s Britain. It's definitely worth a read, regardless of whether or not politics interests you. If anything, it's a testament to just how hard life was at the time, and a stark contrast to todays world.
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I love all of George Orwell's work's Everyone of his books are masterpieces and I have found that his style of writing is very good. In 1984, I was depressed for almost a week about the ending, but his books give strong emotions, which is good.