Summer reading: Why I Write

Why I Write

Why I Write
George Orwell
New York: Penguin Books, 2005

Earlier this year the work of George Orwell experienced a resurgence of interest when 1984 soared to the top of Amazon’s best seller list. A small book of his essays, published by Penguin Books as one of their “Great Ideas” series, is simply entitled Why I Write. In the title essay, originally published in 1946, Orwell chronicles his beginnings as a writer that will resonate with many: “When I was about sixteen I suddenly discovered the joy of mere words, i.e. the sounds and associations of words.” He goes on to consider the reasons for the underlying motivation of his desire to write that began around this time, e.g.: “1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after your death, to get your own back on grown ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc.”

In another longer essay, Orwell writes with detailed knowledge about the nature of class struggles, the politics of the British colonial empire as well as the political strife going on in Europe during the time of the Great Depression and the eve of World War II. His writing is as relevant today as when it was originally written. Consider this from the last paragraph from the final essay in this collection, entitled “Politics and the English Language”: “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.”

George Orwell’s writing is an example of eloquent truth telling that readers will refer to for generations.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!