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am 13. Juli 1998
When I was in high school in the 'sixties, I had to make a joint book report on Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984 for an American History class. I was so annoyed with this assignment that I wrote a vehemently nasty review. The teacher was vastly amused. He suggested that I read Road to Wigan Pier. I couldn't see anyway to niggle out of reading it, so I settled down to read it as perfunctorily as possible and still be able to convince the teacher that I had given it due thought. Instead, as I read, I became enthralled by Orwell's descriptions of life in a bleak industrial town in the north of England. I gained new respect for Eric Blair; I still didn't like 1984, but I understood better where he was coming from and why he wrote it.
I've thought about Road to Wigan Pier many times in the intervening years, and I just recently re-read it. It is still just as powerful and despairing. The non-fiction beats the fiction any day. I have an insig! ! htful teacher to thank for recommending this book.
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am 4. März 2000
Orwell's writing is alive. It interacts with you, striking you, caressing you, wiping away your tears, turning up the corners of your mouth in a smile. In The Road to Wigan Pier, he recreates for you this wonderfully real portrait of a working-class slum in 1930's England, and you can see how strongly he reacted to it. The first half is an almost overpowering description of the appalling conditions he found there, and it's all written Orwell's way: the floor so old it's transparent, the landlord with the black thumb, the sweaty claustrophobia of a coal mine. The second half of the book is Orwell's political standpoint of the time, which would alter radical over the course of his life. It's not exactly a watertight argument (it somehow feels unfinished), but Orwell, you must admit, is angry and he makes you angry. This is a very gutsy and well-written book
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am 31. Mai 2000
It's worth knowing that this book was originally commissioned by the Left Book Club, a Socialist book club in the UK, and when the manuscript arrived they realized Orwell had delivered more than they'd bargained for. In part one, Orwell brilliantly reports on the atrocious living and working conditions in northern England in the 1930s. His chapter covering his visit to a coal mine has been often anthologized, but the entire section consists of equally vivid portraits. In part two, Orwell discusses Socialism with such a jaundiced eye that it had the editors of the Left Book Club wondering if they could get away with printing only the first half of the book! Orwell did not fully believe in Socialism until he fought in the Spanish Civil War after "Wigan Pier" was printed, and contrary to the right-wingers who have claimed him as one of their own, Orwell was a dedicated Socialist to the day he died, but a skeptical one. Read "Wigan Pier," and for more information, read Orwell's diary he kept during his trip to the north in Volume 1 of the Collected Essays.
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am 30. November 1997
I am a big Orwell fan, but I had no idea what this book was about before I read it. I read it becasue I am from a Northern English working class background. George Orwell started out as a communist in his youth, and by the time he wrote his last book, 1984 he was a rabid anti-communist. I think this book marked his turning point. He wrote it for the communists. He describes the horrors of life in Northern England during the depression for the first half of the book, but in the second half of the book he analyses the causes of the problems in society and tries to use communist doctrine to explain how it will create a better world. I think, however, that while he goes through this intellectual exercise, he realizes that communism will not solve the worlds problems but will actually make them worse. This must have really pissed of the communists who he wrote the book for! I think this book was a personal turning point for Orwell and is a must read for people of all political stripes.
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am 7. April 1998
Orwell is a great author who gets his points across very clearly. He talks about the working class, miners especially, of Northern England, and how Socialism will help them. I can't imagine that many people think of the working class, and their hardships; and if they do, they don't _really_ pay attention to the details of their lives. Orwell does, and he talks about it in a way that you almost convert to Socialism--until he starts criticizing Socialism and Socialists. It makes you wonder why he was a Socialist at all.
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am 17. Oktober 1999
This is an excellent book. After having to read in high school (in the 1970s) both Animal Farm and 1984, I confess that I approached this book with some trepidation. However, Orwell's descriptions of life as a coal miner and his honest thoughts about Socialism, both in defense and in criticism, make me wonder why the English teachers of the early 1970s didn't have us read this book instead. It is much better written and more honest.
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am 24. Januar 2000
A politically niave and socially ignorant work of at least admirable intentions. A worthy read, but one should approach it with a cynical and open mind. Do not let Orwell spoon feed you with his prejudice. He attacks the entire middle class for being of one particular type and seeing the working class as another diametrically opposed type without seeing that he himself is guilty of the same crime, although the victims may be less 'worthy'. There is no blurring of the line, no consideration for specialist cases. Orwell's world is black and white, but mostly black. His views of socialists are appalling, as is his argument in favour. The heavy-handed emotive poignancy of the first half of the book is excessive in parts, although Orwell's descriptions of various wives in the same half of the book are utterly beautiful and make the book a must-read on their own. Any would-be socialists should read this, just for the feeling of indignant rage it gives you. Students of social policy or economic conditions in 1930s Britain will need to take it with a whole sack of salt.
Still, a massively entertaining and thought-provoking read. Go on, try it.
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