Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays

Front Cover
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008 - Literary Collections - 308 pages
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.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
2
4 stars
2
3 stars
1
2 stars
0
1 star
0

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dypaloh - www.librarything.com

About his tramping days, George Orwell tells us in the opening essay of Facing Unpleasant Facts, “Already, at eight o’clock in the morning, we were bored…There was nothing to talk about except the ... Read full review

FACING UNPLEASANT FACTS: Narrative Essays

User Review  - Kirkus

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 ... Read full review

Contents

The Spike
1
Clink
11
A Hanging
23
Shooting an Elephant
29
Bookshop Memories
38
Marrakech
44
My Country Right or Left
52
Wartime Diary
59
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

England Your England
109
Dear Doktor GoebbelsYour 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
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
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2008)

The SpikeThe Adelphi, April 1931It 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-fcal 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 OrwellCompilation copyright 2008 by The Estate of the late Sonia Brownell OrwellForeword and Introduction copyright 2008 by George PackerAll 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.

Bibliographic information