An intellectual who did not like intellectuals, a socialist who did not trust the state, a writer of the left who found it easier to forgive writers of the right, a liberal who was against free markets, a Protestant who believed in religion but not in God, a fierce opponent of nationalism who defined Englishness for a generation. Aside from being one of the greatest political essayists in the English language and author of two of the most famous books in twentieth century literature, George Orwell was a man of many fascinating contradictions, someone who liked to go against the grain because he believed that was where the truth usually lay. George Orwell. English Rebel takes us on a journey through the many twists and turns of Orwell's life and thought, from the precocious public school satirist at Eton and the imperial policeman in Burma, through his early years as a rather dour documentary writer, down and out on the streets of Paris and London and on the road to Wigan pier, to his formative experiences as a volunteer soldier in the Spanish Civil War.
Above all, the book skilfully traces Orwell's gradual reconciliation with his country, a journey which began down a coal mine in 1936 to find its exhilarating peaks during the dark days of the Second World War.
An eloquent reminder that George Orwell loved his country rebelliously ... both timely and necessary Calum Mechie, TLS Full of learning and insight ... Colls is a lovely writer, who is fearless in a way that academics too often are not. He is happy to subvert cliches, make little speeches and is willing to permit useful generalisations ... There are several ways in which - quite apart from the success or otherwise of Colls' thesis - this book is a kind of Orwellian triumph. David Aaronovitch, New Statesman This is an excellent, provocative addition to Orwell ... an exceptionally interesting book ... Colls is now entitled to consider himself a prime ornament ... of Orwell studies. D. J. Taylor, The Guardian Colls is an honest and intelligent writer, interrogating a mind that he very much admires, about issues that he deeply cares about. Roger Scruton, The Times Illuminating insights ... [a] thought-provoking study Yvonne Sherratt, Times Higher Education Supplement This is the most sensible and systematic interpretation of George Orwell's books that I have ever read ... This biography's achievement is to give us back Orwell the writer - neither a saint, nor an infallible sage, but a perverse, intelligent commentator on his time, and also, on occasion, a superb critic A. N. Wilson, The Spectator A stunning piece of work, well researched, tautly written and often funny ... It is the best book on Orwell to appear for several years, erudite and original. It catches the extent to which Orwell lived on his wits better than any other account of his life. It's up there with Crick, Gordon Bowker and DJ Taylor. Paul Anderson, Tribune A compact intellectual biography with much political and social content ... There are useful critiques of Orwell's early "angry" novels, his gradual appreciation of the working class, and the political contradictions that he never fully resolved ... General readers will benefit from Colls's deft analysis of Orwell's writings and his attempt to pin down the author's politics. Library Journal [A] lucid work of intellectual biography Colls's engaging style and frequent bursts of astringent wit make for lively reading suitable for any Orwell enthusiast. Publishers Weekly A subtle, probing and refreshingly original study... the closest and most intimate portrait of Orwell to date John Gray, Literary Review Short, witty and intelligent, performing a valuable service by situating Orwell in the context of interwar history. Robert McGhee, Prospect There have been many books written about George Orwell but this is surely among the best. Rob Colls has taken on the man's Englishness, his personality, warts and all, and the elusive notion that he was a rebel in his own land. It's full of zesty prose, fine insights and a freshness of interpretation which made it a pleasure to read. It's a major achievement and a major work on George Orwell. Melvyn Bragg Colls identifies and analyses a strand of Orwell's authorship the importance of which has been consistently underestimated: Orwell's highly problematic relations with his English inheritance By showing how this concern changed its shape over time Colls has changed our view of Orwell's life and work, and offered a fresh perspective on a pivotal period in English intellectual and political history. John Gray, author of Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals This book should interest both informed general readers and serious students of Orwell's work, for it represents a judicious and all-too-rare example of being an absorbing intellectual biography undergirded by scrupulous literary scholarship. John Rodden, editor of The Cambridge Companion to George Orwell Colls has written a highly entertaining book in the good plain jargon-free prose style so valued by its subject. It has much for the general reader and student, and will ruffle a few ideological feathers which, as Orwell well knew, is always a good thing. Spokesman Penetrating historical exploration of Orwell's political imagination...Orwell himself would have enjoyed this good read. Daniel Ritschel, Journal of British Studies Brilliant analysis...makes a wonderful joke of the whole endeavour to pin down a contrarian. Englewood Review of Books, US d
Robert Colls is Professor of Cultural History at De Montfort University, Leicester. He was born in South Shields and educated at South Shields Grammar Technical School and the universities of Sussex and York. He has held fellowships at the universities of Oxford, Yale, and Dortmund, and with the Leverhulme Trust. He is author of the acclaimed Identity of England, which is also published by Oxford University Press (2002).
Preface and Acknowledgements ; Introduction ; 1. Angry Old Etonian ; 2. North Road ; 3. Eye Witness in Barcelona, 1937 ; 4. Mr Bowling Sees it Through ; 5. England the Whale ; 6. Not Quite Tory ; 7. Last of England ; 8. Death in the Family ; Life After Death: A Bibliographical Essay ; Notes ; Index