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  • Published: 1 June 2010
  • ISBN: 9781846553554
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 560
  • RRP: $45.00

A Life in Letters



The first one-volume edition devoted to Orwell's letters, including never-before-published Orwell correspondence

George Orwell was a tireless and lively correspondent. He communicated with family members, friends and newspapers, figures such as Henry Miller, Cyril Connolly, Stephen Spender and Arthur Koestler, and strangers who wrote to him out of the blue. This carefully selected volume of his correspondence provides an eloquent narrative of Orwell’s life, from his schooldays to his final illness.

Orwell’s letters afford a unique and fascinating view of his thoughts on matters both personal, political and much in between, from poltergeists, to girls’ school songs and the art of playing croquet. In a note home to his mother from school, he reports having ‘aufel fun after tea’; much later he writes of choosing a pseudonym and smuggling a copy of Ulysses into the country.

We catch illuminating glimpses of his family life: his son Richard’s developing teeth, the death of his wife Eileen and his own illness. His talent as a political writer comes to the fore in his descriptions of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, his opinions on bayonets, and on the chaining of German prisoners. And of course, letters to friends and his publisher chart the development and publication of some of the most famous novels in the English language, providing unparalleled insight into his views on his own work and that of his contemporaries.

A Life in Letters features previously unpublished material, including letters which shed new light on a love that would haunt him for his whole life, as well as revealing the inspiration for some of his most famous characters. Presented for the first time in a dedicated volume, this selection of Orwell’s letters is an indispensible companion to his diaries.

  • Published: 1 June 2010
  • ISBN: 9781846553554
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 560
  • RRP: $45.00

About the author

George Orwell

George Orwell (1903–1950) is one of England's most famous writers and social commentators. He is the author of the classic political satire Animal Farm and the dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is also well known for his essays and journalism, particularly his works covering his travels and his time fighting in the Spanish Civil War. His writing is celebrated for its piercing clarity, purpose and wit and his books continue to be bestsellers all over the world.

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Praise for A Life in Letters

This is the first time Orwell's life told through his letters, including several previously unpublished, has appeared. They have been selected and annotated by Peter Davison, the expert editor of the complete works... He hopes it will serve as a substitute for the autobiography that Orwell never wrote.

Daily Mail

Peter Davison's contribution to Orwell studies is not often enough celebrated...A Life in Letters contains nearly everything a reader new to Orwell needs to know about him, and a great deal that diehard fans will be enchanted to have.

DJ Taylor, New Statesman

Beautifully edited... One of the glories of this volume is that it shows Orwell in the round, complete with all his human idiosyncracies and contradictions. [Peter Davison's] attention to detail is nothing short of heroic... This is the authentic Orwell voice: wonderfully clear and fresh and forthright

Mail on Sunday

The theme of Mr Davison's new edition of the letters is compelling: a version of the life is told through the letters of the man himself...Unlike a conventional biography, the character of the subject comes through undiluted.

Sunday Telegraph

The best single-volume selection we could hope for

Edmund Gordon, Sunday Times

These letters offer a useful and enjoyable means of tracing the trajectory of his life, his changing cast of mind, his terrors, passions and yearnings

Times Literary Supplement

An utterly fascinating volume

Simon Leys, New York Review

It is the portable Orwell, the condensed autobiography that Orwell never wrote, but maybe had his health rallied, he would have. But this collection of letters - a few engaging ones from Eileeen, most written by Orwell to such distinguished correspondents as Arthur Koestler, David Astor, Anthony Powell, Stephen Spender and Cyril Connolly - is probably an improvement on a putative Life written by him... All [the letters] remain fresh, illuminating the complex paradox that was George Orwell.

Daily Telegraph

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