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Orwell's Roses

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“In the year 1936 a writer planted roses.” So begins Rebecca Solnit’s new book, a reflection on George Orwell’s passionate gardening and the way that his involvement with plants, particularly flowers, and the natural world illuminates his other commitments as a writer and antifascist, and the intertwined politics of nature and power.

Sparked by her unexpected encounter with the surviving roses he planted in 1936, Solnit’s account of this understudied aspect of Orwell’s life explores his writing and his actions—from going deep into the coal mines of England, fighting in the Spanish Civil War, critiquing Stalin when much of the international left still supported him (and then critiquing that left), to his analysis of the relationship between lies and authoritarianism. Through Solnit’s celebrated ability to draw unexpected connections, readers encounter the photographer Tina Modotti’s roses and her Stalinism, Stalin’s obsession with forcing lemons to grow in impossibly cold conditions, Orwell’s slave-owning ancestors in Jamaica, Jamaica Kincaid’s critique of colonialism and imperialism in the flower garden, and the brutal rose industry in Colombia that supplies the American market. The book draws to a close with a rereading of Nineteen Eighty-Four that completes her portrait of a more hopeful Orwell, as well as a reflection on pleasure, beauty, and joy as acts of resistance.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published October 19, 2021

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About the author

Rebecca Solnit

100 books6,895 followers
Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering  and walking, hope and disaster, including Call Them By Their True Names (Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction), Cinderella LiberatorMen Explain Things to Me, The Mother of All Questions, and Hope in the Dark, and co-creator of the City of Women map, all published by Haymarket Books; a trilogy of atlases of American cities, The Faraway NearbyA Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in DisasterA Field Guide to Getting LostWanderlust: A History of Walking, and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). Her forthcoming memoir, Recollections of My Nonexistence, is scheduled to release in March, 2020. A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a columnist at the Guardian and a regular contributor to Literary Hub.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 576 reviews
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews609 followers
October 25, 2021
“In 1936, a writer planted roses”…..
A beautiful tribute to George Orwell …..a passionate gardener, especially flowers,
….(who knew?)….

Rebecca Solnit said she wrote this book in a time of intense crisis, around climate environment, and nature, around human rights, democracy, media, technology, gender, and race, and around the questions of who would be allowed to speak and who would check the liars.
“Living for a few years with one foot in Orwell’s time made me think about who did Orwell’s work in our own. The political essayists, historians, journalists, the media and technology critics, the dissidents and whistleblowers, the human rights and climate organizers and organizers of the marginalized and devalued were compelling presences for me all through the years this book took shape, some as public figures I read or listened to, some as friends and acquaintances whose conversations and examples kept me going, some as both. There were so many…..
“Thanks to the Berkeley and San Francisco Rose Gardens and their gardeners and the principles that funded roses for the public”.

I felt this book celebrated both George Orwell and Rebecca Solnit.
Anyone who examines the life of a lifelong gardener….builds character strength, heals and empowers …..
such as a reminder that during the coronavirus lockdown, people in record numbers began cultivating victory Gardens.
The perfect antidote to dealing with a crisis.

A blooming, blossoming beauty of a book!
Profile Image for Adam Dalva.
Author 8 books1,645 followers
April 9, 2022
Solnit's a great writer, and it's impossible for me to go any lower than this for this book, which is masterful on the line level and taught me a lot, but its meanderings were occasionally frustrating. I'm aware that this is a me problem, and it probably won't be a you problem, but I was SO fascinated by the roses material and the Orwell material, and occasionally the tangents (one in particular on the photography of roses) left me a bit impatient for the central thread to return. This is like complaining about the rain, I understand. And yet.
Profile Image for Alwynne.
645 reviews736 followers
September 23, 2021
“So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects, and scraps of useless information.”
– George Orwell

Gardening’s an act of faith, a gesture of hope in the future, that vegetables we plant will grow, that seeds will sprout and someday flowers will burst forth in a riot of colour and scent. By focusing on George Orwell’s love of gardens, his carefully nurtured roses, Rebecca Solnit’s highlighting an aspect of Orwell that’s often overlooked. An Orwell who found joy, or reasons for optimism, in small things and in connection with nature, contradicting the popular image of someone essentially earnest or solemn. Solnit’s riveting study of Orwell’s an unconventional one, moving away from standard academic appraisals or linear biography. Instead, she plays to her strengths here, looking at her subject from a variety of angles, spinning out through an array of ideas, associations and, apparent digressions, inspired by her initial reflections on Orwell’s roses.

Roses lead Solnit to an iconic photograph by Tina Modotti who later renounced art as a bourgeois distraction from political activism. Modotti’s attitude’s not one Orwell shared. He writes about taking pleasure in a blackbird’s song or a view of a blossoming tree, all the things that reminded him of what made life worthwhile. This divide between politics and culture’s central to Solnit’s discussion. She searches out passages in Orwell’s writing that counter a belief that serious political engagement leaves no space for art or literature or that these are no more than frivolous diversions. Like Orwell, Solnit sees an activity like raising roses as a way to regenerate, to think about what it is that she values. But Orwell didn’t celebrate nature in an unthinking way and neither does Solnit. A portrait of Orwell’s ancestor on his rolling acres of land sparks a discussion of how representations of nature can disguise harsher realities – a reliance on slavery that paid for the portrait and the land it depicts. Solnit’s visit to a Columbian rose farm exposes a similar attempt at masking truths, one that allows us to buy roses on Valentine’s Day without any sense of the conditions they’re grown in or the treatment of the workers who grew them. Solnit relates these examples to Orwell’s broader interest in the manipulation of reality: Winston’s world in 1984, Stalin’s lies and omissions, political lies and lying politicians.

I’ve read some of Orwell’s fiction and dipped into his other writings but I don’t have a particular interest in him or his life. Despite this, I found Solnit’s treatment of Orwell utterly compelling. It’s never less than thought-provoking but it’s also entertaining and accessible, admirably disciplined and beautifully-written. I’m sure if I picked at it there are places where it might unravel: some areas are touched on a little too briefly, some threads are a little too loose. But I’m not sure that that matters, I think Solnit’s aim is to share her perspective on Orwell, to examine what he represents for her. She’s trying to set off chains of associations in her readers rather than present them with an exhaustive or settled account. And this is far from settled, it’s a journey not a final destination, a conversation not a lecture, a restless, probing, skilful mix of analytical and deeply personal.

Many thanks to Netgalley and to Granta Publications for an arc

Rating: 4.5
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books969 followers
December 8, 2021
"Books were banned, facts were banned, poets were banned, ideas were banned. It was an empire of lies. The lies -- the assault on language -- were the necessary foundation for all the other assaults."

"The first victim of war is truth, goes the old saying, and a perpetual war against truth undergirds all authoritarianisms from the domestic to the global. After all, authoritarianism is itself, like eugenics, a kind of elitism premised on the idea that power should be distributed unequally."

Above all else, this book is about an author and authoritarianism. Its release this year couldn't be more appropriate, given the rise or enduring nature of authoritarians in Russia, China, Hungary, Poland, Belarus, Turkey, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc. If any author is associated with anti-authoritarian sentiments, it is George Orwell (Eric Blair), whose name has become an overworked adjective, even, since 2016 and thanks to Jan. 6th, in the United States.

Speaking of the United States, this book ostensibly about Orwell and roses (he planted a garden, which became a metaphor for his love of the simple life, of our existence here as opposed to some afterlife, of his belief that privacy and truth and facts and language all meant something), also devotes a lot of attention to the simple act of lying. We consider it a child's fault that is best unlearned, but it is the preferred weapon of authoritarians who are far, far away from their childhoods.

"As withheld information, a lie is a sort of shield for the liar; as falsity it is a sword. It matters whether or not people believe the lies, but unbelievable lies wielded by those with power do their own damage. To be forced to live with the lies of the powerful is to be forced to live with your own lack of power over the narrative, which in the end can mean lack of power over anything at all. Authoritarians see truth and fact and history as a rival system they must defeat."

Proof positive that George Orwell, were he alive today, would be all over elected officials who are so-called defenders of the U.S. Constitution yet are busy rewriting the history of Jan. 6, 2021. In the vanguard, of course, is Trump, a man Solnit sees little point in mentioning until the final pages because a.) it's painfully obvious and b.) many writers have done so before her. And so she focuses on the likes of Joseph Stalin (a lemon guy vs. a rose guy), the Chinese government, and all other notorious controllers of past and present.

Words matter, as does propaganda. Thus Nineteen Eighty-Four and its exposé of the authoritarian playbook. Thus the warning bells sounding around us when we see the likes of Tucker Carlson and his Fox cronies on our television sets. Like the Soviets' ironically-named Pravda (Truth) of old, they are symptomatic of these 1930's-like times -- a time only helped by the pressures of the pandemic, of countries run by gangs and thugs using nationalism to make political hay over migrants seeking a better life, of a world quickly melting, burning, and drowning in its own climactic atrocities made in the name of power and greed.

In short, there could be no better time for lies and those who use it to gain and then retain power.

Though it is not a biography, the book offers readers a lot of information on George Orwell, his life, his politics, and his literary precepts. You will also learn a lot about roses, of all things. Solnit herself visits Columbia, where so many of the West's flowers come from in conditions not unlike the sweat shops feeding our hunger for cheap clothing.

In typical Solnit fashion, the hip bone's connected to the leg bone, and one essay's subject leads to another. But still, perhaps more than her other works, she remains rather disciplined here. Orwell. Orwellian. Truth. Lies. Even Silicon Valley. She refers to Internet giants and social networks (Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as another "superpower" gathering, controlling, and selectively distributing information (some facts, many lies) for profit -- all to a degree that authoritarian governments can only dream of and, in fact, seek to replicate for their own purposes.

More irony, isn't it? China blocking an episode of The Simpsons because it is unflattering to the ruling regime there. China and Russia seeking to control parts of the Internet because it rivals and can even surpass or contradict their own agendas. Thus we get an Internet that giveth and taketh away, depending on the country and its circumstances.

No wonder Orwell just wanted to grow a garden and go fishing. Alas, his conscience wouldn't let him. He had to write Nineteen Eighty-Four and many other books and essays as a warning. The only question now is, will he be heeded by the masses, or must they learn the hard way like their mid-Twentieth century predecessors?

As Orwell is mostly known for a book, I'd say the odds are stacked against him and in favor of much easier to assimilate and mimic sound bites, misinformation, Internet echo chambers, and lies from politicians who love TV for its friendliness to and facility for liars.
Profile Image for elle.
279 reviews7,461 followers
September 9, 2023
literally SO brilliant and fantastic—god i forgot how much i enjoyed reading nonfiction. brain food at its best.

full review to come


i love orwell and i love roses so i am reading this
Profile Image for Julie Stielstra.
Author 5 books20 followers
February 1, 2023
I'm fascinated by George Orwell. I've read a number of Rebecca Solnit's essays with pleasure. So I was attracted to this book exploring Orwell's passion for gardening, for roses, for nature. Solnit notes that this is not a facet of the austere, serious, "Gothic" Orwell we often hear about - she drily mentions that one biography (which I happen to have read - and reviewed here - recently) is titled: George Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation. She and a tree-loving friend discover that Orwell planted fruit trees in his garden, and track down the location. The current owners are hospitable and welcoming, but inform them that the fruit trees were cut down years ago. But the rosebushes he planted are still blooming, would they like to see them? "Hell, yes," Solnit reportedly replies. And so she embarks on this project, to examine what Orwell's roses meant to him, what they might mean to us, how we might see them as an essential aspect of life that transcends the political, the pragmatic, the utilitarian... and the fascist and the totalitarian.

Which is all well and good. When she sticks to Orwell. Unfortunately, there are multiple digressions, such as the evolution and biology of roses (and flowers in general), or the life and art of photographer and revolutionary Tina Modotti (who took a famous photograph of roses). The chapters "Empire of Lies" and "Forcing Lemons" are very good pieces on how Stalin's politics made its own use of botanical genetics and agriculture, leading to the deaths of millions by famine or murder of scientists who objected. Then we are on to a portrait of Orwell's great-great-grandfather and the history of enclosures and landscape gardening in Europe, thence to the English nobility's reliance on slavery and the sugar trade to prop up its gardens. When I hit the chapter on Ralph Lauren's chintz roses fashion design, I got restless and began to skim. A chapter on a New Yorker writer from Antigua who gardened in Vermont. Coal mining. Commercial rose cultivation in Colombia. I kept waiting for Orwell to return. And finally decided not to wait any more, though I know I must have just missed him here and there.

The intentions are so good. Solnit says elsewhere in interviews that she wanted to explore Orwell's gardening as a way of looking for how someone like him - a deeply committed political animal - could fill in the gaps, to live outside or beyond those parameters; how to respond when a critic snipes: "Oh, flowers are bourgeois." What *value* does art, music, literature - and roses - have; why do we want *both* bread and roses? Some chapters are simply tied in with too slender a thread. I greatly enjoyed finding out about Orwell's passion and what it meant to him; her analyses of totalitarianism are trenchant and apt. There are finely-expressed ideas demanding attention throughout, such as: "Orwell wrote in 1944, 'The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits "atrocities," but that it attacks the concept of objective truth."... The attack on truth and language makes atrocities possible. If you can erase what has happened, silence the witnesses, convince people of the merit of supporting a lie [italics mine], if you can terrorize people into silence, obedience, lies; if you can make the task of determining what is true so impossible or dangerous that they stop trying, you can perpetuate your crimes."

But I simply got tired of wading through the thorny foliage and the cloying scent of roses.
Profile Image for Vesna.
218 reviews128 followers
December 18, 2021
Orwell is renowned for what he wrote against—authoritarianism and totalitarianism, the corruption of language and politics by lies and propaganda (and sloppiness), the erosion of the privacy that underlies liberty. From those forces, it’s possible to determine what he was for: equality and democracy, clarity of language and honesty of intentions, private life and all its pleasures and joys, the freedom and liberty that also depend to some extent on privacy from supervision and intrusion, and the pleasures of immediate experience.
In this latest book of her essays, Rebecca Solnit shows us Orwell’s less familiar side, which she uncovers from his diaries and essays, an Englishman of yesterday who took pleasures in his simple homestead life, pastoral landscapes, and the beauty of nature, animals and flowers. He grew his own roses with meticulous and loving care, whose beauty inspired countless poets and painters throughout the centuries. The sheer enjoyment in their beauty and, more generally, intangible things as Orwell found in his cottage and countryside epitomizes the meaningful interior of one’s private life. Its meaning figures in the suffragist slogan “breads and roses” to which Solnit devotes one chapter and keeps turning to this central theme as she searches for an answer to how to make a good life as private individuals while, at the same time, conscientiously responding to larger social injustices, power corruption, and environmental destruction.

Through Orwell’s roses as a central metaphor, Solnit then directs us to their other side. Despite their beauty (“The beauty of flowers is not merely visual; it’s metaphysical…”), as everything else, the commercialized world has transformed them into quantifiable commodities. And, as everything else that is commodified, they can turn repulsively ugly with their unnatural looking bouquets masking over the hard labor in their mass production, as we learn from Solnit’s sobering account of her visit to the Colombian floral factory.
Was the ugliness in the roses for being produced in such a way or in us for failing to see it? Had the roses become lies of a sort, seeming to be one thing but being in truth another? Were they now emblems of deceit, a kind of counterfeit rose signifying formal beauty rather than their own conditions of production? Much of Orwell’s work was about ugliness of various kinds, but what he found hideous serves as a negative image of what he found beautiful.
Taking Orwell’s life and works as a point of departure, Solnit takes us into the multifaceted nature of these contradictions in today’s world, happening both somewhere there in modern versions of physical and ideological gulags and over here in our own lives disconnected from nature and the simplicity of meaningful life. It’s a superb homage from one essayist to another, who was her inspiration as her thoughtful and beautifully written book (though with occasional digressions and sometimes loose connections) should inspire any reader.

My thanks to Granta Publications for an ARC via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Bob Brinkmeyer.
Author 8 books55 followers
June 22, 2022
Rebecca Solnit’s wonderful book, Orwell’s Roses, is indeed about the roses Orwell planted in his country garden but it’s also about so much more—nuanced and insightful discussions of the pleasures and solace of gardening, of the horticultural industry (particularly the factory farming of roses in Colombia—if you don’t know about this, you’ll think twice about ever buying a bouquet of roses again), of the mind- and time-altering powers of trees, of the ways the natural world shaped Orwell’s vision of and resistance to the horrors of totalitarianism. As all this suggests, Orwell’s Roses is a wide-ranging work of literary and cultural criticism, beautifully written and immensely wise.

There are so many things one could talk about here, but I will limit myself to a few of Solnit’s discussions that had the strongest impact on me. I was early on struck by Solnit’s provocative statement, “If war has an opposite, gardens might sometimes be it, and people have found a particular kind of peace in forests, meadows, parks, and gardens.” This made me think of Elaine Scarry’s provocative book, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, in which she argues that the opposite of war and torture is the act of making in which you project your love and sense of purpose into the object you construct. Certainly, gardening is an act of making in this sense, an activity grounded in hope, care, and nurture, an act in which the gardener projects his or her love into the plants he or she tends.

All of this was relevant to Orwell, who, as Solnit argues, gained much from his gardening to deepen and enrich his unyielding efforts against social and political injustice. Unlike some critics who dismissed Orwell’s discussions of gardening as distracting from his political concerns, Solnit convincingly argues that Orwell’s intense love of nature was crucial in the construction of his political vision as well as being a stabilizing and rejuvenating force in his personal life. For Orwell, gardening might best be understood (establishing another pair of opposites) as the opposite to totalitarianism, a realm of fostering and support standing against a world of brutal coercion and enforced uniformity.

Orwell also felt deeply about trees (something I share), and several of his observations cited by Solnit struck me deeply. “The planting of a tree,” Orwell observes, “especially the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.” And this: “An oak or a beech may live for hundreds of years and be a pleasure to thousands or tens of thousands of people before it is finally sawn up into timber. I am not suggesting that one can discharge all one’s obligations towards society by means of a private re-afforestation scheme. Still, it might not be a bad idea, every time you commit an antisocial act, to make a note of it in your diary, and then, at the appropriate season, push an acorn into the ground.” (I’ve planted a number of trees in my lifetime, and I have often gone back, sometimes at great distance, to check on the trees, being more concerned about them than the houses in which I lived.) In these increasingly dark and dangerous times, one might keep in mind Octavia Butler’s observation that stands as Orwell's Roses epigraph: “The very act of trying to look ahead to discern possibilities and offer warnings is in itself an act of hope.” Observing and appreciating trees help in keeping this perspective in view.

A first-rate book, cultural criticism at its best.
Profile Image for Jen Burrows.
344 reviews13 followers
August 30, 2021
As Solnit states in the opening pages, this is not a straightforward biography of Orwell. Instead, it's a meandering collection of essays that take Orwell's life - or rather, one moment in Orwell's life - as a doorway opening out onto reflections on nature, politics, art and truth.

It's also a celebration of essay writing as an art form, and of the multitudinal journeys you can take from any one start point. There is not really any better way to explore Orwell's world than through the form he dedicated much of his writing life to.

As with all of Solnit's writing, Orwell's Roses is a thoughtful and thought-provoking rumination on a theme that takes you far beyond the bounds of what you were expecting.

*Thank you to Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
682 reviews397 followers
April 6, 2022
Absolutely breathtaking and incredible book.

Surprised as I had zero expectations.

Be still my heart:

“There’s an Etruscan word, saeculum, that describes the span of time lived by the oldest person present, sometimes calculated to be about a hundred years. In a looser sense, the word means the expanse of time during which something is in living memory. Every event has its saeculum, and then its sunset when the last person who fought in the Spanish Civil War or the last person who saw the last passenger pigeon is gone. To us, trees seemed to offer another kind of saeculum, a longer time scale and deeper continuity, giving shelter from our ephemerality the way that a tree might offer literal shelter under its boughs.”
Profile Image for Deea.
312 reviews88 followers
June 7, 2022
One of my biggest pleasures when I go to the UK is to look for Charity Shops or go to a few favourite ones whenever I go to London. It’s in one of these cute shops from Edinburgh that I found a 50p(ence) candle holder that looks amazingly nice. Whenever I see it, it reminds me of the special time I spent in Scotland. It’s easy to find gems like these in charity shops, but it’s rather the search for them that gives me pleasure, not the objects themselves, and I associate this search with some sort of modern (non-conventional) treasure hunt.
“He described the appeal of these shops to “the jackdaw inside all of us, the instinct that makes a child hoard copper nails, clock springs, and the glass marbles out of lemonade bottles. To get pleasure out of a junk shop you are not obliged to buy anything, nor even to want to buy anything.
Apparently this was one of Orwell’s biggest pleasures as well, together with gardening or drinking tea. He had a whole ritual when it came to drinking tea (so British of him!). I must admit, this might not appeal much to other readers, but I had a sense of kinship with Orwell while reading these particular details about his personality.
“On the twelfth of January he published an essay on the proper way to make a cup of tea, about which he had strong opinions: water straight from a boiling kettle, loose tea in abundance, from India and not China if possible, in a ceramic or china teapot, and most controversially, and adamantly, the tea in the cup first, and not the milk. No sugar.”
This book is and it isn’t about Orwell. And by this I mean that it’s not just a biography of Orwell. It is about many other things as well: about roses and trees, but also about global warming and totalitarian regimes, about the injustices of the world, about the wrongs done by the British empire throughout the world through colonialism, about the millions of people killed by Stalin, about truths we choose to ignore rather than deal with because it’s more comfortable that way.
“England’s national flower is the red Tudor rose. But the prickly truth is that the English owe much of their wealth to another blood-red flower; the poppy,[…]”
The book is also about the horrendous work conditions in coal mines, about how poorly workers in rose factories from the Carribeans are treated in order for us to have enough cheap roses for Valentines’ day or Mother’s Day. But although I might have given the impression that Solnit only focuses on the negative, she does not. She also writes about the types of roses that have been cultivated all over the world and about the history of the rose. She writes about the positive connotations they are associated with, about how even the Nazis could be moved by plants, about the idyllic beauty of the English gardens (even though many of the people owning them had become rich by exploiting slaves in the colonies).

There are also lots of ecological echoes throughout it and I particularly enjoyed a chapter about the Carboniferous period as it was suffused with details about plants that I didn’t really know about. Well, this is not something one has not written about before, but the way Solnit addresses the subject is quite unique.
“Think of the Carboniferous as a sixty-million-year inhale by plants, sucking carbon dioxide from the sky, and the last two hundred years as a monstrous human-engineered exhale, undoing what the plants did so long ago.”
I am not very fond of reading biographies in general and I might not have picked this book up had it not been written by Solnit. Although it was less dreamy than the other two I have really enjoyed by her (“A Field Guide to Getting Lost” and “The Faraway Nearby”) and more fact-oriented, it was still poetic at times and full of beautiful ideas and I must admit that I even enjoyed finding out some less-known facts about Orwell, like the ones about junk shops or tea or funny things like the one in the next quote.
“In 1938, he and Eileen named their dog Marx “to remind us that we have never read Marx,” Eileen (his wife) wrote to a friend, adding “now we have read a little and taken so strong a personal dislike to the man that we can’t look the dog in the face.””
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,738 reviews475 followers
June 29, 2022
"In the spring of 1936, a writer planted roses."

Author Rebecca Solnit shows us how George Orwell loved nature and the environment. Orwell was a writer who brought the natural world into his essays and novels. Even in the grim times of his political book "Nineteen Eighty-Four," Winston Smith dreams of a beautiful landscape that he calls the Golden Country.

"Orwell's Roses" is a collection of 27 essays, some about Orwell's life or his writing, while others go off on tangents. For example, when Solnit writes about Orwell's ancestors, she also tells about the sugar plantations in Jamaica where enslaved Africans labored. When Solnit discusses roses, she tells about a trip to Colombia to visit the greenhouses that supply American florists, and the poor working conditions in the "rose factories." Tangents about the Spanish Civil War and the policies of Stalin accompany Solnit's discussions of Orwell's writing.

Solnit visited the cottage in Wallington where Orwell planted roses in 1936. He also planted a garden and fruit trees, raised a few animals, and enjoyed fishing. Plagued by lifelong respiratory problems, it was good for his health to get away from the coal smoke of London. He was also escaping the dangers of the blitz when he moved to the English village.

His last residence was on the remote Scottish island of Jura where he hoped the clean air would help in his fight against tuberculosis. Again, he had a large garden and loved to spend time outdoors fishing. Orwell requested that rose bushes mark his gravesite.

This was an exceptional collection of essays. While it helped to have such an interesting subject as Orwell, Solnit is a brilliant writer who finds unexpected connections in her essays.
Profile Image for lavenderews.
588 reviews751 followers
May 20, 2023
Wyczerpująca, jednak bardzo nużąca i moim zdaniem nie przyciągająca uwagi. Ogromnie wymagająca lektura, która niestety mnie zawiodła, bo spodziewałam się czegoś zupełnie innego.
Profile Image for Tamara Agha-Jaffar.
Author 6 books253 followers
November 13, 2022
Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit is proof—although proof is hardly necessary—that Solnit is a great thinker whose prose is articulate, insightful, and thought-provoking. In this book, she takes as her starting point an invitation to view the roses George Orwell planted in the Hertfordshire garden of his rented cottage in Wallington. Solnit explores George Orwell’s life, politics, writing, and passion for gardening and for all things of the earth. Solnit begins most of the seven sections in the book with variations of the words, “In the spring of 1936, a writer planted roses.” From these very simple words, she introduces us to the brilliant mind of George Orwell.

Solnit Traces Orwell’s career, includes biographical details of his life and political convictions, cites copiously from his essays and novels, and probes his ideas. She explains why Orwell changed his name from Eric Blair to George Orwell. She explores the impact his slave-owning ancestors in Jamaica had on his political views. She argues convincingly that his passion for social justice was intertwined with his passion for gardening, for connecting with nature, and for the ordinary and mundane that endowed his life with meaning. She highlights Orwell’s discerning eye for detail and for list-making. She commends him for having the courage of his convictions and for putting his life on the line for his political beliefs. Through his writing, Orwell exposed the brutal working conditions of coal miners by experiencing first-hand what work in a coal mine was like. He joined the fight against fascism in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. He argued vociferously about the crucial role language plays in determining the nature of society—whether it is totalitarian or one premised on liberty and individual freedoms.

Orwell’s words and thoughts are catalysts for Solnit’s own journey. She explores the symbolism of roses. She takes the reader to Colombia to expose the horrendous working conditions of those employed in the assembly line production of roses. She looks into the origins of the political slogan “Bread and Roses” and analyzes its symbolism. She draws connections with Tina Modotti’s roses and Stalin’s lemons. She echoes Orwell’s concern for the distance between a product—whether it is coal or roses—and the back-breaking labor it took to produce it. Like Orwell, she sings the praises of art as an act of resistance and as a means of replenishing the soul. And she concludes with a discussion of Orwell’s 1984.

Solnit’s elegant meanderings and far-reaching connections cover a wide range of topics. At its core, this is a collection of interlinked essays, political in nature, about the struggle for justice and freedom; the goals of totalitarian governments and the means by which they achieve them; the exploitation of labor; human suffering; and the devastations caused by climate change. It is also about the beauty and joy to be found in nature, in art, and in the mundane activities of everyday life. And, finally, it is a celebration of the sensitive, grounded, socially conscious, progressive, and brilliant mind of George Orwell.

Very highly recommended for the revelations about George Orwell and for the lucidity of Solnit’s insights and the elegance of her prose.

My book reviews are also available at www.tamaraaghajaffar.com
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,735 reviews2,338 followers
February 9, 2023
Outstanding in scope, Solnit's ideas cannot quite be contained with in these covers.
Great "snippets", each chapter being almost an essay in and of itself, tangentially relating to Orwell and/or his roses. Probably best appreciated by readers familiar with Orwell, his life, and his oeuvre.

I wanted more cohesiveness, but I also really appreciated what she did here.

Profile Image for María Carpio.
204 reviews64 followers
March 5, 2023
Si digo Eric Blair, nadie sabrá de quién hablo. Y es que George Orwell no se llamaba George Orwell, pero así se llamó para ser el escritor que fue. Rebeca Solnit no escribe una biografía, ni una crónica en primera persona, ni un ensayo, pero hace todo ello en este magnífico libro híbrido en el que no solo nos cuenta la vida del escritor de la distopía más famosa jamás escrita (1984), sino que ahonda en detalles de su vida como el mantenimiento de un jardín y una huerta en sus últimos días, así como el cultivo de rosas con el que engancha toda una narración a partir de la observación detallada de la cualidad de estas flores. Así, en la línea de vida de Orwell aparece la Guerra Civil Española, su compromiso político, su matrimonio y la adopción de su hijo, el desarrollo y escritura de sus obras, sus ideas sobre la política, y su larga enfermedad, todo ello conectado con la anécdota de Stalin cultivando un limonero imposible, y también la historia de la activista militante y artista Tina Modoti, además de una crónica con una reflexión acerca de la explotación en las plantaciones de rosas en Colombia. Solnit combina todos estos elementos -al parecer sin relación entre unos y otros- con una sólida crítica al sistema y la sociedad actuales, sobre todo poniendo énfasis en esa visión anti-totalitarista que plasmó Orwell en su célebre obra, por la que se le acusó incluso de anticomunista, lo que le convirtió en uno de los primeros críticos mordaces del Comunismo y Socialismo aún habiendo sido partidario de estas ideologías. El análisis que hace Solnit de las motivaciones del escritor es muy relevante y contiene ideas refrescadas, como aquella que le rescata de la constante acusación de pesimismo acerca del futuro del mundo. Para Solnit, 1984 es en realidad una esperanza de que los totalitarismos no prosperarán (esto por el documento final que aparece en la novela) y que, además, la belleza inherente al ser y al mundo, no desaparece (esto en la figura del protagonista de 1984, cuando antes de que se lo lleven detenido observa a una mujer de 50 años, obesa, cansada, trabajando incansable, y entiende que ese cuerpo, aún cuando no es joven, es hermoso en sí mismo). Libro recomendado para contextualizar la obra de Orwell y con un plus de la autora.
Profile Image for Cristina Di Matteo.
629 reviews21 followers
December 29, 2022
LE ROSE DI ORWELL di Rebecca Solnit. Un saggio per parlare delle radici dell’anti-totalitarismo di Orwell che si oppone alla visione di Stalin, dittatoriale anche nel rapporto con la natura e la coltivazione. Botanica e polita: le rose contro tutti i totalitarismi. ❤ https://ilmondodichri.com/le-rose-di-...

#lerosediorwell #rebeccasolnit #ponteallegrazie
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,675 reviews2,667 followers
August 27, 2022
I was fascinated by the concept behind this one. “In the spring of 1936 a writer planted roses” is Solnit’s refrain; from there sprawls a book that’s somehow about everything: botany, geology, history, politics and war – as well as, of course, George Orwell’s life and works. On a trip to England with a friend who is a documentary filmmaker, Solnit had the impulse to go find what might be left of Orwell’s garden. When she arrived in the Hertfordshire village of Wallington, the current owners of his home kindly showed her round. His fruit trees had long since been cut down, but the rosebushes were still going strong some 80 years later.

This goes down as a skim for me: though I read the first 30%, after that I just browsed to the end. Some side tracks lost me, e.g. Tina Modotti’s presentation of roses in her photographs; Orwell’s interest in mining, which leads Solnit to investigate how coal is formed; much history; and a week spent observing the rose-growing industry in Colombia. I most enjoyed the book when it stayed close to Orwell’s biography and writings, positing gardening as his way of grounding his ideas in the domestic and practical. “Pursuits like that can bring you back to earth from the ether and the abstractions.” I also liked – briefly, at least – thinking about the metaphorical associations of roses, and flowers in general.

If you’ve read Solnit before, you’ll know that her prose is exquisite, but I think this was the stuff of a long article rather than a full book. As it is, it’s a pretty indulgent project.

Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.
Profile Image for Jolanta (knygupe).
892 reviews189 followers
November 30, 2021
Orwellas ir rožės.  

Viena iš tų maloniai nustebinančių knygų.
JAV rašytoja ir kovotoja už žmogaus teises Rebecca Solnit apžvelgia britų rašytojo, antifašisto George Orwello biografiją. Jo asmeninį gyvenimą, politinius ir socialinius įsitikinimus, jų kaitą, jo kūrybą ir didžiulę aistrą gamtai, sodininkystei ir rožėms. Žodžiu - autorė, analizuodama jo kūrybą, kritikuoja totalitarizmą ir aršųjį kapitalizmą. 

Kartu tai labai keistas skaitinys. Mano skoniui, vietomis per toli nuklejojantis į gėlių simboliką menuose.  Tačiau skaityti tikrai verta.

Rožių krūmelis prie George Orwello (tikras vardas - Eric Arthur Blair) kapo. 
Profile Image for Makenzie.
315 reviews7 followers
November 21, 2021
4.5 stars—do you ever read a book and feel like it was written especially for you?
Profile Image for Barbara K..
429 reviews86 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
September 1, 2023
I might try this again sometime, but the audio version isn’t working for me. Solnit is an excellent writer; not such a good narrator. Her voice is gentle and monotone and, sadly, soporific. Maybe someday in print…
Profile Image for Aita.
31 reviews
December 30, 2021
Would recommend as a natural alternative to Ambien. This book is painfully boring. At least I learned random facts that may come in handy if I make it on to jeopardy one day.
Profile Image for Richard Thompson.
1,967 reviews97 followers
October 11, 2022
I mostly agree with Rebecca Solnit's point of view, and her writing style is so excellent that she is a pleasure to read even when I disagree with her. But it is precisely my disagreements with her that keep bringing me back to her books because she challenges me to look a little differently at things about which I thought I already had settled opinions. George Orwell was equally challenging and hard to pin down. He was for the people, but very self-consciously not of the people, a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War on the side of freedom, who saw all the weaknesses and self destructive tendencies of the Republican cause, a socialist who wrote the iconic anti-communist novels, "Animal Farm" and "1984." And now we learn that this famously practical independent thinking political writer was a lover of roses. I liked him before, but after learning this about him, as a gardener myself, I now consider him to be fully redeemed.

And this brings me back to Ms. Solnit, who suggests that flower gardening, and in particular rose gardening, is an expression of aesthetic values - beauty without purpose. She talks about the slogan "Bread and Roses" which meant that oppressed people needed and had a right to more than just food. To live the full life that every human has a right to enjoy, you must also have access to beauty and an opportunity to enjoy it. Now that's an idea that I can get behind. She also talks about how the joy of country living is a myth created by the upper classes. The poor people fled rural poverty and had no great urge to retun to country life. So it may be true that when I garden, I'm living out a rich man's fantasy, but I prefer to think that it is a way to show care for nature and to appreciate the beauty in the world around me. Gardening lets me be a master of nature but also to be part of it and to mold it into my desired image, but to do so respectfully, coaxing cooperation out of the plants, water, sun and soil, while at the same time getting my hands dirty and engaging in honest toil. Yes for sure it a play form of toil, but I still get almost as tired, dirty and cut up from a full day of gardening as any farm hand. This aspect of gardening as care, communion and labor is largely missing from Ms. Solnit's discussion, though I'll warrant that it was part of what drew Orwell back to his roses.
Profile Image for Joe.
544 reviews
January 12, 2022
Another extraordinary book from Rebecca Solnit.

In this one she argues not just for “bread, and roses too”—with roses serving as a kind of add-on to a program for social change, but for the necessity of bread and roses together, for sustenance and pleasure, work and joy, as equal components of a fully-lived politics and life. As part of this argument, she offers an appreciation of George Orwell, usually viewed by even his admirers as one of the most dour of English authors, as a writer who also took great pleasure in the natural and sensual world.

And then, in one of her signature reversals, Solnit complicates this endorsement of beauty and joy, symbolized by the rose, in a section exposing the brutal factory conditions in which most of the commercial roses for the US market are produced (in Columbia). Her book thus becomes an argument for garden rather than store-bought roses—that is, for pleasures that are made and grown close to home, made by ourselves or people known to us, rather than mass-produced for our consumption. In this way, her argument is Orwellian—progressive, independent, free-thinking—in a positive sense.
Profile Image for heather.
224 reviews
November 20, 2021
3.5 Fascinating, but it read more like a jumping off point for analysis than a landing zone. ...No shame in that, it got my researcher brain excited to do more digging, but still something about it, in both tone and content, read as cursory and incomplete.
Profile Image for Senga.
516 reviews56 followers
July 6, 2023
Rebecca Solnit i George Orwell to od wielu lat mój top osób piszących, ale też mózgi i wrażliwości, które podziwiam. Kiedy dowiedziałam się, że ona zajmie się nim, podjarałam się jak mały dziczek, który wyczuł zapach trufli, a po lekturze potwierdzam, że „Róże Orwella” to towar unikatowy, wyjątkowy i bardzo cenny. Nie wiedziałam, że mogę polubić oboje autorów jeszcze bardziej - a jednak!

Rebecca Solnit trafiła do wiejskiego domu pisarza w Wellington, gdzie mieszkał on przed II Wojną i odkryła, że nadal rosną tam zasadzone przez niego kilkadziesiąt lat wcześniej krzewy różane. Ten prosty obraz - intelektualisty sądzącego róże - staje się dla niej punktem wyjścia do zupełnie nowego spojrzenia na osobę Orwella. Oczywiście nadal pozostaje on świetnym obserwatorem, mistrzem słowa, poważnym publicystą i diagnostą sceny politycznej swoich czasów i zachodzących na niej zmian, a także autorem książek, które do dziś są bazowymi pozycjami w dyskusjach o totalitaryzmie i autokracji, jednak Solnit zwraca uwagę na zwyczajne życie Orwella, relacje z przyrodą i poszukiwanie drobnych, codziennych przyjemności. Szuka ich w tekstach, które Orwell pisał do gazet, w powieściach, przede wszystkim jednak w dzienniku pisarza, w którym notował on zmiany, jakie zachodziły w jego ogrodzie. A ten ogród…

Wiecie jak to jest, kiedy udaje się trafić na książkę, która wydaje się napisana specjalnie dla ciebie dokładnie z tego momentu istnienia? Ja dotąd nie wiedziałam, ale teraz już wiem, że to ekscytujące i dające super powera. No bo urabiamy się w naszym warzywniku i ogrodzie aż pot się leje, świątek piątek pielimy, podlewamy, przycinamy, plecy i kolana bolą, nie wszystko chce współpracować i chociaż radość kiedy pojawią się pierwsze plony jest jak stąd do księżyca, to frustracja, złość i zmęczenie spada czasem z kolei o kilka metrów poniżej poziomu morza. Aż pytam siebie samej „po co ci to było dziewczyno?!”. I potem otwieram książkę ulubionej feministki i czytam coś takiego „Pra­cu­jąc w ogro­dzie, od­na­wia­my ze­rwa­ne wię­zi: wcho­dzi­my w re­la­cję, w któ­rej je­ste­śmy za­rów­no pro­du­cen­ta­mi, jak i kon­su­men­ta­mi; w któ­rej bez­po­śred­nio zbie­ra­my da­ry na­tu­ry i zy­sku­je­my peł­ną świa­do­mość te­go, jak po­wsta­ją. Nie mu­si to być upra­wa na sze­ro­ką ska­lę. Na­wet pe­lar­go­nia po­sta­wio­na w oknie wy­cho­dzą­cym na ru­chli­wą uli­cę mo­że mieć do­nio­słe zna­cze­nie.”, albo to „Ky­lie Tseng, mo­ja zna­jo­ma i mło­da ak­ty­wist­ka kli­ma­tycz­na, umie­ści­ła na swo­im so­lid­nie wy­ko­na­nym kom­po­stow­ni­ku na­pis: „W przy­ro­dzie śmierć to jesz­cze nie ko­niec”. A po­nie­waż ogród jest za­wsze miej­scem sta­wa­nia się, urzą­dza­nie i pie­lę­gno­wa­nie go jest ge­stem na­dziei – że na­sio­na wy­kieł­ku­ją, drze­wo ob­ro­dzi owo­ca­mi, wio­sna na­dej­dzie, a po niej, naj­pew­niej, tak­że zbio­ry. Ogrod­nic­two jest głę­bo­ko za­an­ga­żo­wa­ne w bu­do­wa­nie przyszło­ści.”, i chociaż nie piszę książek tylko bzdurne artykuliki jeszcze ten fragment „Ogród sta­no­wi prze­ci­wień­stwo bez­cie­le­snych wąt­pli­wo­ści, ja­kie ro­dzi pi­sa­nie. Je­go wy­ra­zi­stość po­bu­dza bo­wiem wszyst­kie zmy­sły. Jest to prze­strzeń wy­sił­ku fi­zycz­ne­go, po­zwa­la­ją­ca ze­tknąć się z pro­chem zie­mi w naj­lep­szym i naj­bar­dziej do­słow­nym sen­sie – szan­sa uj­rze­nia bez­po­śred­nich i nie­zbi­tych re­zul­ta­tów wła­sne­go dzia­ła­nia.” i nagle chce mi się od nowa i wiem, że to co robię jest dobre.

Nie są jednak „Róże Orwella” esejem o ogrodnictwie z elementami biografii Erica Blaira. Rebecca Solnit wspięła się na taki poziom uprawiania eseistyki, który pozwala jej filozoficznie łączyć pozornie odrębne fakty i patrzeć bardzo szeroko. Jest to głęboko humanistyczne i pokazujące wielość odcieni rzeczywistości, jednocześnie wskazując, że wszystko co nas otacza jest polityczne i ma znaczenie.
Jest tu dużo o relacji człowieka z przyrodą w ogóle, o i o tym, że nasz ogródek również odzwierciedla naszą klasę społeczną, tak jak robią to nasze marzenia.
Pisze Solnit także o totalitaryzmach i propagandzie, o kreowaniu rzeczywistości przy pomocy kłamstwa i jego wielkiej mocy, jednak świadomie nie szuka przykładów w otaczającym nas świecie, bo to byłoby pójściem na łatwiznę. Jedynym wyjątkiem, moim zdaniem w obecnej sytuacji słusznym, jest wskazywanie fascynacji Putina Stalinem i podobieństw między nimi.
Nie brakuje także jednego z ulubionych tematów Orwella - nierówności społecznych. Najpierw schodzimy pod ziemię, do brytyjskich kopalni w latach 30 i jesteśmy świadkami wyzysku górników, żeby w końcu wylądować w wielkich fabrykach róż w Ameryce Południowej, których pracownice wykonują w szklarniach niewolniczą pracę, aby mieszkańcy USA mogli zapewnić sobie przyjemność i wrażenia estetyczne.
O samej przyjemności przeczytamy z resztą całkiem sporo, a do rozważań na jej temat również posłużą róże. Solnit zastanawia się nad gestem zasadzenia i pielęgnacji róż w ogrodzie pisarza i łączy to z rewolucyjnym hasłem „Chleba i róż”. Pochyla się nad symboliką pachnącego kwiatu, pokazując, że człowiek do godnego życia potrzebuje nie tylko zaspokojenia potrzeb najbardziej podstawowych, ale także tych, które zapewniają mu przyjemność, przeżycia estetyczne, wychodzą ponad codzienność. Pyta o to, czy kiedy świat płonie wypada w ogóle mieć takie odczucia. Cytuje Orwella, który również się nad tym zastanawiał i pisał: „Czy jest rze­czą na­gan­ną czer­pa­nie przy­jem­no­ści z wio­sny oraz in­nych se­zo­no­wych zmian? Uj­mu­jąc zaś to ści­ślej: czy jest rze­czą na­gan­ną po­li­tycz­nie, pod­czas gdy wszy­scy ję­czy­my (a przy­naj­mniej po­win­ni­śmy ję­czeć) pod jarz­mem ka­pi­ta­li­zmu, twier­dzić, że czę­sto po pro­stu war­to żyć, po­nie­waż śpie­wa kos, a w paź­dzier­ni­ku wi­dać żół­te wią­zy – czy też na­stę­pu­je ja­kieś in­ne zja­wi­sko na­tu­ral­ne, któ­re jest dar­mo­we i kom­plet­nie po­zba­wio­ne te­go, co re­dak­to­rzy le­wi­co­wych ga­zet na­zy­wa­ją „aspek­tem kla­so­wym”? Bezsprzecznie wiele osób tak myśli.”, i dalej, że według tych osób odczuwanie przyjemności czyni nas biernymi, uległymi i zapatrzonymi w siebie. Kiedy jednak wrócimy do hasła sufrażystek, róże - czyli przyjemność - powinny być prawem każdego. Inaczej życie jest sprowadzone do samej egzystencji.
Jak mówiła w jednym z przemówień działaczka na rzecz praw pracowniczych i wyborczych Rose Schneiderman:
„ Kobieta pracująca domaga się prawa do życia, a nie zaledwie egzystowania - takiego samego, jak ma do życia kobieta zamożna, a także słońca, muzyki i sztuki. Bodaj najskromniejsza pracownica ma prawo do tego samego co i wy posiadacie. Musi mieć chleb, ale i róże (…)”.
Przyjemność także jest polityczna, a dostęp do niej jest przejawem przywileju klasowego. Czy jednak oznacza to, że dopóki wszyscy nie będziemy równi, powinniśmy z niej rezygnować? Solnit pisze: „Sko­ro ró­że sym­bo­li­zu­ją przy­jem­ność, czas wol­ny od pra­cy, pra­wo do sa­mo­sta­no­wie­nia, ży­cie we­wnętrz­ne oraz to, co nie­wy­mier­ne, wal­ka o nie to­czo­na jest nie tyl­ko prze­ciw­ko ka­pi­ta­li­stom i sze­fom cie­mię­żą­cym wła­snych pra­cow­ni­ków, lecz tak­że prze­ciw­ko odła­mom le­wi­cy kwe­stio­nu­ją­cym nie­zbęd­ność tych war­to­ści. Na le­wi­cy ni­g­dy nie bra­ko­wa­ło bo­wiem lu­dzi prze­ko­na­nych, że czer­pa­nie przy­jem­no­ści z ży­cia w ob­li­czu cier­pie­nia in­nych jest bez­dusz­ne i nie­mo­ral­ne, a prze­cież za­wsze ktoś gdzieś cier­pi. To pu­ry­tań­skie sta­no­wi­sko za­kła­da, że lu­dziom, któ­rzy zna­leź­li się w roz­pacz­li­wej sy­tu­acji, po­win­ni­śmy za­ofe­ro­wać wła­sny asce­tyzm i przy­gnę­bie­nie, za­miast pró­bo­wać w prak­tycz­ny spo­sób przy­czy­nić się do ich wy­zwo­lenia.”
W końcu mamy tu też wątki feministyczne, których u Solnit nie mogło zabraknąć. Autorka nie wybiela postaci Orwella i zauważa, że nadawał on z patriarchalnego świata, a kobiety były dla niego niewystarczająco widoczne, nie poświęcał im uwagi. Pisarka przywołuje na kartach książki socjalistki, rewolucjonistki, sufrażystki - zaczynajac od ciotki Orwella Nellie, prawdopodobnie pierwszej socjalistki, z którą młody Eric miał styczność, przez autorkę najsłynniejszego zdjęcia róż Tinę Modotti czy domniemaną autorkę hasła „Dla wszystkich chleba, ale także róż”, walczącą o prawa wyborcze kobiet Helen Todd.

Mogłabym jeszcze pisać i pisać, mam zaznaczonych kilkadziesiąt cytatów, z których każdy może być punktem wyjścia do rozważań i dyskusji, ale najlepiej będzie, jeśli przeczytacie to sami i znajdziecie to, co dla was ważne - nie wątpię, że tak będzie.
Wspaniała jest to książka, idealna dla mnie na ten moment życia, porę roku i świat, który dookoła.
Na koniec zostawię cytat z Orwella, który jak pisze Solnit od wielu lat prowadzi także ją, jako jej pisarskie credo:
„Tak dłu­go, jak bę­dę żył i star­czy mi sił, bę­dę na­dal ży­wił sta­now­cze prze­ko­na­nia na te­mat sty­lu pi­sar­skie­go, mi­ło­wał zie­mię, po któ­rej stą­pam, i czer­pał przy­jem­ność z so­lid­nych przed­mio­tów oraz strzę­pów bez­u­ży­tecz­nych in­for­ma­cji.”

Ps. Chciałam zwrócić uwagę na świetne tłumaczenie Dawida Czecha. Po kilku wcześniejszych nie za dobrych przekładach Solnit, jest ogromna poprawa jakości. Bardzo ciekawa jest także jego nota o, tym, że nie ma tłumaczeń wolnych od poglądów ich autorów, co może przekładać się na sposób odczytywania dzieł Orwella przez różne opcje polityczne i próby wykorzystywania ich do swoich celów. Oczywiście nie wynika to z intencjonalności tłumaczy, po prostu, wszyscy jesteśmy ludźmi i nasz światopogląd przenika to co robimy zupełnie nieświadomie. Czekam razem z nim na nowe, świeże tłumaczenia dzieł Orwella, szczególnie eseistyki, bo nabrałam na nią olbrzymiego apetytu.

Profile Image for Tom.
402 reviews36 followers
February 18, 2022
Solnit is the true heir to Orwell as observer of both politics and nature. Even if you don't like her politics, read her for the quality of her prose. Like Orwell, though, she would be the first to respond to such a suggestion that you can't really separate the two.

Some might describe the structure as highly digressive; I would say it's highly associative, something akin to a well-crafted collage. But if typically you don't have the patience for such detours, it might try your patience. I thought it all resonated with central themes. I never thought, "Now why is she telling me this?" And I learned a hell of a lot from these off-road explorations, especially the section about the working conditions in rose industry in South America, which might make you think twice about buying roses for your sweetheart next Valentine's Day.

But there is great beauty in those sections, as well. Here's a lovely passage. probably my favorite in the book:

“The roses are perfect, rootless, seasonless, timeless, floating across fields of lilac or pale green or yellow ochre, forever blooming, their petals just so, the shadows of each petal clear on the petal beneath it, borne aloft in a realm without thorns, soil, slugs, aphids, without death and decay. They are unbound by gravity, often clustered like celestial phenomena, a rose nebula, a rose galaxy, a rose supernova, sometimes garlanded with ribbons or rising out of sprays of small flowers.”

Profile Image for Mary.
246 reviews4 followers
December 26, 2021
As much about Orwell and ecology as it is about Stalinism and the failure of the October Revolution. A really creative and multifaceted examination of Orwell's life, writing and politics through the lenses of his relationship to ecology, specifically gardening and natural cultivation. Definitely sending me on an Orwell binge.
701 reviews7 followers
December 3, 2021
I like Solnit’s other writing, so I thought I might enjoy this even though I don’t really know anything about Orwell (or roses). I think I found maybe 5% of this book interesting (on totalitarianism) and 95% more boring than I thought possible.
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