This excellent collection carries with it a characteristic aura of cigarettes, cups of strong brown tea and counting out one’s change. It is peculiarly Orwellian, although it speaks of the lot of any jobbing freelance in the 1940s. His 80 “As I Please” columns are impressive, even before we discover that he was simultaneously writing Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. What contemporary columnist could produce a volume of such consistently high quality? And in contrast to modern practice, Orwell kept his private unhappiness out of his columns, preferring instead to discuss fascism, propaganda, V-2s, the railings around London squares, melons in Elizabethan literature and washing-up. It is the timbre of his voice that seduces: decent, plain-speaking, opinionated but fair-minded. Many anthology favourites are here (“Books v Cigarettes”, “Decline of the English Murder”), as well as his most controversial column, accusing English left-wing intellectuals of being “boot-licking propagandist[s] of the Soviet regime”.
Ian Pindar, Guardian
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