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About the Author

Anna Funder has been writer-in-residence at the Australia Center in Potsdam, Germany.
Image credit: Credit: John Gollings

Obras por Anna Funder

Associated Works

The Best Australian Essays 2007 (2007) — Contribuidor — 21 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum



This has every chance of being my book of the year, though I was also very much impressed by Caro's first volume of his biography of US President Lyndon Johnson (if only because I previously had no particular interest in US Presidents).

Funder is not a prolific author of books (I believe this is her 4th), though apparently a somewhat more prolific contributor to various magazines, journals etc. I cannot remember reading her before but I am very glad I red this after having heard her speaking as to it earlier in the year.

The book takes a non traditional structure: it is part personal (ie Funder) reflection/memoir as to her life; a description a sto how she went about writing this book; a (partial ) biography of Orwell and his first wife Eileen; an assessment as to the inputs as to Orwell's literary output; an assessment as to patriarchy, both in the first half of the 20th century and now.

Unlike some other works (eg Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals", where he flays the perceived (and based on his views probably actual) flaws of his targets, they are very diminished people after his depiction), Funder does not set out 'to get Orwell' but rather starts in a low period in her life, when she come across a collected works of Orwell, someone already admired by Funder. Having read those, Funder then reads the then available six modern biographies of Orwell. But it is the subsequent publication of some six letters between Eileen and her best friend that intrigues Funder the most.

The first letter (from Eileen,written some weeks after her marriage to Orwell), now famously, states :

"I lost my habit of punctual correspondence during the first few weeks of marriage because we quarrelled so continuously & bitterley that I thought I'd save time & just write one letter to everyone when the murder or separation had been accomplished."

Funder turned back to the biographies to find out more about Eileen, but found very little mention of her. And this set Funder off on a search for Eileen. What she found was fascinating, A woman who gave up some much in some many ways for Orwell, seemingly willingly (even to the deficit of her own health), but in circumstances where Orwell gave so little back. Indeed it could be said that Orwell's writing was better (even so much better) given Eileen's multiple contributions to Orwell's life, day to day existence and literary output (indeed the also the quality of that output).

This is not a 'pile on', seeking to bring down Orwell, In the way that Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals" is a study as to how various well know intellectuals (including Rousseau, Marx, Baldwin, Mailer Sartre, amongst others) "apply their public principles to their private lives. What is their attitude to money? How do they treat their spouses and children - legitimate and illegitimate? How loyal are they to their friends?"

Funder writes that her appreciation of Orwell's literary output is undiminished, and similarly her respect for the biographers notwithstanding their apparent overlooking of the contributions of Eileen. And I have heard Funder repeat that in various interviews both before and after reading the book.

Apart from reinstating Eileen's position in the realm, drawing on Orwell's insights into tyranny (particularly colonialism) and James Baldwin's insights as to discrimination and on Orwell's notion of doublespeak - the notion of being able to believe or accept at the very same time 2 contradictory facts or beliefs) Funder

"came to see how men can imagine themselves innocent in a system that benefits, at others' cost."

A great thought provoking read.

Big Ship

27 August 2023
… (mais)
1 vote
bigship | 1 outra crítica | Aug 25, 2023 |
A brilliant book about George Orwell's overlooked, usually unnamed wife, Eileen. Despite her admiration for his work, Anna Funder has revealed him as a monster of the patriarchy. Not so much misogynist as utterly neglectful of Eileen's needs, especially of her health. Is he though simply a man of his extremely patriarchal times, or is the extremity of his masculine selfishness at least partly due to the school he attended, Eton? His disregard of women as human beings made me think of Boris Johnson. Their politics could hardly have been more different, but they seemed to have shared a complete inability to see women as people with human needs and demands. Both attended Eton.… (mais)
elimatta | 1 outra crítica | Aug 7, 2023 |
The great strength of this book is that it is based on a true story. The heroism and courage of the protagonist and her colleagues are inspirational, and their outrage in the face of international apathy seems accurate. However, the prose never really soars and the tricksy structure, with endless casting back and forth in time adds nothing to the story. The paragraphs that are supposed to sound profound tend to come across as rather trite and don't match the majesty of the Ruth's life or the sacrifices of her friends.… (mais)
robfwalter | 50 outras críticas | Jul 31, 2023 |
povești (probabil în general reale) din RDG-ul anilor 80, unele cam neinteresante, altele mai degrabă gonflate să fie mai teatrale. plus scriitură sub-mediocră, cu multe „burți”. Pe de altă parte, când nu mai e atentă autoarea (australiană de altfel, nu germană) și lasă în pace poveștile brute, sunt brusc fascinante.
milosdumbraci | 57 outras críticas | May 5, 2023 |



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