Why I Write

George Orwell Teaches You How to Review Books

‘It’s rather hackwork,’ Orwell wrote to his friend, the writer Arthur Koestler, in 1946. ‘The chief bore is reading the books.’ The letter is reprinted from George Orwell: A Life in Letters, edited by Peter Davison and published this week by Liveright. Plus, why Orwell wrote 1984.

To Arthur Koestler

22 March 194627B Canonbury SquareIslington N 1

Dear Arthur,

The Manchester Evening News want to know whether, when I stop my reviewing for them (ie. end of April), you would like to take over my job for 6 months. I told them I didn’t think it was awfully likely you would, but that I would ask you. It’s rather hackwork, but it’s a regular 8 guineas a week (that is what they pay me—I expect you could get a bit more out of them) for about 900 words, in which one can say more or less what one likes. The chief bore is reading the books; on the other hand one gets out of this from time to time by doing general articles or dealing with reprints which one knows already. One retains the second rights. You might let me know as soon as possible if this idea has any attraction for you, as otherwise they will have to scout round for someone else.

Love to Mamaine.


P.S. [handwritten] I’ve contacted Malory Brown1 who thinks he will probably be able to come up at Easter. I’m going to have lunch with him on April 3rd & talk it over. Meanwhile could you let me know exactly what date he should come up to your place?

[XVIII, 2941, pp. 164–5; typewritten with handwritten postscript]

Koestler replied on March 23. He decided not to take on the work for the Manchester Evening News—“for once I shall let puritanism get the upper hand over hedonism (dig),” a reference to Orwell’s statement that there is “a well-marked hedonistic strain in his writings” in the penultimate paragraph of Orwell’s essay on Koestler.

1. Mallory Browne was then the London editor of the Christian Science Monitor. On 22 October 1944 he contributed “The New Order in France” to the Observer.

Reprinted from George Orwell: A Life in Letters, selected and annotated by Peter Davison. Copyright © George Orwell. First American Edition 2013. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.