Sunday, December 06, 2009

Five best books on reporting

Harold Evans is The Week’s editor-at-large and author of The American Century. His autobiography, My Paper Chase, is new in bookstores. For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books about reporting. One title on the list:
Homage to Catalonia
by George Orwell
Harcourt, Brace, 1952

Only 900 copies of "Homage to Catalonia" were sold on first publication in London in 1938. George Orwell's account of the reality of the Spanish Civil War was rejected by the left-wing book club run by Victor Gollancz, who'd been happy enough to publish Orwell on the miseries of working-class life in "The Road to Wigan Pier." Orwell's affront was to criticize the communists in Spain, the darlings of leftists around the world in the 1930s. He went to Spain to write about the conflict but got sucked into fighting. He writes of life in the trenches—where he is badly wounded by a bullet through his windpipe—but battlefield reporting is not the heart of the book. Instead, it lies in the candor and clarity of his writing as he examines his own biases and wrestles with the contradictions between the spirit of socialism that he admires and the brutalities of the communist purges all around him. Orwell ultimately retained his passion for an idealistic socialism, but his willingness to contest the convictions of the liberal intelligentsia was, as Lionel Trilling wrote, a genuine moral triumph.
Read about another book on Evans' list.

Homage to Catalonia
also appears on Michael Symmons Roberts' ten best list of books on civil war.

Read about Harold Evans' six favorite­ bio­graphies and memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue