Coming Up for Air

ISBN : 9780198804819

George Orwell; Marina MacKay
256 Pages
129 x 196 mm
Pub date
Jan 2021
Oxford World's Classics
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  • An introduction that provides historical context and outlines the interest of the novel for readers of twentieth-century fiction
  • Includes notes clarifying social, political, literary, and cultural references in the text, suitable for both the student and general reader
  • Offers a reappraisal of one of Orwell's lesser-known pre-war novels

New to this Edition:

  • This new edition of the novel is the only paperback edition to include a critical introduction, selected secondary reading, and explanatory notes.

Before the war! How long shall we go on saying that, I wonder? How long before the answer will be 'Which war?'
The approach of the Second World War finds suburban insurance agent George Bowling in a reflective mood. As he thinks back to the sedate Oxfordshire village of his Edwardian boyhood, he contemplates regretfully what has happened to England since then, from the First World War, in which he served, to the seemingly inescapable money-grubbing and mechanization of everyday life in modern London. A lucky windfall allows Bowling to make a secret return to his idyllic birthplace: a fortifying respite, he hopes, from the struggles of life in a modern city on the verge of war. But is there really any going back?
Published in 1939, Coming Up for Air is the most accomplished of Orwell's early realist novels, casting light on the development of Orwell's distinctive thinking as a cultural critic. The novel explores many of the themes Orwell later reprised in 1984: nostalgia, memory, and disillusionment in the face of modernity's ills, including industrialisation, capitalist exploitation, and endless war.

About the author: 

George Orwell
Edited by Marina MacKay, St Peter's College, University of Oxford
Marina MacKay is Professor of English Literature and Tutorial Fellow of St Peter’s College, University of Oxford. She has published extensively on mid-twentieth-century British literature and culture, and her most recent book is Ian Watt: The Novel and the Wartime Critic (OUP, 2018).

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