Roses, pleasure, and politics: a fresh take on Orwell as an avid gardener, whose political writing was grounded in his passion for the natural world.
'Outside my work the thing I care most about is gardening' wrote George Orwell in 1940. Inspired by her encounter with the surviving roses that Orwell planted in his cottage in Hertfordshire, Rebecca Solnit explores how his involvement with plants, particularly flowers, illuminates his other commitments as a writer and antifascist, and the intertwined politics of nature and power.
Following his journey from the coal mines of England to taking up arms in the Spanish Civil War; from his prescient critique of Stalin to his analysis of the relationship between lies and authoritarianism, Solnit encounters a more hopeful Orwell, whose love of nature pulses through his work and actions. And in her dialogue with the author, she makes fascinating forays into colonial legacies in the flower garden, discovers photographer Tina Modotti's roses, reveals Stalin's obsession with growing lemons in impossibly cold conditions, and exposes the brutal rose industry in Colombia.
A fresh reading of a towering figure of the 20th century which finds solace and solutions for the political and environmental challenges we face today, Orwell's Roses is a remarkable reflection on pleasure, beauty and joy as acts of resistance.
REBECCA SOLNIT is author of more than twenty books, including Recollections of My Non-Existence, which was longlisted for the 2021 Orwell Prize for Political Writing and shortlisted for the 2021 James Tait Black Award, The Faraway Nearby, Wanderlust, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, River of Shadows and A Paradise Built in Hell. She is also the author of Men Explain Things to Me and many essays on feminism, activism, social change, hope, and the climate crisis. A contributing editor to Harper's, she writes regularly for the Guardian, the London Review of Books and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in San Francisco.