‘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.