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What Can We Learn From Orwell’s Love of Nature? Rebecca Solnit

Festival of Ideas
Rebecca Solnit

Crowdcast  |  £5-£10

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Rebecca Solnit reappraises the work of George Orwell and reflects on our relationship with 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, 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.

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.

Solnit discusses finding solace and solutions for the political and environmental challenges we face today with Bristol Ideas director Andrew Kelly.

Orwells Roses book jacket

Rebecca Solnit’s Orwell’s Roses is published by Granta. Buy a copy from our partners Waterstones.

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Rebecca Solnit

Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering and walking, hope and disaster, including Whose Story Is This?, Call Them By Their True Names (Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction), Cinderella Liberator, Men Explain Things to Me, The Mother of All Questions, and Hope in the Dark, and co-creator of the City of Women map, all published by Haymarket Books; a trilogy of atlases of American cities, The Faraway Nearby, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). Her memoir, Recollections of My Nonexistence, was published in March, 2020 and Orwell’s Roses will be published in October 2021. A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a columnist at the Guardian and a regular contributor to Literary Hub.

Image credit: Trent Davis Bailey

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