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Monday, 27 August 2012


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I strongly recommend you read his Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters. (Our copy is a four volume set from Penguin.) He says lots of interesting things, and writes beautifully.

He was a Leftie, but one of the few who was gifted enough, and enough of his own man, to gather admirers elsewhere. The objection to him from the rest of the Left is probably that irksome business of being his own man and, in particular, his blowing the whistle on the murderous antics of the commies in Spain.

I think he was quite on the left but was 'cured' by his experience in the spanish civil war. So, it is not by chauvinism that I heartly recommend you 'Homage to Catalonia', where he explains his experiences here. And it is very good reading too.
I'm not that sure that at the end he was a man of the left. Maybe, the council man saying he was too tory has a point (not that this is a reason to deny him of the statue, of course). After all, the so called neocons have taken many points from him.
The labour man (and in my opinion quite clever non the less) Bernard Crick has one biography of Orwell, wich is partly free on the net, enough for a taste. Go to Crick on the wikipedia and then to external links at the bottom of the page.

Yes, I second what DM says. The letters are very readable. And don't forget the novels - none of them very long.

My concise opinion is that he was certainly on the left, but had the strength of character to not be swept along by the crowd of lesser people that the left attracts.

Thanks, Gentlemen. I was rather taken with a quotation from Malcolm Muggeridge in Rossi's article who summed up Orwell thus:

"He loved the past, hated the present, and dreaded the future."

If that's accurate then Orwell was definitely an old-fashioned Tory!

As with any writer, you want to read his writing rather than someone else's views of his life.

I would recommend "Coming up for air", "Down and out in Paris and London", "Homage to Catalonia", and "1984". Read all those and you'll know pretty much what the man was about.

His collected essays are pretty interesting too.

He was, I would say, of the left, but a clear thinker and a good demolisher of idols.

I think were he still alive today he would most likely recant of his leftism - seeing how socialism worked out in practice, and the evil troughing and cronyism of today's political class, would have given him more rich veins to mine.

Ortega, muchas gracias! I have just looked at Crick's biography of Orwell, or at least, the first few chapters which are available on-line, and that will get me started beautifully. If I enjoy it I will turn to 'abebooks' to find me a copy.

For anyone else who is interested.

Sorry, Andrew, my comment crossed yours. I think perhaps 'Homage to Catalonia' must be moved nearer to the top of my list!

'Gotta' love the man! I have just read this in the opening paragraph of Crick's biography:

The last book review that he wrote in 1948 for the Adelphi, which had published his first book review of 1930, was of the third volume of Sir Osbert Sitwell’s autobiography. As unpredictable as a good essayist should be, he praised this account of aristocratic life. Sitwell ‘has never pretended to be other than he is,’ unlike, as Orwell’s regular readers would now almost expect him to say, ‘a whole literary generation... pretending to be proletarians’. (My emphasis)

A simple but utterly deadly phrase that consigns a generation of phonies to the dustbin of history.

"Why Orwell Matters" by Hitchens, is not an autobiography, sort or a review of his works and their importance today. I enjoyed it.

It wasn't a local council; it was the BBC, of all places. Orwell made numerous broadcasts during the war. They were essentially apolitical, and primarily about the Britain, the world, the liberties, the humanitarianism and the culture that 'we' were then defending against the darkness of totalitarianism. Yes, the BBC thought he was too left-wing!

Dearieme mentions the superb Penguin collection, which would unquestionably be my 'Desert Island Discs' book. Nobody's mentioned 'Animal Farm', though, which has to be seen in historical context but was a brilliant disection of the unblushing hypocrisies of Communism. Sure, it's dated but still a wonderful satire.

That sounds excellent, Dom, and kills two birds with one stone because I really should read more of Chris Hitchens, as opposed to his brother, Peter, whose newspaper writings I frequently read.

Yes, Webbers, now I remember, it was the BBC, how could Ihave forgotten. I am going to read what I can of Bernard Crick's bio on the net - cos it's free! - and then I will drop a few hints around Xmas time for a secondhand set of the Penguin edition.

Thank you both!

Of the novels 1984 and Animal Farm stand out. Coming Up for Air and Keep the Aspidistra Flying seem like dry runs for 1984

Burmese Days is interesting. Not a big fan of Down and Out In London and Paris but it's been a while. Never read Road to Wigan Pier for some reason. Homage to Catalonia is brilliant. Here is a man who has found his voice and with it you can get a good account account of the chaos on the Republican side. I paraphrase here, the book really captures "Civil War drives out the middle". The war didn't start between the absolute extremes of Fascism and Communism but by the end that was the choice for the average Spaniard.

I also concur with the people above who recommend the collected Essays. There are abridged collections available, but look out for titles like the Decline Of The English Murder, the Lion and the Unicorn

Some of the titles are free online

Be aware that another George Orwell site online hots malware.

Oh God, what have I started? But first, thank you, TDK, for that link and I have already started to read 'The Lion and the Unicorn' - and now I am completely lost! How well that man writes, such clarity and apparent simplicity. Now I simply have to read more - and then some more. How could I have ignored him for this long? Bloody fool that I am!

dearieme. The whole existence of the extreme left and right is based on that no one should be their own man or woman. Just toe the party line or else.

If you finally decide to get 'Homage to Catalonia', try to see that it is the one with Lionel Trilling introduction.

By the way, he said: 'To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle'. Maybe it is a good resume of his attitude.

Just one more thing.

Oh, well, it seems I keep coming back. But maybe it is worthwhile.
Here you have the Trilling's intro.

Let's hope the link works. If not, just google lionel trilling homage to catalonia and click on the google books link (you must try all of them, since there are more than one).

I was David, only to link the letter from Orwell alone (from that site which you of course proclaimed "A corker" and I in turn sent many links to friends showing See, if a literary genius such as the Duffster praises me - my own claims to greatness should not be tossed out of hand!)

Anyway, I'm including the entries from the search of the archives only 'cause reading Huxley's letter to Orwell led me to ponder a post you recently put-up concerning the recently completed 5-volumn set of old and new psychiatric disorders begging psychoactive pharmaceutical relief.

Ortega - the man who keeps on giving! - many thanks for you links especially the one that provides me with "Homage..." free of charge! I haven't found Trilling's introduction yet but I did find this very dismissive opinion from a man who urges us to ignore Trilling:
I would love to hear your opinion of his opinion! But even more, as you are a Spaniard, I would be very interested to know your opinion of Orwell in general, and "Homage..." in particular. Perhaps I can tempt you into a guest blog post - my e-mail is over on the side-bar so let me know.

JK, I have been called many things in my time but never, not ever, "a literary genius", in fact, never a genius of any sort. And my old drill sergeant had several expressions for the oppposite of genius! But thanks for that letter link - very interesting.

Talking of old drill sergeants, Duffers, I watched Zulu on youtube last night. Then I looked up WKPD to see what happened to the Colour Sergeant. It turns out that he wasn't a sage middle-aged cove, but a twenty-four year old known to his men as "the kid". He turned down the VC and asked for a commission instead. He finished his army career as a Colonel.

Could one really turn down a decoration and request a commission? Fascinating.

And now I've found a different account also on WKPD: it differs a bit. They can't both be right. This one sounds more plausible.

DM, thanks for that late intervention - another excuse to keep me from the waiting garden (see post above). I find it hard to believe that any regular soldier would refuse a VC. As a very young colour-sergeant he stood every chance of rising up to WOI and then, in the usual way, being given a quarter-master's commission. But what a terrific characterisation Nigel West gave in the film - unforgettable!

Nigel Green?

Oh God, and it was far too early even for me to have had a drink - Nigel Green, of course!

"Oh God, and it was far too early even for me to have had a drink..."


Keep in mind the 'sage Arkie indispensible' It's half-past noon someres!

A Great Truth Revealed, JK!

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