Nonfiction Essays By George Orwell

The bibliography of George Orwell includes journalism, essays, novels and non-fiction books written by the British writer Eric Blair (1903–50), either under his own name or, more usually, under his pen name George Orwell. Orwell was a prolific writer on topics related to contemporary English society and literary criticism, whom the British newsweekly The Economist in 2008 declared "perhaps the 20th century's best chronicler of English culture."[1] His non-fiction cultural and political criticism constitutes the majority of his work, but Orwell also wrote in several genres of fictional literature.

Orwell is best remembered for his political commentary as a left-wing anti-totalitarian. As he explained in the essay "Why I Write" (1946), "Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it."[2] To that end Orwell used his fiction as well as his journalism to defend his political convictions. He first achieved widespread acclaim with his fictional novellaAnimal Farm and cemented his place in history with the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four shortly before his death. While fiction accounts for a small fraction of his total output, these two novels are his best-selling works, having sold almost fifty million copies in sixty-two languages by 2007—more than any other pair of books by a twentieth-century author.[3]

Orwell wrote non-fiction—including book reviews, editorials, and investigative journalism—for a variety of British periodicals. In his lifetime he published hundreds of articles including several regular columns in British newsweeklies related to literary and cultural criticism as well as his explicitly political writing. In addition he wrote book-length investigations of poverty in Britain in the form of Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier and one of the first retrospectives on the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia. Between 1941 and 1946 he also wrote fifteen "London Letters" for the American political and literary quarterly Partisan Review, the first of which appeared in the issue dated March–April 1941.

Only two compilations of Orwell's body of work were published in his lifetime, but since his death over a dozen collected editions have appeared. Two attempts have been made at comprehensive collections: Complete Essays, Journalism and Letters in four volumes (1968–70), co-edited by Ian Angus and Orwell's widow Sonia Brownell; and The Complete Works of George Orwell, in 20 volumes, edited by Peter Davison, which began publication in the mid-1980s. The latter includes an addendum, The Lost Orwell (2007).

The impact of Orwell's large corpus is manifested in additions to the Western canon such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, its subjection to continued public notice and scholarly analyses, and the changes to vernacular English it has effected—notably the adoption of "Orwellian" as a description of totalitarian societies.

Books: non-fiction and novels[edit]

Orwell wrote six novels: Burmese Days, A Clergyman's Daughter, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Coming Up for Air, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Most of these were semi-autobiographical. Burmese Days was inspired by his period working as an imperial policeman and is fictionalized; A Clergyman's Daughter follows a young woman who passes out from overwork and wakes up an amnesiac, forced to wander the countryside as she finds herself, eventually losing her belief in God, despite being the daughter of a clergyman. Keep the Aspidistra Flying and Coming Up for Air are examinations of the British class system. Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four are his most famous novels: both are anti-totalitarian books which criticize the Soviet Union in particular.

In addition to his novels Orwell also wrote three non-fiction books. Down and Out in Paris and London records his experiences tramping and teaching in those two cities. The Road to Wigan Pier is initially a study of poverty in the North of England, but ends with an extended autobiographical essay describing some of Orwell's experiences with poverty. Homage to Catalonia recounts his experiences as a volunteer fighting fascism with the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification in anarchist Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War.

  • Down and Out in Paris and London (9 January 1933, Victor Gollancz Ltd)
  • Burmese Days (October 1934, Harper & Brothers)
  • A Clergyman's Daughter (11 March 1935, Victor Gollancz Ltd)
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying (20 April 1936, Victor Gollancz Ltd)
  • The Road to Wigan Pier (February 1937, Left Book Club edition; 8 March 1937 Victor Gollancz Ltd edition for the general public)
  • Homage to Catalonia (25 April 1938, Secker and Warburg)
  • Coming Up for Air (12 June 1939, Victor Gollancz Ltd)
  • Animal Farm (17 August 1945, Secker and Warburg)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four (8 June 1949, Secker and Warburg)

Articles[edit]

Orwell wrote hundreds of essays, book reviews and editorials. His insights into linguistics, literature and politics—in particular anti-fascism, anti-communism, and democratic socialism—continued to be influential decades after his death.[4] Over a dozen of these were published in collections during his life—Inside the Whale and Other Essays by his original publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd in 1940, and Critical Essays by Secker and Warburg in 1946. The latter press also published the collections Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays in 1950 (republished by Penguin in 2003) and England Your England and Other Essays in 1953.

Since his death many collections of essays have appeared, with the first attempt at a comprehensive collection being the four-volume Collected Essays, Letters and Journalism of George Orwell edited by Ian Angus and Sonia Brownell, which was published by Secker and Warburg and Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich in 1968–1970. Peter Davison of De Montfort University spent 17 years researching and correcting the entirety of Orwell's works[5] with Angus and Sheila Davison, and devoted the last eleven volumes of the twenty-volume series The Complete Works of George Orwell to essays, letters, and journal entries. The entire series was initially printed by Secker and Warburg in 1986, finished by Random House in 1998, and revised between 2000 and 2002.

Pamphlets[edit]

Starting with The Lion and the Unicorn (1941), several of Orwell's longer essays took the form of pamphlets:

  • The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius was printed by his publisher Secker and Warburg as Searchlight Books No. 1 on 19 February 1941.
  • Betrayal of the Left was printed by his other regular publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd. in 1941, with material from Victor Gollancz, John Strachey, and others.
  • Victory or Vested Interest? came from The Labour Book Service on 15 May 1942, with Orwell's "Culture and Democracy" (made up of the pieces "Fascism and Democracy" and "Patriots and Revolutionaries") amongst others.
  • Talking to India, by E. M. Forster, Richie Calder, Cedric Dover, Hsiao Ch'ien and Others: A Selection of English Language Broadcasts to India was published in 1943 by Allen & Unwin, edited with an introduction by Orwell.
  • James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution – Socialist Book Centre, printing of Second Thoughts on James Burnham under this title in July 1946.
  • The English People was printed by HarperCollins 1947.
  • British Pamphleteers Volume 1: From the 16th Century the 18th Century from Allan Wingate, spring 1948 was co-edited by Orwell and Reginald Reynolds with an introduction by Orwell.

Poems[edit]

Orwell was not widely known for writing verse, but he did publish several poems that have survived, including many written during his school days:[6]

  • "Awake! Young Men of England" (1914)
  • "Ballade" (1929)
  • "A Dressed Man and a Naked Man" (1933)
  • "A Happy Vicar I Might Have Been" (1935)
  • "Ironic Poem About Prostitution" (written prior to 1936)
  • "Kitchener" (1916)
  • "The Lesser Evil" (1924)
  • "A Little Poem" (1935)
  • "On a Ruined Farm Near the His Master's Voice Gramophone Factory" (1934)
  • "Our Minds Are Married, but We Are Too Young" (1918)
  • "The Pagan" (1918)
  • "The Wounded Cricketer" (1920)
  • "Poem from Burma" (1922–1927)
  • "Romance" (1925)
  • "Sometimes in the Middle Autumn Days" (1933)
  • "Suggested by a Toothpaste Advertisement" (1918–1919)
  • "Summer-like for an Instant" (1933)
  • "As One Non-Combatant to Another" (1943)

In October 2015 Finlay Publisher, for The Orwell Society, published George Orwell: The Complete Poetry, compiled and presented by Dione Venables.[7][8]

Editing[edit]

In addition to the pamphlets British Pamphleteers Volume 1: From the 16th Century the 18th Century and Talking to India, by E. M. Forster, Richie Calder, Cedric Dover, Hsiao Ch'ien and Others: A Selection of English Language Broadcasts to India, Orwell edited two newspapers during his Eton years—College Days/The Colleger (1917) and Election Times (1917–1921). While working for the BBC, he collected six editions of a poetry magazine named Voice which were broadcast by Orwell, Mulk Raj Anand, John Atkins, Edmund Blunden, Venu Chitale, William Empson, Vida Hope, Godfrey Kenton, Una Marson, Herbert Read, and Stephen Spender. The magazine was published and distributed to the readers before being broadcast by the BBC. Issue five has not been recovered and was consequently excluded from A. J. West's collection of BBC transcripts.

Collected editions[edit]

Two essay collections were published during Orwell's lifetime—Inside the Whale and Other Essays in 1940 and Critical Essays in 1946 (the latter published in the United States as Dickens, Dali, and Others in 1958.) His publisher followed up these anthologies with Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays in 1950, England Your England and Other Essays in 1953—which was revised as Such, Such Were the Joys—and Collected Essays in 1961. The first significant publications in the United States were Doubleday's A Collection of Essays by George Orwell from 1954, 1956's The Orwell Reader, Fiction, Essays, and Reportage from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, and Penguin's Selected Essays in 1957; re-released in 1962 with the title Inside the Whale and Other Essays and in abridged form as Why I Write in 2005 as a part of the Great Ideas series. In the aforementioned series, Penguin also published the short collections Books v. Cigarettes (2008), Some Thoughts on the Common Toad (2010), and Decline of the English Murder (2009). The later does not contain the same texts as Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays, published by Penguin in association with Secker & Warburg in 1965. The complete texts Orwell wrote for the Observer are collected in Orwell: The Observer Years published by Atlantic Books in 2003.

After Words interview with George Packer, conducted by Christopher Hitchens, featuring discussion of Orwell's writings and Packer's work editing Facing Unpleasant Facts and All Art Is Propaganda, C-SPAN[9]

In 1976 Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd in association with Octopus Books published The Complete Novels, this edition was latter republished by Penguin Books in 1983, and reprinted in Penguin Classics 2000 and 2009. Since the publication of Davison's corrected critical edition, John Carey's thorough Essays was released on 15 October 2002, as a part of the Everyman's Library and George Packer edited two collections for Houghton Mifflin, released on 13 October 2008—All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays and Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays.

Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus edited a four volume collection of Orwell's writings, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, divided into four volumes:

  • An Age Like This 1920–1940
  • My Country Right or Left 1940–1943 (first published 1968)
  • As I Please, 1943–1945
  • In Front of Your Nose, 1945–1950

The Complete Works of George Orwell is a twenty-volume series, with the first nine being devoted to the non-fiction books and novels and the final eleven volumes entitled:

  • A Kind of Compulsion: 1903–1936
  • Facing Unpleasant Facts: 1937–1939
  • A Patriot After All: 1940–1941
  • All Propaganda Is Lies: 1941–1942
  • Keeping Our Little Corner Clean: 1942–1943
  • Two Wasted Years: 1943
  • I Have Tried to Tell the Truth: 1943–1944
  • I Belong to the Left: 1945
  • Smothered Under Journalism: 1946
  • It Is What I Think: 1947–1948
  • Our Job Is to Make Life Worth Living: 1949–1950

In 2001 Penguin published four selections from The Complete Works of George Orwell edited by Peter Davison in their modern classics series titled Orwell and the Dispossessed: Down and Out in Paris and London in the Context of Essays, Reviews and Letters selected from The Complete Works of George Orwell with an introduction by Peter Clarke, Orwell's England: The Road to Wigan Pier in the Context of Essays, Reviews, Letters and Poems selected from The Complete Works of George Orwell with an introduction by Ben Pimlott, Orwell in Spain: The Full Text of Homage to Catalonia with Associated Articles, Reviews and Letters from The Complete Works of George Orwell with an introduction by Christopher Hitchens, and Orwell and Politics: Animal Farm in the Context of Essays, Reviews and Letters selected from The Complete Works of George Orwell with an introduction by Timothy Garton Ash.

Davison later compiled a handful of writings—including letters, an obituary for H. G. Wells, and his reconstruction of Orwell's list—into Lost Orwell: Being a Supplement to The Complete Works of George Orwell, which was published by Timewell Press in 2006, with a paperback published on 25 September 2007. In 2011, Davison's selection of letters and journal entries were published as George Orwell: A Life in Letters and Diaries by Harvill Secker.[10] A selection by Davison from Orwell's journalism and other writings were published by Harvill Secker in 2014 under the title Seeing Things as They Are.

Other works[edit]

After his first publication—the poem "Awake! Young Men of England", published in the Henley and South Oxfordshire Standard in 1914—Orwell continued to write for his school publications The Election Times and College Days/The Colleger.[6] He also experimented with writing for several years before he could support himself as an author. These pieces include first-hand journalism (e.g. 1931's "The Spike"), articles (e.g. 1931's "Hop-Picking"), and even a one-act play—Free Will. (He would also adapt four plays as radio dramas.)

His production of fiction was not as prolific—while living in Paris he wrote a few unpublished stories and two novels,[11] but burned the manuscripts (Orwell routinely destroyed his manuscripts and with the exception of a partial copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four, all are lost. Davison would publish this as Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Facsimile of the Extant Manuscript by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in May 1984, ISBN 0-15-166034-4.) In addition, Orwell produced several pieces while working at the BBC as a correspondent. Some were written by him and others were merely recited for radio broadcast. For years, these went uncollected until the anthologies Orwell: The War Broadcasts (Marboro Books, June 1985 and in the United States, as Orwell: The Lost Writings by Arbor House, September 1985) and Orwell: The War Commentaries (Gerald Duckworth & Company Ltd., London, 1 January 1985) were edited by W. J. West. Orwell was responsible for producing The Indian Section of BBC Eastern Service and his program notes from 1 February and 7 December 1942, have survived (they are reproduced in War Broadcasts). He was also asked to provide an essay about British cooking along with recipes for The British Council. Orwell kept a diary which has been published by his widow—Sonia Brownell—and academic Peter Davison, in addition to his private correspondence.

Full list of publications[edit]

Legend for collected editions
  • All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays (AAIP)
  • Critical Essays (CrE)
  • Collected Essays (ColE)
  • The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell (CEJL)
  • A Collection of Essays by George Orwell (CoE)
  • Complete Novels (CN)
  • The Complete Works of George Orwell (CW)
  • Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays (DotEM)
  • England Your England and Other Essays (EYE)
  • Essays (EL)
  • Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays (FUF)
  • Inside the Whale and Other Essays (ItW)
  • Lost Orwell: Being a Supplement to The Complete Works of George Orwell (LO)
  • Orwell and Politics (OP)
  • Orwell and the Dispossessed (OD)
  • Orwell in Spain (OS)
  • Orwell: The Observer Years (OY)
  • Orwell: The War Broadcasts (WB)
  • Orwell: The War Commentaries (WC)
  • Orwell's England (OE)
  • The Orwell Reader, Fiction, Essays, and Reportage (OR)
  • Penguin Great Ideas
    • Books v. Cigarettes (BvC)
    • Decline of the English Murder (DEM)
    • Some Thoughts on the Common Toad (STCM)
    • Why I Write (WIW)
  • Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays (SaE)
  • Selected Essays (SE)
  • Such, Such Were the Joys (SSWtJ)
TitleDateCollectedNotes
About It And About !"About It and About"000000001939-08-12-000012 August 1939CW XIReview of Foreign Correspondent: Twelve British Journalists and In the Margins of History by L. B. Namier and Europe Going, Going, Gone! by Count Ferdinand von Czernin, published in Time and Tide[12]
Adventure Of The Lost Meat-card !"The Adventure of the Lost Meat-card"000000001918-06-03-00003 June 1918CW XShort story published unsigned in The Election Times No. 4, pp. 43–46.[13][note 1]
After Twelve !"After Twelve"000000001920-04-01-00001 April 1920CW XPoem published unsigned in College Days No. 4, p. 104, possibly by Orwell[14][note 2][note 3]
All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays000000002008-10-13-000013 October 2008Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in New York City, edited by George Packer. Companion volume to Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays
All Change Is Here !"All Change Is Here"000000001944-05-07-00007 May 1944OYPublished in The Observer
Allies Facing Food Crisis In Germany !"Allies Facing Food Crisis in Germany"000000001945-04-15-000015 April 1945OYPublished in The Observer
American Critic !"An American Critic"000000001942-05-10-000010 May 1942OYPublished in The Observer
Animal Farm000000001945-08-17-000017 August 1945CN, CW VIII, OPPublished by Secker and Warburg in London on and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in New York City on 26 August 1946. The original printing is entitled Animal Farm: A Fairy Story.
Anti-Semitism In Britain !"Anti-Semitism in Britain"000000001945-04-01-0000April 1945SSWtJ, EYE, ColE, CEJL III, ELPublished in Contemporary Jewish Record
Are Books Too Dear? !"Are Books Too Dear?"000000001944-06-01-00001 June 1944ELPublished in Manchester Evening News
A.R.D – After Rooms – Janney !"A.R.D – After rooms – JANNEY"000000001920-04-01-00001 April 1920CW XMock advertisement published unsigned in College Days No. 4, p. 103. Written together with Denys King-Farlow.[14][15][note 3]
Art Of Donald Mcgill !"The Art of Donald McGill"000000001941-09-01-0000September 1941AAIP, CEJL II, CoE, ColE, CrE, DotEM, EL, ODPublished in Horizon
Arthur Koestler !"Arthur Koestler"000000001944-09-11-000011 September 1944CrE, ColE, CEJL III, ELUnpublished typescript
As I Please 01 !"As I Please" #1000000001943-12-03-00003 December 1943CEJL III, EL, FUFPublished in Tribune
As I Please 02 !"As I Please" #2000000001943-12-10-000010 December 1943EL, FUFPublished in Tribune
As I Please 03 !"As I Please" #3000000001943-12-17-000017 December 1943CEJL III, EL, FUFPublished in Tribune
As I Please 04 !"As I Please" #4000000001943-12-24-000024 December 1943CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 05 !"As I Please" #5000000001943-12-31-000031 December 1943CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 06 !"As I Please" #6000000001944-01-07-00007 January 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 07 !"As I Please" #7000000001944-01-14-000014 January 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 08 !"As I Please" #8000000001944-01-21-000021 January 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 09 !"As I Please" #9000000001944-01-28-000028 January 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 10 !"As I Please" #10000000001944-02-04-00004 February 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 11 !"As I Please" #11000000001944-02-11-000011 February 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 12 !"As I Please" #12000000001944-02-18-000018 February 1944ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 13 !"As I Please" #13000000001944-02-25-000025 February 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 14 !"As I Please" #14000000001944-03-03-00003 March 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 15 !"As I Please" #15000000001944-03-10-000010 March 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 16 !"As I Please" #16000000001944-03-17-000017 March 1944CEJL III, EL, FUFPublished in Tribune
As I Please 17 !"As I Please" #17000000001944-03-24-000024 March 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 18 !"As I Please" #18000000001944-03-31-000031 March 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 19 !"As I Please" #19000000001944-04-07-00007 April 1944ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 20 !"As I Please" #20000000001944-04-14-000014 April 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 21 !"As I Please" #21000000001944-04-21-000021 April 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 22 !"As I Please" #22000000001944-04-28-000028 April 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 23 !"As I Please" #23000000001944-05-05-00005 May 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 24 !"As I Please" #24000000001944-05-12-000012 May 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 25 !"As I Please" #25000000001944-05-19-000019 May 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 26 !"As I Please" #26000000001944-05-26-000026 May 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 27 !"As I Please" #27000000001944-06-02-00002 June 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 28 !"As I Please" #28000000001944-06-09-00009 June 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 29 !"As I Please" #29000000001944-06-16-000016 June 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 30 !"As I Please" #30000000001944-06-23-000023 June 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 31 !"As I Please" #31000000001944-06-30-000030 June 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 32 !"As I Please" #32000000001944-07-07-00007 July 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 33 !"As I Please" #33000000001944-07-14-000014 July 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 34 !"As I Please" #34000000001944-07-21-000021 July 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 35 !"As I Please" #35000000001944-07-28-000028 July 1944CEJL III, EL, OD(excerpt)Published in Tribune
As I Please 36 !"As I Please" #36000000001944-08-04-00004 August 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 37 !"As I Please" #37000000001944-08-11-000011 August 1944CEJL III, EL, OE(excerpt)Published in Tribune
As I Please 38 !"As I Please" #38000000001944-08-18-000018 August 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 39 !"As I Please" #39000000001944-08-25-000025 August 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 40 !"As I Please" #40000000001944-09-01-00001 September 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 41 !"As I Please" #41000000001944-09-08-00008 September 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 42 !"As I Please" #42000000001944-09-15-000015 September 1944CEJL III, EL, OS(excerpt)Published in Tribune
As I Please 43 !"As I Please" #43000000001944-10-06-00006 October 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 44 !"As I Please" #44000000001944-10-13-000013 October 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 45 !"As I Please" #45000000001944-10-20-000020 October 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 46 !"As I Please" #46000000001944-10-27-000027 October 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 47 !"As I Please" #47000000001944-11-03-00003 November 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 48 !"As I Please" #48000000001944-11-17-000017 November 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 49 !"As I Please" #49000000001944-11-24-000024 November 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 50 !"As I Please" #50000000001944-12-01-00001 December 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 51 !"As I Please" #51000000001944-12-08-00008 December 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 52 !"As I Please" #52000000001944-12-29-000029 December 1944CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 53 !"As I Please" #53000000001945-01-05-00005 January 1945CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 54 !"As I Please" #54000000001945-01-12-000012 January 1945CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 55 !"As I Please" #55000000001945-01-19-000019 January 1945CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 56 !"As I Please" #56000000001945-01-26-000026 January 1945CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 57 !"As I Please" #57000000001945-02-02-00002 February 1945CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 58 !"As I Please" #58000000001945-02-09-00009 February 1945CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 59 !"As I Please" #59000000001945-02-16-000016 February 1945CEJL III, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 60 !"As I Please" #60000000001946-11-08-00008 November 1946CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 61 !"As I Please" #61000000001946-11-15-000015 November 1946CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 62 !"As I Please" #62000000001946-11-22-000022 November 1946CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 63 !"As I Please" #63000000001946-11-29-000029 November 1946CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 64 !"As I Please" #64000000001946-12-06-00006 December 1946CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 65 !"As I Please" #65000000001946-12-13-000013 December 1946CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 66 !"As I Please" #66000000001946-12-20-000020 December 1946CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 67 !"As I Please" #67000000001946-12-27-000027 December 1946CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 68 !"As I Please" #68000000001947-01-03-00003 January 1947CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 69 !"As I Please" #69000000001947-01-17-000017 January 1947CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 70 !"As I Please" #70000000001947-01-24-000024 January 1947CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 71 !"As I Please" #71000000001947-01-31-000031 January 1947CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 72 !"As I Please" #72000000001947-02-07-00007 February 1947CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 73 !"As I Please" #73000000001947-02-14-000014 February 1947CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 74 !"As I Please" #74000000001947-02-21-000021 February 1947ELPublished in Manchester Evening News for Tribune
As I Please 75A !"As I Please" #75A000000001947-02-27-000027 February 1947ELPublished in Daily Herald for Tribune
As I Please 75B !"As I Please" #75B000000001947-02-28-000028 February 1947ELPublished in Manchester Evening News for Tribune
As I Please 76 !"As I Please" #76000000001947-03-07-00007 March 1947CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 77 !"As I Please" #77000000001947-03-14-000014 March 1947CEJL IV, EL, OE(excerpt)Published in Tribune
As I Please 78 !"As I Please" #78000000001947-03-21-000021 March 1947ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 79 !"As I Please" #79000000001947-03-28-000028 March 1947CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
As I Please 80 !"As I Please" #80000000001947-04-04-00004 April 1947ELPublished in Tribune
As One Non-Combatant To Another !"As One Non-Combatant to Another"000000001943-06-18-000018 June 1943CEJL IIPoem written in response to Alex Comfort's Letter to an American Visitor (published under the pseudonym "Obadiah Hornbrooke" in Tribune 9 June 1943), published in Tribune
At School And On Holiday !"At School and on Holiday"000000001940-12-07-00007 December 1940Published in Time and Tide
Authentic Socialism !"Authentic Socialism"000000001938-06-16-000016 June 1938CEJL I, CW XIReview of The Freedom of the Streets by Jack Common, published in New English Weekly[16]
Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War !unpublished response to Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War000000001937-08-03-00003 August 1937CW XI, EL, OSUnpublished response, written 3–6 August 1937, to a questionnaire sent out by Nancy Cunard and the Left Review for the pamphlet Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War.[17]
Autobiographical Note !"Autobiographical Note"000000001940-04-17-000017 April 1940CEJL IIWritten for Stanley Kunitz and Howard Haycraft's Twentieth Century Authors, published by W. H. Wilson & Co. in 1942
Awake! Young Men Of England !"Awake! Young Men of England"000000001914-10-02-00002 October 1914CW XPoem published in the Henley and South Oxfordshire Standard Vol. XXV, No. 1455, p. 8, signed "Eric Blair"[13]
Back To The Land !"Back to the Land"000000001944-09-03-00003 September 1944OYPublished in The Observer
Back To The Twenties !"Back to the Twenties"000000001937-10-21-000021 October 1937CW XIReview of the magazine The Booster (September 1937) published in New English Weekly[18]
Background Of French Morocco !"Background of French Morocco"000000001942-11-20-000020 November 1942Published in Tribune
Background To Travel !"Background to Travel"000000001937-09-25-000025 September 1937CEJL I, CW XIReview of Journey to Turkistan by Eric Teichman, published in Time and Tide[19]
Bad Climates Are Best !"Bad Climates Are Best"000000001946-02-02-00002 February 1946ELPublished in Evening Standard
Ballade !"Ballade"000000001929-06-01-0000June 1929Written before the summer of 1929, this poem has not survived
Banish This Uniform !"Banish This Uniform"000000001945-12-22-000022 December 1945ELPublished in Evening Standard
Barbarians And Philistines: Democracy And The Public Schools By T. C. Worsley !Barbarians and Philistines: Democracy and the Public Schools by T. C. Worsley000000001940-09-14-000014 September 1940EL, ODBook review published in Time and Tide
Bare Christmas For The Children !"Bare Christmas for the Children"000000001945-12-01-00001 December 1945ELPublished in Evening Standard
Bastard Death by Michael Fraenkel and Fast One by Paul Cain000000001936-04-23-000023 April 1936CEJL IBook review published in New English Weekly
Battle Ground !"Battle Ground"000000001945-12-16-000016 December 1945OYPublished in The Observer
Bavarian Peasants Ignore The War !"Bavarian Peasants Ignore the War"000000001945-04-22-000022 April 1945OYPublished in The Observer
Bayonet In War !"The Bayonet in War"000000001941-03-21-000021 March 1941Published in The Spectator
Bbc Internal Memorandum !BBC Internal Memorandum000000001942-10-15-000015 October 1942CEJL IIMemo written by Orwell for his boss at BBC Eastern Service outlining his demands for working on-air
Beggars in London !"Beggars in London"000000001929-01-12-000012 January 1929Published in French in Progrès Civique
Behind The Ranges !"Behind the Ranges"000000001944-06-11-000011 June 1944OYPublished in The Observer
Benefit Of Clergy: Some Notes On Salvador Dali !"Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali"000000001944-01-01-00001944CrE, ColE, DotEM, CEJL III, EL, AAIP, STCMBook review of Salvador Dalí's Life intended for The Saturday Book volume four.
Bernard Shaw !"Bernard Shaw"000000001943-01-22-000022 January 1943WBBroadcast by the BBC
Best Novels Of 1949: Some Personal Choices !"The Best Novels of 1949: Some Personal Choices"000000001950-01-01-00001 January 1950LO, OYA list of authors' favourite books of 1949 published in The Observer
Betrayal of the Left: An Examination & Refutation of Communist Policy from October 1939 to January 1941 with Suggestions for an Alternative and an Epilogue on Political Morality000000001941-03-03-00003 March 1941Published by the Left Book Club, edited by Victor Gollancz, with Orwell's "Fascism and Democracy" and "Patriots and Revolutionaries"
Black Spring by Henry Miller, A Passage to India by E. M. Forster, Death of a Hero by Richard Aldington, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, A Hind Let Loose by Charles Edward Montague, and A Safety Match by Ian Hay000000001936-09-24-000024 September 1936CEJL IBook review published in New English Weekly
Book Racket !"The Book Racket"000000001939-09-01-0000September 1939CW XIReview of Best-Sellers by George Stevens, Stanley Unwin and Frank Swinnerton, published in The Adelphi[12]
Books And The People: Money And Virtue !"Books and the People: Money and Virtue"000000001944-11-10-000010 November 1944CEJL III, CW XVIReview of The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith, published in Tribune No. 410, pp. 15–16[20]
Books V. Cigarettes !"Books v. Cigarettes"000000001946-02-08-00008 February 1946SaE, CEJL IV, ELPublished in Tribune
Bookshop Memories !"Bookshop Memories"000000001936-11-01-0000November 1936CEJL I, EL, FUFPublished in Fortnightly Review
Boys' Weeklies !"Boys' Weeklies"000000001940-03-11-000011 March 1940AAIP, CEJL I, CoE, CrE, ColE, ItW, OD, SEPublished in Horizon in abridged form and revised for Inside the Whale and Other Essays
Britain's Struggle For Survival: The Labour Government After Three Years !"Britain's Struggle for Survival: The Labour Government After Three Years"000000001948-10-01-0000October 1948Published in Commentary
British Cookery !"British Cookery"000000001946-01-01-00001946Article with recipes commissioned by the British Council; due to rationing, it was not published
British Crisis !"The British Crisis"000000001942-06-01-0000June 1942Published in Partisan Review, June/July 1942.
British General Election !"The British General Election"000000001945-11-01-0000November 1945Published in Commentary
Britain's Left-Wing Press !"Britain's Left-Wing Press"000000001948-06-01-0000June 1948ELPublished in The Progressive
British Pamphleteers Volume 1: From the 16th Century the 18th Century000000001948-04-01-0000April 1948Published by Allan Wingate in Spring 1948, co-edited by Orwell and Reginald Reynolds with an introduction by Orwell.
British Rations And The Submarine War !"British Rations and the Submarine War"000000001942-01-22-000022 January 1942WBBroadcast by the BBC
British Way In Warfare !The British Way in Warfare by Basil Liddell Hart000000001942-11-21-000021 November 1942CEJL IIBook review published in

"Animal Farm," George Orwell's satire, which became the Cold War "Candide," was finished in 1944, the high point of the Soviet-Western alliance against fascism. It was a warning against dealing with Stalin and, in the circumstances, a prescient book. Orwell had trouble finding a publisher, though, and by the time the book finally appeared, in August, 1945, the month of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, the Cold War was already on the horizon. "Animal Farm" was an instant success in England and the United States. It was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection; it was quickly translated into many languages and distributed, in some countries, by the United States government; and it made Orwell, who had spent most of his life scraping by, famous and rich. "1984," published four years later, had even greater success. Orwell was fatally ill with pulmonary tuberculosis when he wrote it, and he died in January, 1950. He was forty-six.

The revision began almost immediately. Frances Stonor Saunders, in her fascinating study "The Cultural Cold War," reports that right after Orwell's death the C.I.A. (Howard Hunt was the agent on the case) secretly bought the film rights to "Animal Farm" from his widow, Sonia, and had an animated-film version produced in England, which it distributed throughout the world. The book's final scene, in which the pigs (the Bolsheviks, in Orwell's allegory) can no longer be distinguished from the animals' previous exploiters, the humans (the capitalists), was omitted. A new ending was provided, in which the animals storm the farmhouse where the pigs have moved and liberate themselves all over again. The great enemy of propaganda was subjected, after his death, to the deceptions and evasions of propaganda—and by the very people, American Cold Warriors, who would canonize him as the great enemy of propaganda.

Howard Hunt at least kept the story pegged to the history of the Soviet Union, which is what Orwell intended. Virtually every detail in "Animal Farm" allegorizes some incident in that history: the Kronstadt rebellion, the five-year plan, the Moscow trials, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Tehran conference. But although Orwell didn't want Communism, he didn't want capitalism, either. This part of his thought was carefully elided, and "Animal Farm" became a warning against political change per se. It remains so today. The cover of the current Harcourt paperback glosses the contents as follows:

**{: .break one} ** As ferociously fresh as it was more than half a century ago, "Animal Farm" is a parable about would-be liberators everywhere. As we witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals through the lens of our own history, we see the seeds of totalitarianism in the most idealistic organizations; and in our most charismatic leaders, the souls of our cruelest oppressors. **

This is the opposite of what Orwell intended. But almost everything in the popular understanding of Orwell is a distortion of what he really thought and the kind of writer he was.

Writers are not entirely responsible for their admirers. It is unlikely that Jane Austen, if she were here today, would wish to become a member of the Jane Austen Society. In his lifetime, George Orwell was regarded, even by his friends, as a contrary man. It was said that the closer you got to him the colder and more critical he became. As a writer, he was often hardest on his allies. He was a middle-class intellectual who despised the middle class and was contemptuous of intellectuals, a Socialist whose abuse of Socialists—"all that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking toward the smell of 'progress' like bluebottles to a dead cat"—was as vicious as any Tory's. He preached solidarity, but he had the habits of a dropout, and the works for which he is most celebrated, "Animal Farm," "1984," and the essay "Politics and the English Language," were attacks on people who purported to share his political views. He was not looking to make friends. But after his death he suddenly acquired an army of fans—all middle-class intellectuals eager to suggest that a writer who approved of little would have approved of them.

Orwell's army is one of the most ideologically mixed up ever to assemble. John Rodden, whose "George Orwell: The Politics of Literary Reputation" was published in 1989 and recently reprinted, with a new introduction (Transaction; $30), has catalogued it exhaustively. It has included, over the years, ex-Communists, Socialists, left-wing anarchists, right-wing libertarians, liberals, conservatives, doves, hawks, the Partisan Review editorial board, and the John Birch Society: every group in a different uniform, but with the same button pinned to the lapel—Orwell Was Right. Irving Howe claimed Orwell, and so did Norman Podhoretz. Almost the only thing Orwell's posthumous admirers have in common, besides the button, is anti-Communism. But they all somehow found support for their particular bouquet of moral and political values in Orwell's writings, which have been universally praised as "honest," "decent," and "clear." In what sense, though, can writings that have been taken to mean so many incompatible things be called "clear"? And what, exactly, was Orwell right about?

Indifferent to his own person as Orwell genuinely was, his writing is essentially personal. He put himself at the center of all his nonfiction books and many of his essays, and he often used personal anecdotes in his political journalism to make, or reinforce, his points. He never figured himself as the hero of these stories, in part because his tendency to self-abnegation was fairly remorseless. But self-abnegation was perhaps the most seductive aspect of the persona he devised. Orwell had the rare talent for making readers feel that they were dealing not with a reporter or a columnist or a literary man—not with a writer—but with an ordinary person. His method for making people believe what he wrote was to make them believe, first of all, in him.

He was a writer, of course—he was a graphomaniac, in fact: writing was what he lived for—and there was not much that was ordinary about him. He was born, a hundred years ago, in Bengal, where his father was a sub-agent in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service, and he came to England when he was one, and was brought up there by his mother. (The family name was Blair, and Orwell's given name was Eric.) Orwell's father visited the family for three months in 1907, engaging in domestic life with sufficient industry to leave his wife pregnant, and did not come back until 1912. By then, Orwell was boarding as a scholarship student at St. Cyprian's, the school he wrote about, many years later, in the essay "Such, Such Were the Joys." He studied hard and won a scholarship to Eton, and it was there that he began his career in self-denial. He deliberately slacked off, finishing a hundred and thirty-eighth in a class of a hundred and sixty-seven, and then, instead of taking the exams for university, joined the Imperial Police and went to Burma, the scene of the essays "A Hanging" and "Shooting an Elephant." In 1927, after five years in Burma, while on leave in England and with no employment prospects, he resigned.

He spent the next four years as a tramp and an itinerant worker, experiences that became the basis for "Down and Out in Paris and London," the first work to appear under the pen name George Orwell, in 1933. He taught school briefly, worked in a bookstore (the subject of the essay "Bookshop Memories"), and spent two months travelling around the industrial districts in the North of England gathering material for "The Road to Wigan Pier," which came out in 1937. Orwell spent the first half of 1937 fighting with the Loyalists in Spain, where he was shot in the throat by a fascist sniper, and where he witnessed the brutal Communist suppression of the revolutionary parties in the Republican alliance. His account of these events, "Homage to Catalonia," which appeared in 1938, was, indeed, brave and iconoclastic (though not the only work of its kind), and it established Orwell in the position that he would maintain for the rest of his life, as the leading anti-Stalinist writer of the British left.

During the war, Orwell took a job with the Indian section of the BBC's Eastern Service, where he produced and, with T. S. Eliot, William Empson, Louis MacNeice, and other distinguished writers, delivered radio talks, mostly on literary subjects, intended to rally the support of Indians for the British war effort. For the first time since 1927, he received the salary he had once enjoyed as a policeman in Burma, but he regarded the work as propaganda—he felt, he said, like "an orange that's been trodden on by a very dirty boot"—and, in 1943, he quit. He worked for a while as literary editor and as a columnist at the Tribune, a Socialist paper edited by Aneurin Bevan, the leader of the left wing of the Labour Party in Britain and a man Orwell admired. In 1946, after the success of "Animal Farm," and knowing that he was desperately ill with lung disease, he removed himself to one of the dankest places in the British Isles: the island of Jura, off the coast of Scotland. When he was not too sick to type, he sat in a room all day smoking black shag tobacco, and writing "1984." His biographers have noted that the life of Winston Smith at the Ministry of Truth in that novel is based in part on Orwell's own career (as he experienced it) at the BBC. Room 101, the torture chamber in the climactic scene, was the name of the room where the Eastern Service held compulsory committee meetings. Orwell (is it necessary to say?) hated committees.

His first wife, Eileen, with whom he adopted a son, died in 1945. He proposed to several women thereafter, sometimes suggesting, as an inducement, that he would probably die soon and leave his widow with a valuable estate; but he struck out. Then, in 1949, when he really was on his deathbed, he married Sonia Brownell, a woman whose sex appeal was widely appreciated. Brownell had slept with Orwell once, in 1945, apparently from the mixed motives of pity and the desire to sleep with famous writers, one of her hobbies. The marriage was performed in a hospital room; Orwell died three months later. He ended up selling more books than any other serious writer of the twentieth century—"Animal Farm" and "1984" were together translated into more than sixty languages; in 1973, English-language editions of "1984" were still selling at a rate of 1,340 copies a day—and he left all his royalties to Sonia. She squandered them and died more or less in poverty, in 1980. Today, Orwell's gravesite, in a churchyard in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, is tended by volunteers.

Orwell has been posthumously psychoanalyzed, but there is no great mystery behind the choices he made in his life. He explained his motive plainly and repeatedly in his writing: he wanted to de-class himself. From his days at St. Cyprian's, and possibly even earlier, he saw the class system as a system of oppression—and nothing but a system of oppression. The guilt (his term) that he felt about his position as a member of the white imperialist bourgeoisie preceded his interest in politics as such. He spent much of his time criticizing professional Socialists, particularly the leaders of the British Labour Party, because, apart from the commitment to equality, there was not much about Socialism that was important to him. His economics were rudimentary, and he had little patience for the temporizing that ordinary politics requires. In 1945, after Germany surrendered, Churchill and the Conservatives were voted out and a Labour government came in (with Bevan as Minister of Health). In less than a year, Orwell was complaining that no steps had been taken to abolish the House of Lords.

He didn't merely go on adventures in class-crossing. He turned his life into an experiment in classlessness, and the intensity of his commitment to that experiment was the main reason that his friends and colleagues found him a perverse and sometimes exasperating man. His insistence on living in uncomfortable conditions, his refusal (despite his bad lungs) to wear a hat or coat in winter, his habit of pouring his tea into the saucer and slurping it noisily (in the working-class manner) struck his friends not as colorful eccentricities but as reproaches directed at their own bourgeois addiction to comfort and decorum. Which they were. Orwell was a brilliant and cultured man, with an Eton accent and an anomalous, vaguely French mustache, who wore the same beat-up tweed jacket nearly every day, made (very badly) his own furniture, and lived, most of the time, one step up from squalor. He read Joyce and kept a goat in the back yard. He was completely authentic and completely inauthentic at the same time—a man who believed that to write honestly he needed to publish under a false name.

Orwell's writing is effortlessly compelling. He was in the tradition of writers who—as Leslie Stephen said of Defoe—understand that there is a literary fascination in a clear recitation of the facts. There is much more to Orwell than this, though. As Christopher Hitchens points out in "Why Orwell Matters" (Basic; $24), a book more critical of Orwell than the title might suggest, "Homage to Catalonia" survives as a model of political journalism, and "Animal Farm" and "1984" belong permanently to the literature of resistance. Whatever uses they were made to serve in the West, they gave courage to people in the East. The territory that Orwell covered in "Down and Out in Paris and London" and "The Road to Wigan Pier"—the lower-class extremes—was by no means new to nonfiction prose. Engels wrote about it feelingly in "The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844"; Jacob Riis studied it in "How the Other Half Lives." But Orwell discovered a tone—"generous anger" is the phrase he once used to describe Dickens, and it has been applied to him, but "cool indignation" seems a little more accurate—that has retained its freshness after seventy years.

Orwell's essays have recently been collected, with exceptional thoroughness, by John Carey (Everyman; $35). The essay on Dickens, published in 1940, is weaker criticism than Edmund Wilson's "Dickens: The Two Scrooges," which came out the same year. But Orwell's essay on Henry Miller, "Inside the Whale," which also appeared in 1940, was original and unexpected. His personal essays, especially "Shooting an Elephant" and "Such, Such Were the Joys," are models of the form. Still, his qualities as a writer are obscured by the need of his admirers to claim for his work impossible virtues.

Honesty was important to Orwell. He was certainly quick enough to accuse people he disagreed with of dishonesty. But there is sometimes a confusion, when people talk about Orwell's writing, between honesty and objectivity. "He said what he believed" and "He told it like it was" refer to different virtues. One of the effects of the tone Orwell achieved—the tone of a reasonable, modest, supremely undogmatic man, hoping for the best but resigned to the worst—was the impression of transparency, something that Orwell himself, in an essay called "Why I Write," identified as the ideal of good prose. It was therefore a shock when Bernard Crick, in the first major biography of Orwell, authorized by Sonia Orwell and published the year of her death, confessed that he had found it difficult to corroborate some of the incidents in Orwell's autobiographical writings. Jeffrey Meyers, whose biography "Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation" came out in 2000, concluded that Orwell sometimes "heightened reality to achieve dramatic effects."

Crick has doubts that the event Orwell recounted in remarkably fine detail in "A Hanging"—he describes the condemned man stepping aside to avoid a puddle of water on his way to the scaffold—ever happened, and Meyers notes that, during his years as a tramp, Orwell would take time off to rest and write in the homes of family and friends, something he does not mention in "Down and Out in Paris and London," where the narrator is sometimes on the verge of death by starvation. Both Crick and Meyers suspect that "Shooting an Elephant" has fabricated elements. And everything that Orwell wrote was inflected by his predilection for the worm's-eye view. When biographers asked Orwell's contemporaries what it was really like at St. Cyprian's, or in Burma, or working at the bookshop, the usual answer was "It was bad, but it wasn't that bad."

The point is not that Orwell made things up. The point is that he used writing in a literary, not a documentary, way: he wrote in order to make you see what he wanted you to see, to persuade. During the war, Orwell began contributing a "London Letter" to Partisan Review. In one letter, he wrote that park railings in London were being torn down for scrap metal, but that only working-class neighborhoods were being plundered; parks and squares in upper-class neighborhoods, he reported, were untouched. The story, Crick says, was widely circulated. When a friend pointed out that it was untrue, Orwell is supposed to have replied that it didn't matter, "it was essentially true."

You need to grasp Orwell's premises, in other words, before you can start talking about the "truth" of what he writes. He is not saying, This is the way it objectively was from any possible point of view. He is saying, This is the way it looked to someone with my beliefs. Otherwise, his work can be puzzling. "Down and Out in Paris and London" is a powerful book, but you are always wondering what this obviously decent, well-read, talented person is doing washing dishes in the kitchen of a Paris hotel. In "The Road to Wigan Pier," Orwell gave the reader some help with this problem by explaining, at length, where he came from, what his views were, and why he went to live with the miners. Orwell was not a reporter or a sociologist. He was an advocate. He had very definite political opinions, and promoting them was his reason for writing. "No book is genuinely free of political bias," he asserted in "Why I Write." "Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it."

Here we arrive at the challenge presented by the "Orwell Was Right" button. Hitchens says that there were three great issues in the twentieth century, and that Orwell was right on all three: imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. What does this mean, though? Orwell was against imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. Excellent. Many people were against them in Orwell's time, and a great many more people have been against them since. The important question, after condemning those things, was what to do about them, and how to understand the implications for the future. On this level, Orwell was almost always wrong.

Orwell thought that any Englishman who boasted of liberty and prosperity while India was still a colony was a hypocrite. "In order that England may live in comparative comfort, a hundred million Indians must live on the verge of starvation—an evil state of affairs, but you acquiesce in it every time you step into a taxi or eat a plate of strawberries and cream," he wrote in "The Road to Wigan Pier." Still, he did not believe that India was capable of complete independence, and was still saying so as late as 1943. At first, he had the idea that the British Empire should be turned into "a federation of Socialist states, like a looser and freer version of the Union of Soviet Republics," but eventually he arrived at another solution. In 1943, entering a controversy in the pages of the Tribune over the future of Burma, which had been invaded by Japan, he laid out his position. The notion of an independent Burma, he explained, was as ludicrous as the notion of an independent Lithuania or Luxembourg. To grant those countries independence would be to create a bunch of "comic opera states," he wrote. "The plain fact is that small nationalities cannot be independent, because they cannot defend themselves." The answer was to place "the whole main-land of south-east Asia, together with Formosa, under the guidance of China, while leaving the islands under an Anglo-American-Dutch condominium." Orwell was against colonial exploitation, in other words, but not in favor of national self-determination. If this is anti-imperialism, make the most of it.

Orwell took a particular dislike to Gandhi. He referred to him, in private correspondence, as a "bit of a charlatan"; in 1943, he wrote that "there is indeed a sort of apocalyptic truth in the statement of the German radio that the teachings of Hitler and Gandhi are the same." One of his last essays was on Gandhi, written two years after India, and one year after Burma, became independent, and a year after Gandhi's assassination. It is a grudging piece of writing. The method of Satyagraha, Orwell said, might have been effective against the British, but he was doubtful about its future as a tactic for political struggle. (A few years later, Martin Luther King, Jr., would find a use for it.) He confessed to "a sort of aesthetic distaste" for Gandhi himself—Gandhi was, after all, just the sort of sandal-wearing, vegetarian mystic Orwell had always abhorred—and he attributed the success of the Indian independence movement as much to the election of a Labour government in Britain as to Gandhi's efforts. "I have never been able to feel much liking for Gandhi, but I do not feel sure that as a political thinker he was wrong in the main, nor do I believe that his life was a failure" was the most that he could bring himself to say.

Hitler, on the other hand, Orwell did find personally appealing. "I have never been able to dislike Hitler," he admitted, in 1940. Hitler, it seems, "grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life," which Orwell called the attitude of "nearly all Western thought since the last war, certainly all 'progressive' thought." This response—the idea that fascism, whatever might be wrong with it, is at least about the necessity of struggle and self-sacrifice—is not that far from the response of the relatively few people in England (there were more in France) who actively endorsed fascism.

Orwell was opposed to Nazi Germany. But he thought that Britain, as an imperial power, had no moral right to go to war against Hitler, and he was sure that a war would make Britain fascist. This is a theme in his novel "Coming Up for Air," which was published in 1939, and that winter he was urging friends to begin planning "illegal anti-war activities." He thought that it would be a good idea to set up an underground antiwar organization, in anticipation of what he called the "pre-war fascising processes," and predicted that he would end up in a British concentration camp because of his views. He kept up his antiwar agitation until August, 1939. Then, with the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, he flipped completely. In "The Lion and the Unicorn," in 1941, he accused British antiwar intellectuals of "sabotage." They had become "Europeanized"; they sneered at patriotism. (This from a man who, two years earlier, had been proposing an illegal campaign against government policy.) They had weakened the morale of the English people, "so that the Fascist nations judged that they were 'decadent' and that it was safe to plunge into war. . . . Ten years of systematic Blimp-baiting affected even the Blimps themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces." The prediction of a fascist Britain had evidently been forgotten.

What were Orwell's political opinions? Orwell was a revolutionary Socialist. That is, he hoped that there would be a Socialist revolution in England, and, as he said more than once, if violence was necessary, violence there should be. "I dare say the London gutters will have to run with blood," he wrote in "My Country Right or Left," in 1940. And a year later, in "The Lion and the Unicorn," "It is only by revolution that the native genius of the English people can be set free. . . . Whether it happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place." Orwell had concluded long before that capitalism had failed unambiguously, and he never changed his opinion. He thought that Hitler's military success on the Continent proved once and for all the superiority of a planned economy. "It is not certain that Socialism is in all ways superior to capitalism, but it is certain that, unlike capitalism, it can solve the problems of production and consumption," he wrote. "The State simply calculates what goods will be needed and does its best to produce them."

A Socialist England, as Orwell described it, would be a classless society with virtually no private property. The State would own everything, and would require "that nobody shall live without working." Orwell thought that perhaps fifteen acres of land, "at the very most," might be permitted, presumably to allow subsistence farming, but that there would be no ownership of land in town areas. Incomes would be equalized, so that the highest income would never be greater than ten times the lowest. Above that, the tax rate should be a hundred per cent. The House of Lords would be abolished, though Orwell thought that the monarchy might be preserved. (Everybody would drink at the same pub, presumably, but one of the blokes would get to wear a crown.) As for its foreign policy: a Socialist state "will not have the smallest scruple about attacking hostile neutrals or stirring up native rebellions in enemy colonies."

Orwell was not a cultural radical. Democracy and moral decency (once the blood was cleaned off the pavement, anyway) were central to his vision of Socialism. His admirers remembered the democracy and the decency, and managed to forget most of the rest. When "Homage to Catalonia" was finally published in the United States, in 1952, Lionel Trilling wrote an introduction, which Jeffrey Meyers has called "probably the most influential essay on Orwell." It is a work of short fiction. "Orwell clung with a kind of wry, grim pride to the old ways of the last class that had ruled the old order," Trilling wrote; he exemplified the meaning of the phrase "my station and its duties," and respected "the old bourgeois virtues." He even "came to love things, material possessions." A fully housebroken anti-Communist. It is amusing to imagine Orwell slurping his tea at the Columbia Faculty House.

Understanding Orwell's politics helps to explain that largely inaccurate prediction about postwar life "1984." There was, Hitchens points out, an enormous blind spot in Orwell's view of the world: the United States. Orwell never visited the United States and, as Hitchens says, showed little curiosity about what went on there. To the extent that he gave it any attention, he tended to regard the United States as vulgar, materialistic, and a threat to the English language. ("Many Americans pronounce . . . water as though it had no t in it, or even as though it had no consonant in it at all, except the w," he claimed. "On the whole we are justified in regarding the American language with suspicion.") He thought that, all things considered, Britain was better off as a client-state of Washington than as a client-state of Moscow, but he did not look on an increased American role in the world with hope. Since Orwell was certain that capitalism was doomed, the only future he could imagine for the United States was as some sort of totalitarian regime.

He laid out his view in 1947, in the pages of Partisan Review. There were, he explained, three possible futures in a nuclear world: a preëmptive nuclear strike by the United States against the Soviet Union; a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, wiping out most of the race and returning life to the Bronze Age; and a stalemate created by the fear of actually using atomic bombs and other weapons of mass destruction—what would be known as the policy of mutually assured destruction. This third possibility, Orwell argued, was the worst of all:

**{: .break one} ** It would mean the division of the world among two or three vast superstates, unable to conquer one another and unable to be overthrown by any internal rebellion. In all probability their structure would be hierarchic, with a semi-divine caste at the top and outright slavery at the bottom, and the crushing out of liberty would exceed anything that the world has yet seen. Within each state the necessary psychological atmosphere would be kept up by complete severance from the outer world, and by a continuous phony war against rival states. Civilizations of this type might remain static for thousands of years. **

Orwell's third possibility was, of course, the path that history took. Mutually assured destruction was the guiding policy of the arms race and the Cold War. Orwell himself coined the term "Cold War," and after his death he became a hero to Cold Warriors, liberal and conservative alike. But he hated the idea of a Cold War—he preferred being bombed back to the Bronze Age—because it seems never to have entered his mind that the United States would be a force for liberty and democracy. "1984" is, precisely, Orwell's vision of what the Cold War might be like: a mindless and interminable struggle among totalitarian monsters. Was he right?

Some people in 1949 received "1984" as an attack on the Labour Party (in the book, the regime of Big Brother is said to have derived from the principles of "Ingsoc"; that is, English Socialism), and Orwell was compelled to issue, through his publisher, a statement clarifying his intentions. He was a supporter of the Labour Party, he said. "I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive," he continued, "but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is satire) that something resembling it could arrive. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical consequences."

The attitude behind this last sentence seems to me the regrettable part of Orwell's legacy. If ideas were to stand or fall on the basis of their logically possible consequences, we would have no ideas, because the ultimate conceivable consequence of every idea is an absurdity—is, in some way, "against life." We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their "tendency" is to some dire condition—to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all. Orwell did not invent this kind of argument, but he provided, in "1984," a vocabulary for its deployment.

"Big Brother" and "doublethink" and "thought police" are frequently cited as contributions to the language. They are, but they belong to the same category as "liar" and "pervert" and "madman." They are conversation-stoppers. When a court allows videotape from a hidden camera to be used in a trial, people shout "Big Brother." When a politician refers to his proposal to permit logging on national land as "environmentally friendly," he is charged with "doublethink." When a critic finds sexism in a poem, she is accused of being a member of the "thought police." The terms can be used to discredit virtually any position, which is one of the reasons that Orwell became everyone's favorite political thinker. People learned to make any deviation from their own platform seem the first step on the slippery slope to "1984."

There are Big Brothers and thought police in the world, just as there are liars and madmen. "1984" may have been intended to expose the true character of Soviet Communism, but, because it describes a world in which there are no moral distinctions among the three fictional regimes that dominate the globe, it ended up encouraging people to see totalitarian "tendencies" everywhere. There was visible totalitarianism, in Russia and in Eastern Europe; but there was also the invisible totalitarianism of the so-called "free world." When people talk about Big Brother, they generally mean a system of covert surveillance and manipulation, oppression in democratic disguise (unlike the system in Orwell's book, which is so overt that it is advertised). "1984" taught people to imagine government as a conspiracy against liberty. This is why the John Birch Society used 1984 as the last four digits in the phone number of its Washington office.

Orwell himself was a sniffer of tendencies. He, too, could blur moral distinctions among the things he disliked, between the BBC and the Ministry of Love, for instance; he apparently thought of the Ministry of Love as the logical consequence of the mass media's "tendency" to thought control. His most celebrated conflation of dislikes is the essay, for many years a staple of the freshman-composition syllabus, "Politics and the English Language."

Orwell wrote many strong essays, but "Politics and the English Language," published in 1946, is not one of them. Half of the essay is an attack on bad prose. Orwell is against abstractions, mixed metaphors, Latinate roots, polysyllabic words, clichés, and most of the other stylistic vices identified in Fowler's "Modern English Usage" (in its fourth printing in 1946). The other half is an attack on political dishonesty. Certain political terms, Orwell argues, are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true patriot, The Soviet Press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive.

Fowler would have found nothing to complain about, though, in the sentences Orwell objects to. They are as clear as can be. Somehow, Orwell has run together his distaste for flowery, stale prose with his distaste for fascism, Stalinism, and Roman Catholicism. He makes it seem that the problem with fascism (and the rest) is, at bottom, a problem of style. They're bad, we are encouraged to feel, because their language is bad, because they're ugly.

This is not an isolated instance of this way of thinking in Orwell. From his earliest work, he was obsessed with body odor, and olfactory metaphors are probably the most consistent figure in his prose, right to the end of his life, when he congratulated Gandhi for leaving a clean smell when he died. But Orwell didn't think of the relation between smell and virtue as only metaphorical. He took quite seriously the question of whether it was ever possible to feel true solidarity with a man who smelled. Many pages in "The Road to Wigan Pier" are devoted to the problem. In his fiction, a bad character is, often, an ugly, sweaty, smelly character.

Smell has no relation to virtue, however. Ugliness has no relation to insincerity or evil, and short words with Anglo-Saxon roots have no relation to truth or goodness. Political speech, like etiquette, has its codes and its euphemisms, and Orwell is right to insist that it is important to be able to decipher them. He says that if what he calls political speech—by which he appears to mean political clichés—were translated into plain, everyday speech, confusion and insincerity would begin to evaporate. It is a worthy, if unrealistic, hope. But he does not stop there. All politics, he writes, "is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia." And by the end of the essay he has damned the whole discourse: "Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable." All political parties? Orwell had sniffed out a tendency.

Orwell's prose was so effective that it seduced many readers into imagining, mistakenly, that he was saying what they wanted him to say, and what they themselves thought. Orwell was not clairvoyant; he was not infallible; he was not even consistent. He changed his mind about things, as most writers do. He dramatized out of a desire to make the world more the way he wished it to be, as most writers do. He also said what he thought without hedging or trimming, as few writers do all the time. It is strange how selectively he was heard. It is no tribute to him to turn his books into anthems to a status quo he hated. Orwell is admired for being a paragon when he was, self-consciously, a naysayer and a misfit. If he is going to be welcomed into the pantheon of right-thinking liberals, he should at least be allowed to bring along his goat. ♦

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