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England’s other Saint George Orwell has become a national hero to people he would have despised

No, he didn't predict the future. (Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)

No, he didn't predict the future. (Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)


April 23, 2021   7 mins

England’s most celebrated performance art piece is the work of Eric Arthur Blair, a man dead for 71 years. A disguise of Englishness was the performance’s core — it was the whole performance — and now gives its name to a society, a trust, a fund, and a memorial prize. In a country where a row can break out over the lowest triviality in half a moment, the goodness, integrity, and decency of the performance is indiscriminately recognised by all — if rarely ever the fact that it was a performance.

When he created his artist’s name — and this is not known for sure, but it is too good not to be true — he thought of England. George for the saint, Orwell for the East Anglian river. The central question of his work is whether he saw Englishness as a tradition in itself and for itself, or as a source of imagery to be exploited for his own political purposes. Most of us don’t get that far though. The performance blocks our view.

A contemporary thought him “as English as the grass that grows alongside the Thames at Runnymede”. Another said “George Orwell walking down the road, was England”. “A quintessentially” wrote J.R. Hammond, “English writer.” “Full of good English qualities” reckoned the American literary critic Edmund Wilson, like common sense and concrete thoughts. Raymond Williams described him as the “most native and English of writers”. We still do. Whenever England or Englishness is the subject, Orwell is ready, the scripture we quote, the trusted authority.

It’s a lovely thing to have, in a way. Orwell there, on the bookshelf, waiting for us to steal ideas about our national identity from. When he imagined Charles Dickens’s face as “as the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of man who is generously angry” it is hard not to transfer the warm feeling these words summon to Orwell himself. It’s a preposterous feeling. They were both writers — so they were never in the open, and if they were they were in the open, then their reality was still their desks, and their words. Orwell’s best essays are always about the best English writers, like Dickens, and Kipling, and Gissing — projecting himself as a peer, and into the canon.

Orwell’s Dickens is a seductive fantasy, and the Orwell that comes down to us is a flattering fantasy, especially if you’re English. Kindly, gentle George, pottering about in his garden, counting the shillings he spends on books and cigarettes, contemplating pubs, all with a newspaper man’s interest in nitty-gritty detail. What elevates him into a figure, rather than a weird Jeremy Corbyn type stroking his marrows in an allotment, is that Orwell is a proper man, not soft or abstract, because he tells us he is prepared to use physical force, extreme violence even, to defend those flower pots, those books, and all those little shillings.

Until relatively recently in England we did not think of ourselves as aggressors. William Hazlitt, writing long before Orwell, said that England was the bravest nation. Why? Englishmen did not “delight in cruelty”. They only fought reactively: “not out of malice but to show pluck and manhood.” This is what Orwell meant 80 years ago when he described the “gentleness” of English life. It’s why he noted that all our war stories are tales of “disasters and retreats.” It’s why we quote him on this, and ignore that Trafalgar Day was toasted for more than a century. He wrote what we want to be true.

In a sense he was born to flatter. Eric Arthur Blair’s family were Imperial agents and bureaucrats. They were well-off, and they feared working people. He called it the “lower-upper-middle class” which meant comfortable, but not mink coat, Rolls-Royce comfortable. No land, no substantial property. They were professionals with salaries — providing service, without being servants, but bag-carriers all the same. Today, they would be setting up all the zoom calls for Davos, or working as expensive personal shoppers.

At school, he was the scholarship boy who was crap at games. He writes about the hatred and resentment he felt against those “whose parents were richer than mine and who took care to let me know it”. The performance grows out of the anger. Reminiscing, describing why he became a writer, he admits that he “created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life”. Orwell never really left the school gates. That’s why his books are best read, and immediately understood by teenagers. In Nineteen Eighty Four, O’Brien is the top prefect, and Big Brother the headmaster, and Winston Smith will stay in detention until he’s written “I Love Big Brother” 50 times on the blackboard in shaky chalk letters.

The other boys recognised him as an intellectual. Today, there is a collective denial about this — like an awful family secret — about what Orwell was. He is usually described as an “intelligence” not an intellect; simple, direct, honest, undeceived. A “light glinting in the darkness” wrote one biographer; “straight as an arrow” thought Simon Heffer; a “national treasure” according to Julian Barnes. Orwell was always saying that the English could not abide intellectuals, that the English people were not capable of abstract thought. Part of his performance was acting this version of Englishness out — an artist pretending to be artless, an intellectual pretending to be stupid, a revolutionary pretending to be conservative.

But he has to be understood as an intellectual. From prep school onwards until the day he died, he thought away. He was prone to daydreams as a child, ennui as a teenager, and abstract schemes for the improvement of mankind as an adult. He smoked roll-ups, to the extent that he should have been French. All of this he knew about himself, and hated, which is how he wrote the best lines ever written about why intellectuals are so dreadful. And only a neurotic, isolated, lonely intellect like Orwell’s could ever have chased authenticity, hardship, and punishment the way he did. In the barbarous Thirties, with all its dismay and havoc, how could it be right to moon over books when real people were fighting real enemies in real wars? To be less than a socialist was a moral disaster.

Choosing socialism made Orwell typical of his generation (not an “English Rebel” as Robert Colls puts it), however pleadingly he later tried to distinguish himself from it. They were all socialist intellectuals too. The Empire was pond-stagnant, Hitler was screaming on the radio, and the volcano they felt beneath their feet was hot. They discovered the people. When W.H. Auden was at Oxford he relaxed by frequenting the dog track, the boxing ring, and the speedway. Orwell, too, slid down by the standards of his day, his class — he wrote about the Burmese, and pan-washers, and Parisian bums. It wasn’t enough.

The breakthrough came in Wigan, where he stayed for 56 days, then never returned. He discovered something less abstract than the proletariat of socialist theory. Here were the English people, the real ones, not the nasty boys at school. In his northern book he remembers a cup of tea with the “lower orders” as “a kind of baptism”. In Wigan he was reborn as one of them. He wanted to use the poor to regenerate the society he despised.

In Orwell’s vision of England, the miners are not so different from the coal they shovelled. They are fuel for his dream of a revolution. “No genuine working man grasps the deeper implications of socialism” he wrote — because ideas were for people like him to grasp. In another essay he equates the struggle of the workers to the growth of a plant: “blind and stupid, but it knows enough to keep pushing upwards
” It’s not far from Lenin’s view of people. For all his famous words about “the clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns” and “the old maids biking to Holy Communion”, Orwell did not care much for the English. They are insensible plants, to be trimmed and pruned by a higher intellect. They needed to “breed faster, work harder
 think more deeply, get rid of their snobbishness
 pay more attention to the world”. After a late baptism, he had a convert’s faith in the English. And the convert’s faith is liable to be disappointed.

The revolution Orwell yearned for never happened in his lifetime. The British Empire did not become “a socialist federation of states”. Country homes were not recast as political “children’s camps”. The Stock Exchange was not torn down, and the House of Lords was untouched. He believed all of it would happen, none of it did, and we remember him as one of our greatest prophets.

These torpedoed expectations generated the hopeless air of Nineteen Eighty-Four. “If there is hope, it lies with the proles” writes Winston Smith — “proles” coldly described as drinking, gambling, singing, fat, anonymous people “who never learned how to think”. Winston wants dogs to take over a kennel. George Orwell was coming back around to the views of Eric Arthur Blair, the school boy who had “no notion” that the working class were human beings. Shortly before he died, Orwell put his son’s name down for Westminster.

A marker was placed with the first obituaries. Good, plain, honest, English George — not the ranting ideologue. He was the “wintry conscience of a generation” wrote V.S. Pritchett, a “kind of saint” who “prided himself on seeing through rackets”. Everyone assented to the performance Orwell made of himself in his writing. Malcolm Muggeridge, who knew him well, referred to Orwell’s clothes as “a sort of proletarian fancy dress”. He knew how kitsch it all was. When he read Orwell’s death notices in 1950, he “saw in them how the legend of the human is created, because although they were ostensibly correct
 they were yet inherently false — e.g. everyone saying George was not given to self-pity, whereas it was of course his dominant emotion.”

Orwell would have liked to have been remembered for his “power of facing unpleasant facts”. His solidity and common sense. He would be amazed to find himself lazily cited every week in conservative newspapers by people who he would have put foot-first into a wood-chipper if it meant the brotherhood of man could be realised on Earth, in England.

He has become the opposite of common sense. If Millennials, as is so often argued, use Harry Potter as a kind of moral pattern recognition software, then this is what Orwell has been to three generations of Anglo-American journalists. It wasn’t that long ago that Christopher Hitchens was using Orwell to justify the Iraq War. The Trump administration was endlessly described as Orwellian, as was one of Theresa May’s Brexit deals, as is almost anything that is thought to be bad somehow. The performance has become an ideology. He’s what he railed against, but could never resist: an abstract thought. Maybe on April 23 it’s better to call him a saint — the other Saint George. “Sainthood is a thing human beings must avoid.” That’s one of his lines. It’s quite right. Just ask Eric Blair.


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Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago

This is an odd attack on Orwell. For a start, the dystopia in 1984 has come about as I recall as part of the kind of revolution the author claims Orwell to have wanted. He’s hardly proclaiming its virtues. And the point about the proles comment is more I think that freedom and humanity will dry up there last.
And as for Orwellian being used as an adjective for bad government, yes, it’s misused, but it’s nothing to do with what Orwell himself thought. It’s shorthand for the kind of government seen in 1984, which no sane reader could believe the author was promoting.
Read Orwell’s essays if you want a sense of the man. He tried to see things clearly, and tell them straight. I never agreed with his socialism but he had the courage of his convictions.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

I didn’t read it as an attack. I thought it was an interesting alternative take on the complexities of the writer, thinker and the doer. At least it referred to his socialism and took it seriously. Orwellian has become as ubiquitous and meaningless as Kafkaesque and I’m glad that was mentioned, too.
He would be amazed to find himself lazily cited every week in conservative newspapers by people who he would have put foot-first into a wood-chipper if it meant the brotherhood of man could be realised on Earth, in England.
I think he would appreciate that line.

Last edited 3 years ago by Last Jacobin
Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I doubt it. I’ve read a lot of Orwell and I don’t remember feeding people into woodchippers for having views he disagreed with coming up once. I read it as a bit of an attack on Orwell, like Seb. It was a strange kind of attack, because there really is something like an Orwell cult around, but he seemed to miss some pretty obvious targets for rather cheap shots. I don’t wan’t Britain to get rid of the House of Lords either, but a lot of people always have, and Orwell may not necessarily be wrong that it is on its way out. Why would he harp on that and not on Orwell’s nutty belief that people shouldn’t live in homes, but have their meals in communal dining rooms? That’s really taking socialism to the limit! His friend George Woodcock noted there is a kind of snippy quality about some of his literary essays, hugely entertaining in themselves, on fiction writers from the 19th century like Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy. It is like he is trying to tear them down to build himself up. His first wife’s family didn’t care for him much, and held him in part responsible for her early death. Like Leo Tolstoy, he couldn’t have been an easy man for a wife to live with.
That’s as much dumping on Orwell as I care to do. He was definitely not a saint, but he was a great man, a great writer and, pace Will, a great prophet.

Neil Cheshire
Neil Cheshire
3 years ago

Lloyd says of Orwell
“In the barbarous Thirties, with all its dismay and havoc , how could it be right to moon over books when real people were fighting real enemies in real wars?”
Orwell was of course fighting ‘real’ enemies in the very real Spanish Civil War, where he spent most of the time from January to May 1937 in the front line against Franco’s Fascists, taking a bullet through his neck for his efforts. ‘Homage to Catalonia’ by George Orwell first published by Secker and Warburg Ltd. 1938.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Cheshire

Orwell also joined POUM and fought Against Stalin’s Republicans ..it Formed basis for constant Wars in 1984(1948) Oceania,Eurasia,Eastasia ,Airstrip one ..Swapping sides .

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

Well, you got Orwell wrong.

I spent years on the road, on foot, as a young man, living on almost nothing, no source to get anything unless I managed to get some work, living in USA mostly, as a street person and hobo often, but in a wide pattern which included many sojourns in wilderness, and in Europe if I had hit a good job, and so money. London was where I left when I hit 18, for America.

It was a remarkably hard life. Living solitary, drifting alone, very little money. I hitchhiked close to 60,000 miles on the map. The longest continuous time I lived with no roof or building, under canvas, tarp, bridges, sky, packing tent, and so on was 24 months, but about 5 years on foot in all, as I had to stop a lot, to make some money and would live in a building mostly, usually working as a janitor or dishwasher.

It is hard to explain the life of the down and out, mostly it is hellish, lonely beyond belief, scary so you rarely can relax and let your guard down, tedious to the extreme, just mostly being alone and doing nothing but walking or sitting.. Once you become homeless you notice something – you disappeared. No one will catch your eye, all look through you, past you, you are in a different reality where you see the world you once new, but it is alien now as it is no longer yours, and the real world does not see you, a remarkable feel, like a ghost, a very hard way to live, it sometimes makes you feel it is too hard, it will crush you, you are too far from home, too broke, it will be impossible to ever get back (I was usually on another continent from where I grew up, and utterly alone in the world. You sit on concrete or ground, you sleep on it, it is your world.

I lived it because I became addicted to it, the Road, and I have this thing of being hard (Not violent) where discomfort and risk are beneath even noticing, you just have to show you are hard, you take what only the very few could, you live it. Also you see a lot, you see things only the very few ever do, and you see the scope of humanity.

Anyway, I wrote the above to set my point. I read Orwell’s ‘Down And Out In Paris And London’ after years of living rough, and it was like reading my reality, I understood that the drifter, likely from ancient times to today has the same reality, you enter the same alternate reality that is only shared by ones who lived it. (today naturally easier, but still same) Orwell was a dilettante on the road, he did it during the depression for 6 months or so, to experience it, did it the hard way, and his book is the only real story I have read of being down and out I have ever read. He talks to and of the people, and the people are utterly different from the ones you know, the fringe people, the Normal people are there, but you are no longer in their world although you need them, but it is like they are now a different species from you, you are now the fringe, and fringe are a wild bunch in weirdness and tragedy, and you learn their story.

What I am getting at is Orwell understood the fringe, he knew their humanity, he understood, he is not like the writer said, Orwell is great because he understood the Human Condition, and humanity at all levels, top to bottom, and he saw them, even the fringe, the hard cases, the ones we do not see or understand. Orwell was a genius on Mankind. That is why his writing is Great.

Chris Hudson
Chris Hudson
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The Autobiography of a Supertramp, another great read.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

You beat me to it Chris. Davies is as outstandingly good as Kerouac is outstandingly bad.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I don’t know Davies’s work, but you get an upvote with my compliments for your last four words.

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

Definitely

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

A “genius on Mankind.” True dat.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I see what you mean by your first comment

Christopher Kendrick
Christopher Kendrick
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

You should write a book about your experiences, life on the road, and seeing America the way you did. So many do not survive that kind of life long term, or if they do, they would probably not have your ability to describe and reflect on it.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Oddly enough I dreamt about him last night, despite having not read anything of his for some years. The last thing I read was two volumes of his BBC broadcasts to India during the war, and transcripts of some broadcast discussions on various subject with various intellectuals around the same time.
Like Owen Jones, I was given a collection of his essays aged 16 or 17. Fortunately, unlike Owen Jones, it did not turn me into a Guardianista Socialist.
This piece seems a little mean spirited.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Reading Orwell in my teens gave me a marvelous inoculation against lies told by politicians. It’s those patterns of speech that give them away.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

Over these past 14 months “1984” has helped me trust I’m not going crazy. The BS heaped upon us last spring has slowly melted away to reveal the governmental and ‘scientific’ mendacity I expected all along.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“a little”?

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

they were never in the open, and if they were they were in the open, then their reality was still their desks, and their words. 

Really? You wouldn’t imagine from this article that Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War, exposing atrocities which some people preferred to pretend didn’t happen, or that Dickens was a journalist exposing conditions in slums which some people preferred to believe didn’t exist.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Pinch
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

I’m always baffled by the assumption that if Orwell were somehow alive today, he’d still be arguing for socialism and would still be a man of the left.
I see nothing in his writing that marks him out as a stupid utopian fantasist. Presented with the post-war history of Britain and the many, many examples from around the world of the chaos, poverty and murderous havoc that socialism always wreaks, it is obvious that he’d be something like a Remainer Tory. The idea that he’d have observed socialism in action and learned nothing from it is simply fanciful.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jon Redman
Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Indeed Animal Farm is based on observing communism in action, and 1984 on the British state in WW2.
I think he would still argue for _his_ kind of English socialism, i.e. a unifying force that emphasizes the best parts of the British character such as fairness and decency. i.e. a sort of pragmatic, not-totally-self-consistent system which everyone considers to be imperfect but fair. Rather than a dogmatic, ideologically absolutist & ultimately divisive politics of envy.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s “Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia” theme also skewers beautifully the actual observable doublethink Orwell had seen among British intellectual Soviet shills.
As he put it in his essay “The Prevention of Literature”:

Consider, for example, the various attitudes, completely incompatible with one another, which an English Communist or ‘fellow-traveler’ has had to adopt toward the war between Britain and Germany. For years before September, 1939, he was expected to be in a continuous stew about ‘the horrors of Nazism’ and to twist everything he wrote into a denunciation of Hitler: after September, 1939, for twenty months, he had to believe that Germany was more sinned against than sinning, and the word ‘Nazi’, at least as far as print went, had to drop right out of his vocabulary. Immediately after hearing the 8 o’clock news bulletin on the morning of June 22, 1941, he had to start believing once again that Nazism was the most hideous evil the world had ever seen. 

He wrote that in early 1946. Had he lived longer he would no doubt have added that after 1945 the English Communist would have had to flip once again to believing the USA to be “the most hideous evil the world had ever seen”.
He was a class act. Clive James said it best:

“To write like him, you need a life like his, but times have changed, and he changed them.”

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Exactly. Towards the end of his life he wrote to a friend that he was of neither the left of the right. Instead, he said, he was at heart an anti-authoritarian.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Malcolm muggeridge ,ex communist &MI5 agent in WW2 was one of the Last to visit him before his untimely death on January 21?1950…I think he would rage against cooked or crooked ”Scientific data” on Climate,SARS2 deathtoll etc..& Cancel Kultur/?..He seems to be Humanist who disliked most politicians , fads, So he’ll always be Welcome in my bookshelfs

Last edited 3 years ago by Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I doubt it, he dislike Blocs,Soviet hence he Would be A lib-dem leaver like 10% of their members or SDP ..He Warned of Blocs,Eurasia,Oceania,Eastasia

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
3 years ago

The primary purpose of this piece is to signal ‘Aren’t I clever’? (which as you will notice I take from the header to Ed West’s adjacent piece). You are meant to be mightily impressed by the author’s smartness. The fact that you have not been is all to your credit.
Special mention to Sanford who really should write up his life story!

Last edited 3 years ago by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
3 years ago

I agree that this article is very mean spirited. Reading “Homage to Catalonia,” I was amazed that Orwell could be as generous as he was to the anti-fascist cause right up to the end, while still acknowledging its horrible factionalism. The Russian-backed Reds had a warrant out for his arrest right after he and his wife slipped over the border into France. He saw everything with a rare clarity of vision. “Unpleasant Facts” indeed.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

To understand Orwell one needs to his collected essays , from about 1927 to 1950 ( 4 vols ) and one sees his views change. By 1942 Orwell realises patriotism of the officer and working classes will save Britain. Orwell said the attack by left wing middle classes from th eerly 1930s weakened our defence. Orwell said if Labour had supported conscription from 1938, by 1940 a million men would have been under arms.
I think it was working in the BBC from 1939 or 1940 opened his eyes to the defeatist menatlity of the left wing middle class.Orwell said there were leftwingers who were looking forward to defeat at El Alamein.
Orwell supported practical people who build, maintain and defend civilisation and had no time for those either of Left or Right who were of no practical use.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Indeed but Extreme Right groups like Scottish national Party & traitors like john Amery, Arthur Davidson,Oswald mosley wanted nazis to takeover in uK..

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

It’s always curious when someone who never met the subject opines on how that person would like to be remembered. Perhaps for all his socialist leanings, Orwell realized the ideology can only end one way. Because human beings are what they are and those who crave power over others have this habit of not using wisely.

Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago

1984 – not so much a work of faction, more of a User Guide.

Boff Doff
Boff Doff
3 years ago

Amazing how reading the same books can provoke such a difference of opinion.

Robert Colls
Robert Colls
3 years ago

No, Will, read more carefully next time. My book George Orwell English Rebel argues that Orwell was a rebel not insofar as he was a socialist but insofar as he was not a socialist. With Orwell there’s always a sliding scale in such things. The book goes on to explain that he was also a contrarian, quite capable of holding two contradictory opinions in his head at the same time.
Roll on summer.

Last edited 3 years ago by Robert Colls
Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
3 years ago

So, not George Galloway, then?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Perhaps George Galloway is not his real name either, our proud fighter for the Union. George for England, Galloway for that most beautiful romantic forgotten bit of Scotland.

andy young
andy young
3 years ago

The author seems to be forcing Orwell into some sort of role I don’t recognise. I disagreed with a lot of his views, but they were formed when working men were exactly that & got a raw deal for their efforts. I doubt he’d feel quite the same about the “working class” today.

Frank Finch
Frank Finch
3 years ago

One of the best essays on the futility of literature that I have ever read. Why would anyone ever strive to be as articulate and as insightful as George Orwell ? However honest, however poignant a person’s account of real life experience and however sincere, however insightful a person’s warnings about the shape of things to come… we can rely on the Will Lloyds of this world to totally misunderstand, determinedly misrepresent and generally demonstrate that empathy and sympathy are not only over-rated but also beyond the reach of increasing numbers.

Jed Hughes
Jed Hughes
3 years ago

What a pretentious article. Other commenters have mentioned its specific deficiencies.

I was forced to read Nineteen Eighty-Four at school. God, what a bore! I found his style ponderous, and even clumsy. And yet, he had the germ of a good story: in the hands of a better writer, it might have been a classic. All of the critics whose study-notes we were fed described the book as a prediction of a nightmare future, by the way; it was later that I learnt that it was nothing of the sort, but rather a social satire based on the world in 1948 (the last two figures reversed). And yet, the book has proved to be a pretty good predictor of the future, after all! “Microphones in the grass” is not too far from present-day cctv. (which may include audio recording). Political correctness is suffocating us, to the extent that decent people are making seemingly racialist (or otherwise politically incorrect) utterances in order to break free, as “an act against the Party”. We are worried about our personal data being misused by some online firm. What is the Common Market, if not Eurasia or Oceania? (Although I think that Orwell probably had N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact, in whatever form they existed then, in mind.) The most irritating thing of all about 1984 was that he used metric units in the actual narrative (which was otherwise written in standard English). Those units seemed so alien to us. Yet here we are now, being told to keep “two metres” apart. And the tannoy in Asda has some woman with a babyish voice informing us that summat is on offer, so many “pee” for a packet of so many “grammes”. I also feel like the last person in Britain who exclusively uses Fahrenheit. Britain today really is an Orwellian nightmare.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jed Hughes
jovan2weismiller
jovan2weismiller
3 years ago

What I find interesting is that Orwell was one of my favourite writers when I was 23 and a flaming Red. Now, I’m 73 and my politics have been defined as ‘slightly to the right of Attila the Hun’, but he’s still one of my favourites.

Jake C
Jake C
3 years ago

Great piece.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago

Sir Winston Churchill observed that ‘ jaw jaw is better than war war.’
So Eric called himself ”Jaw jaw well.” nothing to do with a river

Jed Hughes
Jed Hughes
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

Oh, for heaven’s sake; J. St. John was making a joke.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Orwell is prescient..He based the” Ministry of Truth” & Doublethink on his 1940-44 Time at BBC..he didn’t speak out against Ukraine famine,where 10 million died in Stalins Collective farms failed…..Gareth jones did.. muggeridge ,Gollancz didn’t speak out until 1945 & Soviets no longer uk allies, Orwell published Animal Farm,as A warning on State Socialism & Vulture capitalism,

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

Orwell appeals to me more as a stylist than as a political writer. Those fabulous opening lines (clocks striking 13, human beings ‘flying over my head trying to kill me’. The true weirdness of the latter, not being obvious to us in an age of flying, would have terrified a medieval person, not the point about killing). Having said that his journalism and essays far outstrip the quality of his novels as far as I am concerened.
Orwell was quite French (hence the socialism combined with snobbery). His mother was French, and everyone knows all artists are mummy’s boys.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Eton certainly helped.