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in 1946, quite nicely wrote, “They represent at its best the new humanism of the common man,” and then Waugh couldn’t help but fault Orwell for his lack of religious feeling, which is rather like faulting penguins for their lack of flight.As an adoring Catholic, Waugh was no doubt miffed that Orwell never feared to mention how the papacy lay down each night with Europe’s puppeteers of power.In January of 1940 he wrote this to his publisher, Victor Gollancz: What worries me at present is the uncertainty as to whether the ordinary people in countries like England grasp the difference between democracy and despotism well enough to want to defend their liberties.
“The most elementary respect for truthfulness is breaking down,” he wrote in a 1938 letter, about the duplicitous English reporting on the Spanish Civil War, in which he’d fought for six months, and during which he was shot through the esophagus.
“It gives one the feeling that our civilization is going down into a sort of mist of lies where it will be impossible ever to find out the truth about anything.”Like every robust thinker, Orwell had his contradictions, the most pronounced of which was the fact that he was both an intellectual who despised intellectualism and its attendant snobbery—“The direct, conscious attack on intellectual decency comes from the intellectuals themselves,” he wrote in his 1946 essay “The Prevention of Literature”—and a common man who had reservations about common men.
The utter clarity and goodness of his intellect seem something of a miracle when one considers how many of his fellow writers botched the most pressing moral and political tests of their time.
He could smell bullshit and blood a continent away: When a passel of leftist intellectuals was hailing the Soviet Union as humankind’s only hope, Orwell was persistent in pointing out that Stalin was a monocratic lunatic., isn’t altogether de-sanctifying, it is certainly humanizing, a reminder that Orwell the Saint and Seer was also a lowly man named Eric Blair, a man whose fingernails were dirt-crammed from gardening, whose bank account was perennially bereft, and whose health was forever threatened by the tuberculosis that would eventually claim him.
That backslash in the previous line is imperative because, with Lionel Trilling and Isaiah Berlin, Orwell understood—and perfectly demonstrated in his famous essays on Dickens and Kipling—that the political and the literary are always entwined, uneasy in their Janus glances at the future and past.
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WATCH: Thomas Mann Sunbathes in a Suit Depending on the contemporary mood, Orwell oscillates from Saint George to George the Seer to George the Sage.What other thinker has been both so fervidly claimed and derided by both the left and right?Who else except Kafka do we credit with having seen the sinister future?When the NSA spying scandal broke in June, Amazon sales of Orwell’s vaulted more than 6000 percent.The connection of Big Brother with the NSA might have been hysterical and spurious, but it was also testament to our sentimental, kneejerk affection for Orwell, to the fact that he remains the default scribe whenever our paranoia is fondled by the ominous machinations of realpolitik.The millions who have heard of Big Brother and Room 101 know nothing of their progenitor.” It’s shameful that today’s mouthy political expositors aren’t better versed in Orwell.Can you imagine a theater director who hasn’t studied Shakespeare?It is clear that the thicker the fairy tales are piled, the more easily one can swallow them, but this seems so paradoxical that I have never been able to understand the reason for it.” In .The masses’ inability to think for themselves struck him as a crime against their own humanity.By popular definition, no one was less Orwellian than Eric Blair.In his introduction to this volume, Davison writes, “Many of those who refer to Orwell seem not to have read much more than , if those.