Orwell - A Collection Of Essays (Harcourt Brace & Co., 1981)

Friday, August 1, 2008



Aside from his interesting writing, the writer who called himself George Orwell led an interesting life - growing up in an abusive boarding school, living as a government agent in India, bumming in Paris and London, and voluntarily fighting in the Spanish Civil War against the Fascists, amongs other things. His essays meander over these topics and others, from his personal experience, to his thoughts on language, even a review of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and critiques of Kipling and Gandhi. Essential reading for the Orwell fan, and anyone concerned with social justice.

Posted by St. Drogo at 4:00 AM  

8 comments:

P. 52 - "Hence that recurrent Dickens character, the Good Rich Man. This character belongs especially to Dickens's early optimistic period. He is usually a "merchant" (we are not necessarily told what merchandise he deals in), and he is always a superhumanly kind-hearted old gentleman who 'trots' to and fro, raising his employees' wages, patting children on the head, getting debtors out of jail and, i general, acting the fairy godmother. Of course, he is a pure dream figure, much further from real life than, say, Squeers or Micawber. Even Dickens must have reflected occasionally that anyone who was so anxious to give his money away would never have acquired it in the first place."

St. Drogo said...
August 22, 2008 at 3:34 PM  

P. 54 - "Of course Dickens is right in saying that a gifted child ought not to work ten hours a day pasting labels on bottles, but what he does not say is that *no* child ought to be condemned to such a fate, and there is no reason for inferring that he thinks it. David escapes from the warehouse, but Mick Walker and Mealy Potatoes and the others are still there, and there is no sign that this troubles Dickens particularly. As usual, he displays no consciousness that the *structure* of society can be changed."

St. Drogo said...
August 22, 2008 at 3:35 PM  

P. 57 - "In other words, the French aristocracy had dug their own graves. But there is no perception here of what is now called historic necessity. Dickens sees that the results are inevitable, given the causes, but he thinks that the causes might have been avoided. The Revolution is something that happens because centuries of oppression have made the French peasantry sub-human. If the wicked nobleman could somehow have turned over a new leaf, like Scrooge, there would have been no Revolution, no jacquerie, no guillotine - and so much the better. This is the opposite of the 'revolutionary' attitude. From the 'revolutionary' point of view the class struggle is the main source of progress, and therefore the nobleman who robs the peasant and goads him to revolt is playing a necessary part, just as much as the Jacobin who guillotines the nobleman. Dickens never writes anywhere a line that can be interpreted as meaning this. Revolution as he sees it is merely a monster that is begotten by tyranny and always ends by devouring its own instruments."

St. Drogo said...
August 22, 2008 at 3:35 PM  

P. 64-65 "Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing. There is always a new tyrant waiting to take over from the old - generally not quite so bad, but still a tyrant. Consequently two viewpoints are always tenable. The one, how can you improve human nature until you have changed the system? The other, what is the use of changing the system before you have improved human nature? They appeal to different individuals, and they probably show a tendency to alternate in point of time. The moralist and the revolutionary are constantly undermining one another. Marx exploded a hundred tons of dynamite under the moralist position, and we are still living in the echo of that tremendous crash."

St. Drogo said...
August 22, 2008 at 3:35 PM  

P. 119-120 "But because he (Kipling) identifies himself with the official class, he does possess one thing which 'enlightened' people seldom or never possess, and that is a sense of responsibility. The middle-class Left hate him for this quite as much as for his cruelty and vulgarity. All left-wing parties in the highly industrialised countries are at bottom a sham, because they fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which these aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are 'enlightened' maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our 'enlightenment', demands that the robbery shall continue."

St. Drogo said...
August 22, 2008 at 3:35 PM  

P. 174-175 "Of late years it has been the fashion to talk about Gandhi as though he were not only sympathetic to the Western Left-Wing movement, but were integrally part of it. Anarchists and pacifists, in particular, have claimed him for their own, noticing only that he was opposed to centralism and State violence and ignoring the other-worldly, anti-humanist tendency of his doctrines. But one should, I think, realize that Gandhi's teachings cannot be squared with the belief that Man is the measure of all things and that our job is to make life worth living on this eart, which is the only earth we have. They make sense only on the assumption that God exists and that the world of solid objects is an illusion to be escaped from ... In this Yogi-ridden age, it is too readily assumed that "non-attachment" is not only better than a full acceptance of earthly life, but that the ordinary man rejects it only because it is too difficult: in other words, that the average human being is a failed saint. It is doubtful whether this is true. Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or inspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings. If one could follow it back to it's psychological roots one would, I believe, find that the main motive for "non-attachment" is a desire to escape from the pain of living, and above all from love, which, sexual or non-sexual, is hard work. But it is not necessary here to argue whether the otherworldly or humanistic ideal is higher. The point is that they are incompatible. One must choose between God and Man, and all 'radicals' and 'progressives', from the mildest Liberal to the most extreme Anarchist, have in effect chosen Man."

St. Drogo said...
August 22, 2008 at 3:35 PM  

P. 197 - "When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity. What a crew! Think of a programme which at any rate for a while could bring Hitler, Petain, Montague Norman, Pavelitch, William Randolph Hearst, Streicher, Ezra Pound, Juan March, Cocteau, Thyssen, Father Coughlin, The Mufti of Jerusalem, Arnold Lunn, Antonescu, Spengler, Beverly Nichols, Lady Houston and Marinetti all into the same boat! But the clue is very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings."

St. Drogo said...
August 22, 2008 at 3:35 PM  

P. 234-235 - "The Communist movement in Western Europe began as a movement for the violent overthrow of capitalism, and degenerated within a few years into an instrument of Russian foreign policy. This was probably inevitable when the revolutionary ferment that followed the Great War had died down. So far as I know, the only comprehensive history of this subject in English is Franz Borkenau's book The Communist International."

St. Drogo said...
August 22, 2008 at 3:36 PM  

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