What is it about Orwell?

March 2, 2011 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

I’m currently working long hours with a long commute. The one consolation (apart from the moolah) is that I get lots of reading time on the train.

 Consequently I’ve just whizzed through a little book of Orwell’s essays given by a kindly friend. Regular readers know I’m an Orwell head, and one of my plays has an Orwellian theme. Re-reading his musings from the first half of the 20th century made me muse, in turn, about what keeps him so relevant.

 I’m not talking here about Winston Smith and the Stalinist pigs, which have a deserved place in the all-time literary pantheon. No, even essays on the price of cigarettes and his vile Edwardian prep school make riveting reading. Obviously some of his writing shows its age – his attempts at pre-Chomskyan linguistics are downright embarrassing to modern eyes – but much of it feels astonishingly contemporary.

 Part of this is down to his spare and elegant writing style, which hasn’t dated at all. Then there’s his radical/liberal outlook, which meant he avoided the pitfalls of chauvinism. (I grant you there’s the odd whiff of anti-Semitism, but I’ll see your Orwell and raise you a Virginia Woolf!) Most of all, for me, he’s relevant because he’s engaged by stuff that matters; the state of hospitals; the need for everyone to access literature; an equitable education system…..hmm. Some things don’t ever change, do they?


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Quote of the Week You couldn’t make it up

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How cold is my valley?

Who I am

This blog started during the months before the 2010 General Election, in which I was the Green candidate for Calder Valley. It's morphed into an account of green activism...and other meanderings.

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