Monday, January 23, 2012

Made of Paper: Discovering George Orwell

About the time I was 15 and 16 years old, I became fascinates with the works of George Orwell.  I don't recall which book I read first, but it was probably 1984. While that may have been Orwell's most important work, I believe I liked his autobiographical Down and Out in Paris and London best. Someone said of that book that "going native" is a characteristic of English adventurers (think Sir Richard Francis Burton) and that Orwell in Down and Out went native in his own land. Orwell was a perpetual outsider, which was probably what made him such an incisive critic of his own society and probably also makes him so difficult to place on our "left" "right" political continuum today. As an outsider, he penned the bitter criticisms of the vulgarity of contemporary civilization in The Road to Wigan Pier and Keep the Aspidistra Flying  and as an outsider he decried the shallowness and mendacity of modern politicized intellectual life. Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" (reproduced here) is probably the best thing written on style.

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