George Orwell

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George Orwell

Terry Eagleton: Reach-Me-Down Romantic

He was the son of a servant of the Crown from a well-heeled South of England background, who shone at prep school but proved something of an academic flop later on. A passionate left-wing polemicist, he nonetheless retained more than a few traces of his public-school breeding, including a plummy accent and a horde of posh friends. He combined cultural Englishness with political cosmopolitanism, and detested political personality cults while sedulously cultivating a public image of himself. From a vantage-point of relative security, he made the odd foray into the lives of the blighted and dispossessed, partly to keep his political nose to the ground and partly because such trips furnished him with precious journalistic copy. Coruscatingly intelligent though not in the strict sense an intellectual, he had the ornery, bloody-minded streak of the independent leftist and idiosyncratic Englishman, as adept at ruffling the feathers of his fellow socialists as at outraging the opposition. As he grew older, this cussedness became more pronounced, until his hatred of benighted autocratic states led him in the eyes of many to betray his left-wing views altogether.

Such, no doubt, is how Christopher Hitchens will be remembered. The resemblances to George Orwell, on whom Hitchens has written so admiringly,[*] are obvious enough, though so are some key differences. Orwell was a kind of literary proletarian who lived in dire straits for most of his life, and began to earn serious money from his writing only when he was approaching death. This is not the case with Hitchens, unless Vanity Fair is a lot meaner than one imagines. Some of Orwell’s impoverishment, to be sure, was self-inflicted: while a few of his fellow Etonians (Cyril Connolly, Harold Acton) were bursting precociously into print, Orwell chose to slave away in Parisian kitchens even when he was coughing up blood, sleep in dosshouses while cadging the odd ten shillings off his bemused parents, put in a spot of portering at Billingsgate, and ponder how to get himself put in prison for Christmas. Like Brecht, he always seemed exactly three days away from a shave, a minor physiological miracle.


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Orwell did not get a bullet through his throat in Spain because he was still smarting from being an Etonian fag, any more than Guy Burgess risked his neck for the Soviets simply because he was a fag of a different kind. On the contrary, the Left can make use of some public school virtues, not least the fearlessness which springs inter alia from social assurance. (Lionel Trilling added physical courage and a sense of duty to the list.) Even so, there is something in Williams's idea. It applies to a lot of well-bred, sexually heterodox Communist Party members, not least in the 1930s, but it is simplistic to see the shift from youthful radical to middle-aged member of the Establishment as always a linear...

Is this where we are supposed to chime-in denouncing Soviet communism in order to garner credibility with more conservative types in the political middle?


What's missing in all this is....the nazis win WW2. After all the smoke and mirrors crap about 'longest days' and 'dambusters' and the manhattan project and greatest generation- after all of this, and George Orwell being the observer whose reports cut through the crap- it appears the revolution was a failure and the USSR was bad and Stalin was worse then hitler and ...goody; the revolutionary USSR collapsed forver in 1991, and more then that it WAS GENIUS that we today blame the USSR for the Iron Curtain/Cold War when it was the rightwing capitalist west who who trapped the USSR/revolution in the mess WE CREATED precisely to economically ruin the USSR; and our Success is plainly evident, and today our government stages mass murders in Pakistan of an ex cia-agent in order to DISTRACT the world from Nato mass murdering Ghaddafi's children in Lybia and...hohum, move along, nothing to see here!

The real question is- when one considers heartlessness and cruelty as Christianity's only pertinent virtues- the real question is, if the goddam old men couldn't even give a rough outline of the way schemeing bastards have turned recent 'history' into 'hushstory' using public airwaves and turning the public interest into its OWN worstest ENEMY and doing this openly over several  generations at least (after all, only 2500 people died during the 'Great Terror' during the chaotic 1789 french Revolution)...and politicos from reegan to bush to thatcher to harris to mulroney to ford to harper to obama are the men we TRUST with the public interest....maybe the entire debate is a waste of time? RE-reading 'Burmese Days' is a better idea, i think