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Christopher Hitchens on George Orwell,
This review is from: Why Orwell Matters (Paperback)
Am I alone in finding Christopher Hitchens' account of George Orwell's life and
works somewhat disappointing? It is partly Hitchens' literary style - a bit dense and sometimes elliptic - and partly that I am not quite sure whether Hitchens really does provide an answer to the question "does Orwell matter?"
Both Hitchens and I believe that he does. Hitchens does a good job in showing how Orwell's uncompromising belief in liberty and equality (expressed very clearly in "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eighty-four") offended those on the left who refused to accept that Stalin's USSR violated those ideals big-time. And he also shows that while right-wing thinkers endorsed (some of) Orwell's principles, they could not claim him as one of their own. Orwell remains a towering figure on the libertarian left, despite some odd foibles such as his slightly questionable attitude towards Jews and gays.
Orwell's significance is that he understood the nature of totalitarian dictatorships and how such regimes trample on history, language and culture to make people conform to a stereotyoped image of how human beings should behave.
Hitchens is very good on this, but I think does not altogether succeed in bringing out the relevance of Orwell to modern political developments. The fall of Soviet-style communism, and the extraordinary juggling act of the Chinese communists in trying to allow more economic liberty in their vast diverse nation while keeping the lid on political freedom, would have fascinated Orwell. What exactly would he have made of these titanic changes? I think Hitchens could have provided us with an answer.
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Initial post: 21 May 2013 17:39:21 BDT
Cole Davis says:
Well oddly enough the rise of a government like China, totalitarian but paying lipservice to ideology, is one of the predictions Orwell got right. It's the government of Oceania in 1984. (In fact, O'Brien considers his government to be post-totalitarian.)
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