5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Orwell debunks spin and doubletalk - and explains Hitler,
This review is from: Politics and the English Language (Paperback)
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This wee pamphlet contains two essays: 1945's "politics And the English Language" and a 1940 review of Hitler's autobiography "Mein Kampf", which had recently appeared in a new translation.
The essay on language and style is the longer and more complex piece, essentially an attack on what we'd now call "spin". He exposes how political writers use cliche, metaphor and doubletalk to disguise their own dishonesty and persuade the public of ideas they'd probably reject if expressed more simply. At times, his observations prefigure his own invented "newspeak" and "doublethink" in his later novel "Nineteen Eighty Four". He doesn't limit himself to politics, though: he also has a go at scientific obfuscation, literary verbosity and the overuse of Latin and Greek words in preference to their simpler, Saxon alternatives.
He's right, of course - and the real triumph of this short article is that he puts over his argument with humour and humility: ("Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against".)
The shorter review of "Mein Kampf", though plainly critical of Hitler ("I would certainly kill him if I could get within reach of him") is the closest I've ever come to a coherent explanation of his popular appeal in Germany. "Hitler knows...that human beings don't only want comfort, safety, short working hours, hygiene, birth-control and in general, common sense: they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice...Hitler has said to them "I offer you stuggle, danger and death" and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet." Everything contains its opposite - after all, this isn't so very far from the nobly defensive rhetoric of Winston Churchill, urging us to fight on the beaches and offering us "blood, toil, tears and sweat".
A tiny pamphlet at just 23 pages - but a very rewarding read.