Paul Anderson, George Orwell Studies, vol 2 no 1, 2017
George Orwell at work in the 1940s
No political writer of the 20th century has been subject to more analysis, controversy and speculation than George Orwell – and for good reason.
Many see Orwell as the greatest political writer in the English language of the past 200 years, a consummate stylist, always direct and provocative, and many of his big concerns have continuing resonance even though he died nearly 70 years ago.
He wrote a lot, and in a multitude of genres: fiction, criticism, reportage, poetry, polemical essays and columns. His conception of what is political was breathtakingly broad, he changed his mind over time (and in public), and there are innumerable tensions and contradictions in his life and work. Since his death in 1950, partisans of every political tendency, apart from fascists and Stalinist communists, have tried to claim Orwell as one of their own.
Paul Anderson, from Richard Keeble (ed), George Orwell Now! (Peter Lang, 2015)
George Orwell’s politics have always been contentious. In his lifetime, he was a notable intellectual contrarian whose antipathy to received wisdom of all kinds made him admirers and enemies across the political spectrum – and since his death the argument about where he stood politically has been vigorous. It shows no sign of ending soon. Of course, the polemics ebb and flow according to events in the real world and publishers’ schedules, and there has been little in the past quarter-century to match the vituperation of the cold-war battle for Orwell. Continue reading
Orwell in Tribune: ‘As I Please’ and other writings 1943-47 edited by Paul Anderson (Methuen, £14.99)
Orwell and Marxism:The political and cultural thinking of George Orwell by Philip Bounds (I. B. Tauris. £52.50)
More than any other British author of the twentieth century, George Orwell has escaped from his own time. Every schoolchild who gets as far as GCSE English will have read at least one Orwell novel, and the one that they are most likely to have read (Nineteen Eighty-Four) is, ostensibly at least, not set in Orwell’s own lifetime. Orwell was fascinated by children’s literature and some of his books have a special appeal to children (particularly, I suspect, boys in their early teens). This means that most people read Orwell before they have any sense of the period in which he wrote; indeed, before they have much sense of why it might matter to understand the period in which a writer worked. Continue reading
Classics are timeless—or so we think. In the case of George Orwell, the distinguished historian Richard Vinen points out in the TLS this week that he has “escaped from his own time”: “Every school child who gets as far as GCSE English will have read at least one Orwell novel…. This means that most people read Orwell before they have any sense of the period in which he wrote; indeed, before they have much sense of why it might matter to understand the period in which a writer worked.” A volume of his writings for the Tribune from the years before 1984, and a new study about Orwell and Marxism, put Orwell rewardingly back in his historical place–-and show how the timeless work of literature emerged from the messy business of writing to the moment.
With the future of the left-wing weekly hanging in the balance, there could be no more timely reminder of its importance to British culture than the reissue of Orwell in Tribune, a collection of George Orwell’s essays edited by Paul Anderson. Continue reading
The questioning mind in me has always loved Orwell. The Orwell who just about escaped death from the Soviet NKVD at the close of the Spanish Civil War, the Orwell of Wigan Pier, the creator of the Thought Police, the pigs in Animal Farm. The Orwell who scoffed at tidied-up language, such as “friendly fire”. The book to hand is a collection of essays that came out in left-wing literary weeklies. Orwell usually had three or four deadlines a week to meet, including the “As I Please” column, and despite the years of publication – the mid 1940s – they are as fresh as though they were written last week. That said, of course, the themes – the class war, the structure of society – are still topical, and always will be.
In 1943, weary of his wartime work for the BBC, where he had little time for his own writing and had become impatient with the level of censorship imposed by the Ministry of Information, George Orwell accepted a job as literary editor of the leftwing weekly, Tribune. Broadly speaking, he sympathised with the paper’s politics and, given an exceptional degree of editorial freedom, he spent the next 13 months in the job and then the following three-and-a-half years as a columnist and reviewer, writing pretty much what he wanted. Continue reading
[…] De 1943 à 1947, George Orwell tient une chronique hebdomadaire dans Tribune, un journal dont les idées se situent à la gauche du Parti travailliste. Intitulées A ma guise, ces chroniques traitent de sujets très divers, depuis l’arrivée du printemps jusqu’aux annonces matrimoniales, en passant par la fête de Noël, l’état de la presse, la hausse des prix ou encore l’antisémitisme. La plupart de ces textes étaient déjà disponibles en français, mais les éditions Agone ont eu la bonne idée d’en publier l’intégralité en un seul volume. Continue reading
“As I Please”, the weekly column that George Orwell wrote for Tribune in the 1940s, shows him at his most attractive: in direct and economically humorous prose, he ranges from the Cornhill magazine to the future of warfare, always ready to argue seriously with readers’ letters and unafraid to attack Tribune’s advertisers. Orwell is not a wholly reliable prophet (on the verge of the baby boom, he worries about Britain’s declining population) but this holds up better than most collections of fugitive pieces. Paul Anderson’s notes clarify the occasional bouts of Fleet Street infighting.
Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 18 September 2007
I know it’s a bit late to give you my take on the materials released at the beginning of the month by the National Archives – but I’ve not had a chance before now, so you’re lumped with it. I’m talking about the surveillance files on George Orwell, of course, which occupied the up-market papers for a day or two four weeks ago and since have been completely forgotten. Continue reading