Why Orwell matters


Why Orwell matters

Christopher Hitchens

Basic Books, c2002

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In a true marriage of minds, Christopher Hitchens takes on George Orwell and the value of one of the twentieth century's great independent thinkers. In this brilliant and contemplative biographical essay, Christopher Hitchens assesses the life, the achievement, and the myth of the great political writer and participant George Orwell. The result is the perfect convergence of two kindred spirits. Hitchens has long regarded Orwell as a mentor and model, and in true emulative and contrarian style, he is both adulatory and aggressive, sympathetic yet critical, taking true measure of his subject as hero and as problem. Combining the best of Hitchens's polemical punch and intellectual elegance in a tightly woven and subtle argument, Why Orwell Matters tears down the faade of sainthood erected by hagiographers and probes deeper to find the true George Orwell: gifted, flawed, and human. With lyrical and allusive prose, Hitchens examines Orwell and his perspectives on fascism, empire, feminism, and Englishness, as well as his outlook on America, a country and culture toward which he exhibited little curiosity but much ambivalence. With his characteristic wit, Christopher Hitchens has written a book that addresses not only why Orwell matters today but how he will continue to matter in a future, uncertain world. Hitchens on Orwell:This is not a biography, but I sometimes feel as if George Orwell requires extricating from a pile of saccharine tablets and moist hankies; an object of sickly veneration and sentimental overpraise, employed to stultify schoolchildren with his insufferable rightness and purity. This kind of tribute is often of the Rochefoucauldian type; suggestive of the payoff made by vice to virtue, and also of the tricks played by an uneasy conscience. What [Orwell] illustrates, by his commitment to language as the partner of truth, is that "views" do not really count; that it matters not what you think, but how you think, and that politics are relatively unimportant, while principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them. Others on Hitchens:"I have been asked whether I wish to nominate a successor, an inheritor, a dauphin or delphino. I have decided to name Christopher Hitchens. " -Gore Vidal"Christopher Hitchens's writing has sweep and flair. He is accurate where others are merely dutiful, unpredictable where the tendency is to go for the clich. In short, brilliant. "-Edward W. Said"May his targets cower. " -Susan Sontag

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