Cover image for Why Orwell matters
Why Orwell matters
Hitchens, Christopher.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 211 pages ; 22 cm

Format :


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Material Type
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PR6029.R8 Z664 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PR6029.R8 Z664 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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 cliché. In short, brilliant."-Edward W. Said"May his targets cower." -Susan Sontag

Author Notes

Christopher Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, England on April 13, 1949. He was a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and wrote for numerous other publications throughout his lifetime. He was the author of numerous books including No One Left to Lie To, For the Sake of Argument, Prepared for the Worst, God Is Not Great, Hitch-22: A Memoir, and Arguably. He died due to complication from esophageal cancer on December 15, 2011 at the age of 62.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

George Orwell is one of those rare writers who are both artistic and fluent in world events and politics. His shrewd, indelible novels are continually read and discussed all around the world, but Orwell, uncompromising and independent to the point of penury, didn't reach this pinnacle without adversity or controversy. Hitchens, an author and columnist for the Nation and Vanity Fair, whose combativeness and peppery eloquence are backed by wide-ranging erudition, reasserts Orwell's significance in this impassioned yet pinpoint assessment of the man, his writings, and their reception, which has been by turns sloppily negative or excessively positive. Hitchens dissects in fresh and insightful detail the "extraordinary salience" and ongoing relevance (hence the term Orwellian) of Orwell's complex subjects--imperialism, fascism, Stalinism, nuclear weapons, environmentalism--and parses the prescience that inspired Orwell to invent the expression cold war and foresee many of the global conflicts we're currently experiencing. Moving neatly from political commentary to literary criticism and biography, Hitchens clarifies all that Orwell accomplished and, by extension, affirms literature's unique and essential powers. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Vanity Fair and Nation contributor Hitchens passionately defends a great writer from attacks by both right and left, though he also refutes those fans who proclaim his sainthood. George Orwell (1903-1950), a socialist who abhorred all forms of totalitarianism, was, as Hitchens points out, prescient about the "three great subjects of the twentieth century:" imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. In all things, Orwell's feelings were every bit as visceral as intellectual, and Hitchens devotes some of his best writing to describing Orwell's first-hand experiences with empire in Burma. It was there that he learned to hate racism, bullying and exploitation of the lower classes. "Orwell can be read," notes Hitchens, "as one of the founders of... post-colonialism." Orwell's insights about fascism and Stalinism crystallized in Spain, while he was fighting in the Civil War. Hitchens offers an excellent analysis of the writer's women, both real (his wives) and fictional, to show that the feminist critique of Orwell (that he didn't like strong, brainy women) may be unfair, though Hitchens also points out what feminists have ignored: Orwell's "revulsion for birth control and abortion." Hitchens brilliantly marshals his deep knowledge of Orwell's work. Fans of Orwell will enjoy Hitchens's learned and convincing defense, while those unfamiliar with Orwell may perhaps be induced to return to the source. (Oct.) Forecast: Hitchens has made a splash with recent books (Letters to a Young Contrarian and The Trial of Henry Kissinger). Basic is banking on similar success with a 30,000 first printing. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Far from being an ordinary biography, this small volume is an in-depth investigation of the essential George Orwell-"the heart on fire and the brain on ice." Hitchens recognizes that Orwell was more than the author of 1984 and Animal Farm. He was a keen critic of Nazism and Stalinism and didn't soften his pictures of them to sell books. His analysis of the grave inequities of those two forms of government is sufficiently acute to apply to the early 21st century's political spectrum. While claiming that Orwell "requires extricating from a pile of saccharine tablets and moist hankies [as] an object of sickly veneration and sentimental over-praise," Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Nation, asserts that in contrast to his many contemporaries who wrote about the era's political issues (e.g., Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender, and Cecil Day Lewis), "it [is] possible to reprint every single letter, book review and essay composed by Orwell without exposing him to any embarrassment"-a remarkable feat, indeed. The only problem with this study is that it assumes that the reader already knows that Orwell conscientiously overcame his early anti-intellectualism, his dislike of the "dark" people of the English Empire, and his squeamishness about homosexuality-all to become a great humanist. Thus, it is written for readers who have already done their homework. Recommended for large libraries with extensive political science holdings.-Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. xi
Introduction: The Figurep. 1
1 Orwell and Empirep. 15
2 Orwell and the Leftp. 35
3 Orwell and the Rightp. 79
4 Orwell and Americap. 103
5 Orwell and 'Englishness': The Antinomies of St Georgep. 115
6 Orwell and the Feminists: Difficulties with Girlsp. 141
7 'The List'p. 155
8 Generosity and Anger: The Novelsp. 171
9 Deconstructing the Post-modernists: Orwell and Transparencyp. 193
10 In Conclusionp. 205