Saturday, February 21, 2009

Julian Barnes on George Orwell

"Such, Such Was Eric Blair." New York Review of Books, 56.4 (12 March 2009) [Essay on three George Orwell books: Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays, compiled and with an introduction by George Packer; All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays, compiled by George Packer, with an introduction by Keith Gessen; and Why I Write.]

From the Essay:

"Orwell used "sophisticated" and "intellectual" and "intelligentsia" as terms of dispraise, hated Bloomsbury, and not just expected but hoped that the sales of Uncle Tom's Cabin would outlast those of Virginia Woolf. He was scathing about social elites, finding the ruling class "stupid." In 1941 he declared that Britain was the most class-ridden country on earth, ruled by "the old and silly," "a family with the wrong members in control"; yet he also recognized that the ruling class was "morally fairly sound" and in time of war "ready enough to get themselves killed." He described the condition of the working class with sympathy and rage, thought them wiser than intellectuals, but didn't sentimentalize them; in their struggle they were as "blind and stupid" as a plant struggling toward the light."

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