Saturday, 25 April 2015

Literary Tidbits: George Orwell - Part 2

George Orwell quote

Homage to Catalonia - 

"All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting."

"You always, I notice, feel the same when you are under heavy fire - not so much afraid of being hit as afraid because you don't know where you will be hit. You are wondering all the while just where the bullet will nip you, and it gives your whole body a most unpleasant sensitiveness."

"It was like an allegorical picture of war; the trainload of fresh men gliding proudly up the line, the maimed men sliding slowly down,, and all the while the guns on the open trucks making one's heart leap as guns always do, and reviving the pernicious feeling, so difficult to get rid of, the war *is* glorious after all."

This book is an account of Orwell's experiences during the Spanish Civil War, and reminds me a lot of my favourite Laurie Lee books, 'As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning' and 'A Moment of War'. This book possibly reviewed the most mixed reviews of his novels, and can often get lumped in with the sweep of Spanish Civil War literature released around the same time, but I like the wonderful book very much (though not as much as Laurie Lee).

Coming Up For Air - 

"And it's a wonderful thing to be a boy, to go roaming where grown-ups can't catch you, and to chase rats and kill birds and shy stones and cheek carters and shout dirty words. It's a kind of strong, rank feeling, a feeling of knowing everything and fearing nothing, and it's all bound up with breaking rules and killing things."

"That's the way we're going nowadays. Everything slick and streamlined, everything made out of something else."

"Still, if you gave me the choice of having any woman you care to name, but I mean any woman, or catching a ten pound carp, the carp would win every time."

I have not read this one. It is about a middle-aged insurance salesman living in suburbia just before the outbreak of World War Two, reminiscing about his idyllic childhood and times gone by. It is a pessimistic novel concerning the industrialisation of Britain, and the destruction of the English countryside by capitalism.

Animal Farm - 

"Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work,he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself."

"Four legs good, two legs better! All Animals Are Equal. But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Other."

"No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be."

Do I need to tell you what this is about? It is a dystopian novel set on a farm, where the animals take over the farm from their selfish human farmer, only for him to be replaced by the higher order of animals who think themselves cleverer and more worthy to be the bosses. Events mirror Stalinist Russia and lays everything that is wrong with human nature out on display. Think a cross between 'The Lord of the Flies', 'Of Mice and Men' and 'Brave New World' - a pure, perfect classic that is thought provoking and authentic. The book is so precise and accurate and disturbing - a must read.

1984 - 

"War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance in Strength."

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."

Again, this is one of the big boys, that the majority of us have read because its an amazing cult classic. Another dystopian story, but this time concerning Winston, a man trapped in a state of constant governmental control and surveillance, where any freedom of thought or action has been taken away and Winston spends his days deleting any historical reference to 'unpersons' (a la Stalinist Russia again).  The book is clever, unflinching, unsettling and beautifully written - and added words to our vocabulary forever - 'Orwellian', 'Room 101', 'Big Brother', 'Proles' - an amazing cultural impact.


  1. The only George Orwell book I've read is Animal Farm and that was aaaaaaaages ago, but reading this post makes me want go back and read it for memories sake :)))

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    Ella @ Once Upon a Bookish Time

    1. Happy to inspire as much Orwell love as possible! I can't rave enough about the quality of his writing - and Animal Farm and 1984 are for sure the best places to start - so iconic.

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