Saturday, 18 April 2015

Literary Tidbits: George Orwell - Part 1

George Orwell by cartoonist Ralph Steadman

'Literary Tidbits' is going to be a regular feature I think. Its a nice way to binge on an author and revisit your favourite moments of their work. George Orwell will have the prestige of being our first literary hero - mainly because Animal Farm was on BBC 2 last night.

You only have to dip your toe into Pinterest to find a George Orwell quote, from real life rather than one of his books more often than not. The man was not only a beautifully descriptive writer, but also an old fashioned socialist - firmly on the side of the working man and loudly opposed to totalitarianism and political games (just in case you couldn't tell from reading one chapter of 1984).

George Orwell quote

Down and Out in Paris and London - 

"It is a feeling of relief, almost pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked to often of going to the dogs - and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety."

"It is fatal to look hungry, it makes people want to kick you."

"The strange thing is that when a word is well established as a swear word,it seems to lose its original meaning; that is, it loses the thing that makes it a swear word. A word becomes an oath because it means a certain thing, and, because it has become an oath,it ceases to mean a thing."

'Down and Out...' is my favourite Orwell book. It seems more honest and 'without purpose' than his political fiction (as amazing as that also is). The book doesn't shy away from describing how genuinely grim the poverty is, and yet he gets some pure joy out of the freedom of it all - which, yes, is a bit irritatingly middle class when you don't have children to feed and a job you hate but can never leave - yet he can get away with it.

Burmese Days - 

" is perhaps one's own fault, to see oneself drifting, rotting, in dishonour and horrible futility, and all the while knowing that somewhere within one there is all the possibility of a decent human being."

"It is one of the tragedies of the half-educated that they develop late, when they are already committed to some wrong way of life."

"We walk about under a load of memories which we long to share and somehow never can."

This book is very of its time (1934) and is a wonderful insight into a very specific time of British history. Orwell's vivid descriptions of the English in India and their interactions with the natives shows us that the embarrassing (and largely accurate) 'Brits Abroad' stereotype was as alive and well then as it is now. Orwell himself clearly loves Burma (where he was a police officer from 1922-1927) and the novel is a glorious read.

A Clergyman's Daughter - 

"Its is a mysterious thing, the loss of faith - as mysterious as faith itself."

"For the rest, she grew used to the life that she was leading - used to the enormous sleepless nights, the cold, the dirt, the boredom, and the horrible communism of the square. After a day r two she ceased to feel even a flicker of surprise at her situation. She had come, like everyone about her, to accept this monstrous existence almost as though it were normal."

"Nothing in the world is quite so irritating as dealing with mutinous children."

I have not yet read this book. I'm sure it is amazing as it is written by George Orwell.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying - 

"This life we live nowadays. Its not life, its stagnation death-in-life. Look at all these bloody houses and the meaningless people inside them. Sometimes I think we're all corpses. Just rotting upright.

"The Americans always go one better on any kind of beastliness, whether its ice-cream soda, racketeering or theosophy."

"There is nothing more dreadful in the world than to live in somebody else's house, eating his bread and doing nothing in return for it."

"He had reached the age where the future ceases to be a rosy blur and becomes actual and menacing."

Despite being one of his lesser known novels, I find it the most quotable. I could have added another ten to the list above and they all would have been gold - perfect, authentic, simple sentences bathed in British social criticism. It is everything we think about the fools we pass in the street and our own silly foibles that we cant avoid. The book can sometimes sound bitter, but us Brits do love a good moan, and I personally think the book is near perfect.

The Road to Wigan Pier - 

"I am a degenerate modern semi-intellectual who would die if I did not get my early morning cup of tea and my New Statesman every Friday. Clearly I do not, in a sense, 'want' to return to a simpler, harder, probably agricultural way of life. In the same sense I don't 'want' to cut down on my drinking, to pay my debts, to take enough exercise, to be faithful to my wife, etc. etc. But in another and more permanent sense I do want these things, and perhaps in the same sense I want a civilisation in which 'progress' is not definable as making the world safe for little fat men."

"If there is one man to whom I do feel myself inferior, it is a coal-miner."

"To write books you need not only comfort and solitude - and solitude is never easy to achieve in a working class home - you need piece of mind. You can't settle in to anything, you can't command the spirit of hope in which anything has got to be created, with that dull evil cloud of unemployment hanging over you."

For reasons detailed here, I have yet to read this book. Reading and writing these quotes, plus many more besides, has made me realise the reasons for avoiding it are unfounded and that the book is most likely written with he same sensitivity, honesty and wit as all of his others.

Part 2 to follow soon - I feel that his two most famous works may require more space that one blog post can manage!

Animal Farm - the pigs are coming soon.

1 comment:

  1. HI there,
    I represent a publishing company that would like to send you a book for review. What is your email?