LITERATURE – George Orwell

George Orwell was an English intellectual who died in 1950 and used literature for the only reason it ultimately really exists – to try to change the world for the better. He was, in the deeper sense, a political writer, someone who wanted art to help us grow kinder, fairer, wiser. In 1946, a year after the publication of his momentously popular fable, ‘Animal Farm’, he wrote an essay titled, ‘Why I Write’, which laid out his approach with a characteristic clarity. What I wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship. A sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I don’t say to myself, “I’m going to produce a work of art.” “I write it because there is some lie I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” To understand why Orwell matters, we therefore have to understand what this most political of writers loved, and what he hated. What he was in rebellion against, and what he championed. This is what will give us the keys to understanding his remarkable work, and painful yet deeply fulfilled life. George Orwell always hated the social group of which he was, despite everything, an exemplary member: Intellectuals. From an early age, he had wanted to be a writer. But George Orwell excelled at never quite belonging. He was born in 1903 in India, which was then part of the British Empire, to economically fragile civil servant parents, who fought for him to have a classic upper middle class English upbringing. And then hoped he might become a doctor, or a lawyer. They sent him to what turned out to be a crippling, mean spirited English prep school at the age of eight. From where he won a scholarship to Eton. But he turned against the values and spirit of the English public school system. He never went to university, and after a stint as an imperial policeman in Burma, he settled into the life of the odd-jobbing literary intellectual. Working in a Hamstard book shop, reviewing other people’s books, and eventually, writing some of his own. Nevertheless, Orwell’s disdain of intellectuals was a constant. He accused them of a range of sins, a lack of patriotism, resentment of money, and physical vigor. Concealed sexual frustraion, pretension, and dishonesty. He knew it all form the inside, but Orwell’s greatness emerge from the rye determination with which he recognized and came to triumph against such tendencies in himself. “The really important fact about the English intelligentsia,” he once wrote, “is their severance from the common culture of the country. In left wing circles, it’s always felt that there’s something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman, and that it’s a duty to snigger at every English institution from horse racing to suet puddings. Orwell’s generation of intellectuals, which had witnessed the First World War and the Great Depression, was obsessed with airy, abstract, large schemes to redeem human kind. Some were fanatical communists, others staunch defenders of radical capitalism, a few admired the new authoritarian regimes of Italy, Spain, and Germany, and wanted something similar to take hold in the anglophone sphere. Orwell listened, and was for a time, a little seduced. But he came gradually to champion something far more radical: The tastes, opinions, needs and outlook of someone he called “the ordinary person”. A knowledge of ordinary life came rather late to Orwell. As a typical product of an English public school, he was a little exposed in anyone below his own social class. A tendency compounded by a naturally aloof, bookish and different manner. A friend described him in age 25 as, “remarkably muff eaten for one his age” But Orwell set out to make up for his lack of knowledge and gradually came to be the great defender of what he repeatedly called ordinary life. Life of people, not especially blessed with material goods, but people who work on ordinary jobs who don’t have much of education, who won’t achieve greatness and yet, nevertheless, love, care for others, work, have fun, raise children, and have large thoughts about the deepest questions, in ways that Orwell thought especially admirable. Orwell’s journey into ordinary life, began in the spring of 1928. When he left the privileges of his class behind, and went to work in series of menial service jobs in the French and English capitals experiences he was to recount in his book, “Down and Out in Paris and London” published in 1933. The book is filled with affection and portraits of life behind stairs in hotels and restaurants and revels and camaraderie, humor and warmth. of an assortment of cleaners or shoe rubbers, waiters, chefs and the occasional prostitute tramp. It was a side of life Orwell was further to investigate. In a book chronicling his journeys around the industrial coal mining of Northern England In a 1937 book titled, The Road to Wigan Pier again, without sentimentality or reverse snobbery, Orwell casts the generous complex eye over the people he met, and concluded that the average pulp in a coal mining village. contain more intelligence, wisdom than the British cabinet or the high table of an Oxbridge College. Orwell especially liked the lack of prudishness and hypocrisy among the ordinary people he met. One thing one notices when he writes, if he looks directly at the common people especially in the big towns, is that they are not puritanical. They are in veteran gamblers, drink as much as their wages will permit, and devoted to boardy jokes and use, probably, the foulest language in the world. Then, as now, there was plenty of information in the news about ordinary people. But Orwell understood that these news tended to turn people into abstractions. And he saw it as the role in his craft, literary journalism, to flesh out the human beings behind the statistics. And so, correct the prejudice and casual racism that circulated all around. In an essay written on a trip to Marrakech Orwell wrote sarcastically are the typically neo-colonial attitude of travelers towards the local inhabitants. The people here have brown faces “There are so many of them, are they really the same flesh as yourself?” “Do they even have names? or they merely a kind of undifferentiated brown stuff?” about as an individual as bees or coral insects. All people who work with their hands are partly invisible. And the more important work that they do, the less visible they are. Orwell’s love of the ordinary inspired his curiosity about a range of themes not often considered in literature. He thought about and wrote in praise of comics and country walks dancing and flowers. He wrote bravely in defense of English cooking kippers, Yorkshire pudding, Devon shire cream, muffins and crumpets he wrote. And then asked, where else other than English cooking do you see potatoes roasted under the joint? which is far in a way the best way of cooking them. Orwell wrote tenderly in defense of Charles Dickens at the time when this great writer was considered low brow and too popular to win the esteemed intellectuals. In a great essay of 1946, Politics and the English Language, Orwell stood up against the pros typical of intellectuals high blown and full of long fancy words and defended a simple, almost naive way of writing. He outlined the list of rules for how to write well, which included a complete ban on fancy words like phenomenon, categorical, utilize, inexorable and veritable. Orwell revealed a hatred of foreign words like status quo and deus ex machina. And concluded, There is really no need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in English. George Orwell is today extremely famous for two books which played a very small part in his life. if measured simply in terms of years he wrote Animal Farm in 1945 when he was 42 and he published Nineteen Eighty-four in 1949 when he was 45. but he was dead in January 1950 at the age of only 46. In other words, he had just four short years being the Orwell we know today. Nevertheless, these two books are anchored in deep thinking that Orwell had done all his adult life about how literature should be written in an age of movies and mass communication. In short, he knew that the task of a writer was to ensure that the most serious ideas should achieve mass popularity. A double act, which required particular skill and intelligence. Animal farm is a political trapped about how revolutions fall prey to counter-revolutions. and turn their backs on their own original ideas. It fairly maps out the progress of French Revolution. the European Revolutions of 1848 and the Russian Revolution of 1917. But, described like this, no one outside of the few academics would ever bother to read it. Orwell’s genius was to hit upon of form the fable which would carry his story to a mass audience and could be understood as he put it by more or less, anyone. So Orwell did what Aesop, Walt Disney, La Fontaine and Beatrix Potter among many others have done. Which is to tell a story about humans via animals. In the process, Orwell revealed, the sins of the revolutionaries are not limited to people involved in actual revolutions. Indeed, that it’s a permanent human possibility to believe when he’s guided by high ideals and then go on to betray them all. Every time a revolution now goes wrong, people bring up Animal Farm. And declare it to be ahead of its time. So prescient. This is the genius of Orwell’s fable. By cutting out all contemporary human references, Orwell found a way to tell us about ourselves for all time even for the future. Having successfully reinvented the fable, Orwell, in an astonishing burst of creativity, then reinvented the science fiction novel. As a boy, he’d loved the novels of H.G. Wells. Especially, the Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. Like Wells, Orwell seized upon trends in his own time and try to imagine how they might develop over the long term. His science fiction novel is set in Airstrip One. A place once known as Great Britain, but now a province of the super state of Oceania. And locked in perpetual ideological conflict with two other blocks, Eurasia and East Asia. Like all great dystopian novels, Orwell’s book was an attempt to warn his own society about its own alarming trends. For example, he could see that what can terrorize a country is not so much outright torture or clumsy covert restrictions on free speech, but a lulling of the citizenry through sophisticated entertainment and empty-headed news reports. all wrapped up in a constant reference to freedom. So, In 1984, society is full of intriguing new machines omnipresent screens which both addicted, and at the same time watch over their citizens. Julia, the leading female figure in the novel, works in the department of government known as “Mini True” which systematically distorts access to information in highly subtle ways. To blind the citizenry to their enslavement, Julia operates a machine that turns out porn novels. alongside, films oozing with sex, rubbishing newspapers containing almost nothing but sport, crime and astrology. The people, however, don’t feel they are enslaved. As Orwell so well understood, the really clever and scary regimes of the modern world aren’t the obviously dictatorial ones. they are, the apparently, democratic ones that give their citizens the distinct feeling that they are free. Well in fact, blinding them with constant sexual titillation, and sentimental distractions. George Orwell had the wisdom to make himself remarkably future-proof. He was weary of economic and political abstractions. He start close to the truth of ordinary life. The realities of sex, food, money, love and pleasure. and he wrote with total clarity about enduring eternal themes on human nature. He is, perhaps, the most successful serious English-language writer of the 20th century. and gives us the tools to continue to imagine what writing should be in our own time. Ultimately, Orwell’s message is the same as the plea that he discerned in all of Charles Dickens’ books. in the essay he wrote on him namely, that human beings should behave better. This, as he pointed out, is either a terrific cliche or just about the most important instruction in the hole of life. It was Orwell’s genius to remind as that it is, of course, very much, the latter.

100 thoughts on “LITERATURE – George Orwell

  1. I didn't expect Oswald Mosley to be in this video. But that was really cool.

    Shout out to the person that edits these videos.

  2. One should always avoid the shoulds. I say never challenge without a clear purpose and established outcome. I say create a path for the way you want the world to be. If it works for the majority, the people with follow and leave the rest behind. #CreateABetterWorld

  3. “All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them”

    ― George Orwell

  4. As he wrote about the counter revolution mimicking other countries,, who will write about the failure of the US going against its ideals?

  5. I have read 1984, i haven't read Animal Farm.
    But it would be funny if the animals from Animal Farm ganged up on the traitor of 19i4. I refuse to say his actual name

  6. Exposing a lie is ok, but then who fixes it? Are they morally qualified to fix? Will they do a good job and TRULY fix a problem? So far I would say those questions and Orwell’s goals are supreme failures.
    He was prescient though……I give him that.

  7. That list of sins of the intellectual is exactly what i experience daily at college. Disdain for everything not left and liberal and radical

  8. Jesus, that was inspiring. I had just taken up writing about my injury, and I was always a fan of Moby Dick and Melville's rambling prose about whatever the character was thinking. The simile, metaphor, abstraction of emotion to pull you in. I always found it fun and poetic, and in fact I was trying to use my story as therapy to understand my emotions a bit better and maybe have others understand it as well.I was writing theraputically, but also to make others a little more kinder to the injured. but after reading animal farm in a single sitting i see what he means. The power of a short, concise, and simple novel is by far more effective than anything else.
    I think I'll try and edit my story the way it is, but maybe try it again with this sort of reductive style on it, see if I can't make it interesting.

  9. Enslaved, welcome to Australia in 2019 people here believe they are free because the fridge is full of beer they have their iphone can go to Bali on holiday and all manner of mindless crap is on TV , what morons. Orwell was right but his message falls on totally deaf ears. Stop the world I want to get off. Welcome to Gulag Australia.

  10. Love your work School of Life. This month is roughly the 70th anniversary of the publication of Nineteen Eighty Four. The lessons and warnings from this book are more important to heed now than anytime since its initial publication. Check out my review of this major work.

  11. This may sound like I am degrading George Orwell. But from this video it sounds like Orwell contributed to the Now modern stance of pseudo-intellectulis and at some times anti-intelligence commentary. Things The common narrative on Fox News. Conspiracy theorist and the Republican Party in general. (not that I’m condoning the DNC either) But if anyone has any thoughts on this I am more than interested

  12. I couldn't have more love for this essayist and for this author, who woke me up for good when I was just a kid in Junior High. I share his devotion to language and the free and organic use of it, and of the wisdom of the ordinary people all over the world.

  13. The BBC fits well into this scenario with their pack mentality. No freedom for your own conscience there.

  14. Forgot to mention he went to Russia and hated Bolschevism after seeing what was really going on.He was not saying how to do the revolution properly.He was anti communist.But we cant say this now can we?

  15. 1884 is one of best book all intelligent and smart people must read
    It opens it eyes and makes u free
    1984 it's not about use ,USA,British empire
    I mean it is about ussr totalitarism
    But this book about the all system what systems make regime and judge people and make than slaves
    George Orwell is freedom writer
    This book can make good person
    God bless sir george

  16. the introduction basically says " literature is there to change the world for the better "
    the writer of this has obviously never read the QURAN .

  17. Like Kubrick he was an insider who died soon after a seminal revelatory work exposing the evil truth about ruling elites who hide behind secrecy and punish whistle-blowers….

  18. Political corectness is the new ignsoc constant bombardment media of what to think ,do and how to act . therefore no one can think because its a crime and less to express the expression of thinking is hate speech so everything is twisted up love is hate and hate is love

  19. Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

  20. ORDINARY LIFE? but what is Ordinary life? He defined it Subjectively but we dont know what Ordinary life means.

  21. I live in Oceania, "Summer" in Eastasia, and buy black market cigars from Eurasia. And only three flags to recognize for Geography class (My best subject). We've got Eurasia right where we want'em. The now 35 year old future Rocks!

  22. Karl Marx and Engles were jews. Engles spoke of the genocide of the White people.

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Nobelprize winner who sat 8 years in Gulag:

    “You must understand, the leading Bolsheviks who took over Russia were not Russians. They hated Russians. They hated Christians. Driven by ethnic hatred, they tortured and slaughtered millions of Russians without a shred of human remorse. It cannot be overstated. Bolshevism committed the greatest human slaughter of all time. The fact that most of the world is ignorant and uncaring about this enormous crime is proof that the global media in the hands of the perpetrators.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    “We cannot state that all Jews are Bolsheviks. But without Jews, there would never have been Bolshevism. For a Jew, nothing is more insulting than the truth. The blood maddened Jewish terrorists have murdered sixty-six million in Russia from 1918 to 1957.”

    Brutal! Drawings from Gulag:

  23. Listening to a summary of 1984 is like listening to a summary of today’s society, the future is not bright for our children

  24. Pretty much a guidebook for the modern leftist. "Always do whatever Orwell warned us about." Hate speech laws, effacing old murals for their "colonialism", ask for more censorship, milkshake politicians, etc…

  25. Without any references to the Spanish Civil War?? That was a cardinal moment in his life! There he became the political activist and thats where he became desillusioned by revolutions… He witnessed the destruction of the POUM in Barcelona.

  26. I'm going to have to read "Why I Write"…. sounds amazing. Perhaps we cannot separate politics from writing. Could one write a novel without any political content whatsoever? It would be extremely difficult. I now understand to a greater depth why Christopher Hitchens admired Orwell to such a great degree.

  27. The Nostradamus of the day .
    A genius one might say .
    Well Mr George Orwell you was correct .
    Take heed young people it's you're future and freedom at stake .
    Wake up or face being part of a brutal regime . It's up to YOU !!!!!

  28. Your videos make my life worth living and expand my mind like no other. (Binge watching school of life videos)

  29. The book is awesome from the literature perspective but very biased politically. I felt as if I am reading a beautifully written political propaganda

  30. The dilemma with intellectuals is their want of change through politics, therefore power. This is very different from empowerment.
    Does he know where these stupid mindsets come from? It's not human condition, it is the environment human nature operates in. We are not going to change any of this unless we change money.

  31. "Dickens, who had not the vision to see that private property is an obstructive nuisance…" was written by Orwell?! I wish I had a better understanding of this comment's context – it strikes me as rather alarming.

  32. Probably your worst video, because you let your political views get in the way of stating the main things straightforwardly. Just the sort of obfuscation that Orwell abhorred. In 3 of his books, starting with Homage to Catalonia, and dozens of his essays, he fought with great clarity and courage against the horror of Communism. And against the horror of the intellectual class that jumped to lie and deny the facts about Communism, or hide the facts behind other clever tangential observations. Just as you, and many another writer before you, have obscuring the facts about what Animal Farm and 1984 were about, by hiding behind other clever observations about the books.

  33. Love the writings of Orwell and often quote him on FB as we become an increasingly Orwellian society here, shades of Orwell's dystopian novel, "1984"! The answer to "1984" is…1776! Orwell also held much in common with the late great FDR's brilliant visionary VP Henry A. Wallace, champion of the "common man"/woman and child in the 99 percent who was also anti-Fascist, Pro-Democracy! Wallace spoke out against the VERY dangerous AMERICAN FASCISM/TREASON i.e. far right extremism here since the 1930s and 40s, almost 100 years. He predicted and forewarned us about the Republican party's assassinations at our embassies, their assassinations in the 60s and their 9/11…both inside jobs! "They would be made RUTHLESS in their use of DECEIT or VIOLENCE TO ATTAIN THEIR ENDS"….VP Wallace,they use both, history has borne this out! "The DANGEROUS AMERICAN FASCIST is the man in the United States who wants to do in an AMERICAN WAY what Hitler did in Germany in a PRUSSIAN WAY"….VP Wallace, so they DO and also DID on 9/11..connect the dots and take the blinders off if you still have them on! This is all being swept under the rug and white washed just like the late great writer/historian Howard Zinn said we do all the time with American history i.e the Native American Holocaust etc. so nothing new, history repeats in more ways than one! A top leading EXPERT in the UK on the Nazi party/Fascist Hitler says this " MAD DOG" of the White House i.e. Trump is going by Hitler's playbook, "MEIN KAMPF"~ Nothing new! Wallace beat him to the punch around 75 years ago! They're screaming at us now over in London and Paris and also hate Trump/Fascism! WHY? Because they've been through it before, that's why! "History repeats itself", has to if nobody listens and "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it"…George Santayana..the truth, if even in it's new all-AMURIKKKAN red, white and blue re-incarnation of the Third Reich! "People don't want to hear the truth, they don't want their illusions destroyed"….Friedrich Nietzsche, another truth, just like most of the German sheeple who erroneously didn't think? it would or could happen there, but it did…Remember? "NEVER AGAIN"! The Patriot Act, a huge misnomer and anything but patriotic and created because of their 9/11 is FASCISM….obsession with national security! Hitler was also obsessed with national security! A violation of our Right to privacy, including social media, long gone! BIG BRO is watching YOU!! Wallace also predicted and forewarned us about the merger of state and corporations/FASCISM/corporate oligarchical rule/TREASON i.e Citizen's United, another huge misnomer! Guess those in the Democratic party don't want to have to admit that Wallace was the one who was really Right about this Fascist Reichwing! They're NOT Right…they're WRONG/REICH and on the wrong side of American history…bottom line! Thanks for sharing~ "knowledge is power"!!

  34. I like Animal Farm. But, sorry, Orwell, I can't separate myself from inexorable boobs even if I might not even have good friendship with a woman until after ten years, to mean that those inexorable things men like are much farther than that.

  35. "rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing but sports, crime and astrology" sounds like India(Especially south)

  36. The great enemy of freedom is the systematic corruption of language. Orwell warned of it, how "Newspeak" would eradicate the ability to even think. 1984 was not about the technological omnipresence of Big Brother…it was about losing one's own ability to question the world. The TV screens and listening devices were just window dressing.

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