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Home Uncategorized The Quixote of Cant

The Quixote of Cant

Martin Tyrrell

Orwell Your Orwell: A Worldview on the Slab, by David Ramsay Steele, St Augustine’s Press, 374 pp, $35, ISBN: 978-1587316104

Orwell and I go back a long way. Back to when I was about thirteen and first read Animal Farm. I was hooked. I read my way through the rest of Orwell on and off over the next two years, the Penguin editions of the 1970s with their stark black covers. Orwell was the first adult writer I took to, the first that seemed to speak to me directly.

For me, his books are, like the NME, punk and Thatcher ‑ inextricably part of that time, the countdown to 1984. All of the faults that David Ramsay Steele here lists of Orwell admirers I’ve been guilty of: believing him more honest than all his peers; believing him more morally upright than almost anyone; convincing myself that he conveniently agreed with me on every matter of importance. With time, I think I can see his flaws, but also his strengths ‑ here is a writer who believes in things and is generally clear on what those things are; a writer who cares about language; who keeps a weather eye for cant; who forces us to think; who has ideas and is unafraid to lay them out for us, and who writes novels of ideas that have lasted into a time when novels of ideas are again out of favour (“My dear aunt,” says the “intolerable” youth Orwell says he once saw in a Punch cartoon, “one doesn’t write about anything, one just writes.”)

Ideas are essential to Orwell. If nothing else, he makes us think. “Every line of serious work I have written since 1936,” he tells us, “has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it.” Orwell Your Orwell is a book about Orwell’s ideas ‑ ideas that Orwell held, not ideas that were original to him. As David Ramsay Steele shows, most of what Orwell says had been said before. His niche was to say it better. Contra Christopher Hitchens ‑ whose Orwell book here comes in for some sharp criticism—Orwell was no maverick, no lone everyman taking on the great and the good of his tribe. That was a pose. Most of what Orwell professed, he professed in considerable company.

Take socialism. Nothing in what Orwell understood by socialism ‑ nationalisation of industry and the banks, a planned economy, more or less equal incomes, and moves against the usual socialist targets ‑ the House of Lords, the public schools, private incomes ‑ would have flustered the mainstream left of his time. It was an entirely conventional set of beliefs, one that Steele traces back to popularising books such as Blatchford’s Merrie England.

Not that Orwell was particularly merrie. Well before the dystopian imaginings of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four ‑ in The Road to Wigan Pier, say – his socialism is a glum business. Others had been upbeat regarding the coming collectivised future, envisaging heady, post-scarcity times in which people, freed from work, might thrive like undergraduates at play.

Tomorrow for the young the poets exploding like bombs,
The walks by the lake, the winter of perfect communion;
Tomorrow the bicycle races
Through the suburbs on summer evenings …

Orwell, in contrast, says a socialist Britain, shorn of its colonies, will likely subsist on a diet of herrings and potatoes. Indeed, there could be a whole century of post-imperial privation up ahead. Does he mind? Not so much. As Steele observes, though Orwell, in Wigan Pier, lingers on the hard lives of the poor and the low-paid in depression-era England ‑ the miners, the woman he sees from a train trying to clear a blocked drain with a stick ‑ he is far from sold on any future in which there might be less work and better pay and conditions. To Orwell, work is a good thing, the harder the better. The easy ‑ or even just easier ‑ life, and the quest for it, are to him suspect. For Orwell, the high-tech utopias dreamed up by Wilde and Wells hold no appeal. They will make us soft and lazy, he reckons, so much so that our hands might evolve into uselessness. Technology, mechanisation, productivity, urbanisation ‑ beware of them all, says Cassandra George, already they are leading to degeneration.

Feminism, for instance, or homosexuality. Or birth control (“the sleek estranging shield between the lover and his bride”), abstinence from alcohol, fruit juice drinking, analgesics, wearing sandals, and wearing nothing at all ‑ all are to Orwell’s mind morbid symptoms of a society on the brink. Throughout his writing, there is a hankering after simplicity, ordinariness even. “I have often been struck,” he writes in Wigan Pier, “by the peculiar easy completeness, the perfect symmetry as it were, of a working class interior at its best. Especially on winter evenings after tea, when the fire glows in the open range and dances mirrored in the steel fender, when Father, in shirt sleeves, sits in the rocking chair at one side of the fire reading the racing finals, and Mother sits on the other with her sewing, and the children are happy with a pennorth of mint humbugs … it is a good place to be in, provided that you can be not only in it but sufficiently of it to be taken for granted.”

Intellectuals, like vegetarians and the rest, offend against this ordinariness by rejecting it, by setting themselves apart from it, and by pronouncing in code, vaguely. In contrast, Orwell presents himself as the blunt everyman whose plain common sense only those who are suspect could dispute (“It is an established fact understood by every sensible person who has ever thought about it properly …” parodies Robert Colls, in his recent, accomplished, Orwell biography).

Orwell’s self-conscious ordinariness went beyond his writing. Some who knew him recalled that he supped his tea from a saucer, often with a satisfied slurp, like Steptoe senior, and that he even affected a kind of cockney accent. “The FACK that you’re black … and that I’m white, has nudding whatever to do wiv it”, William Empson remembered him saying to one of the scriptwriters from the BBC’s Eastern Service.

It is the ordinary people, says Orwell in The Lion and the Unicorn, who, with their bluff carthorse stoicism and love of country, will take on the dictators, the totalitarians. Look to them, he suggests in My Country Right or Left, not the “boiled rabbits of the Left” if you’re seeking revolution, resistance, signs of life even. Who would guess from that essay, which appeared a year after war was declared, or from any of his other wartime writings, that Orwell had been exactly such a boiled rabbit himself, and not that long ago either. As Steele informs us, Orwell was a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), a party of the far left fringe that ran the Pythonesque London Bureau, the so-called “Three and a Half International”. That ILP phase finds Orwell an eloquent propagandist for his party’s distinctive line on the coming war, which is to oppose it. All talk of fascism versus democracy is eyewash, says pre-war Orwell, the usual demonisation of the prospective enemy. It is this pacifism, ILP-style, that informs Coming up for Air, Orwell’s major publication of the immediate pre-war period:

“You know the line of talk. These chaps can churn it out by the hour. Just like a gramophone. Turn the handle, press the button, and it starts. Democracy, Fascism, Democracy. But somehow it interested me to watch him. A rather mean little man with a bald head, standing on a platform, shouting out slogans. What’s he doing? Quite deliberately, and quite openly, he’s stirring up hatred. Doing his damnedest to make you hate certain foreigners called Fascists.”

But when hostilities broke out, Orwell flipped almost immediately to the pro-war camp, cheekily telling Victor Gollancz how depressed he was by those intellectuals who equated fascism and democracy. It is difficult to pin down any particular reason for this change. His pre-war and wartime diaries and the many letters and published work from the months before and after the change give little away. Oppose the war, says Orwell at the start of 1939, sabotage it even. “Democracy in the British Army” (an article published in September 1939) is still anti-war but the very same month finds Orwell writing to the Ministry of Labour and National Service seeking to enlist.

Only his April 1940 review of Malcom Muggeridge’s The Thirties gives some clue. Here Orwell is clearly moved by Muggeridge, who has undergone a similar conversion ‑ a man who once seemed to believe in nothing turns out to believe in England. “He does not want to see England conquered by Germany,” writes Orwell. “I am told that some months back he left the Ministry of Information to join the army.” And then he says: “I know very well … the emotion of the middle-class man brought up in the military tradition, who finds in the moment of crisis that he is a patriot after all. It is all very well to be ‘advanced’ and ‘enlightened’; to snigger at Colonel Blimp and proclaim your emancipation from all traditional loyalties, but a time comes when the sand of the desert is sodden red and what have I done for thee, England my England? As I was brought up in this tradition myself I can recognise it under strange disguises, and also sympathise with it, for even at its stupidest and most sentimental it is a comelier thing than the shallow self-righteousness of the left-wing intelligentsia.”

It is just a few months later, in My Country Right or Left, that Orwell goes public on his own conversion. Boiled rabbit no more, he is, like Muggeridge, a patriot after all. He puts it down to a dream. A fortnight or so before war was declared he says he dreamt it had already happened and discovered, in his dream, that he was up for it – “the long drilling in patriotism which the middle classes go through had done its work … once England was in a serious jam it would be impossible for me to sabotage.” And so the author who would soon say that the English working class will sleepwalk into revolution, himself, more or less, sleepwalked into war ‑ an unconscious act, an instinct.

David Ramsay Steele detects a darker side to Orwell’s pro-war position. That proposed marriage of patriotism and socialism in The Lion and the Unicorn, say, which has an unfortunate family resemblance to the fascism of 1920s Italy when leftists soured on socialism and sought alternative ways to revolutionise their country. “As I write,” that essay famously begins, “highly civilised beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” But soon, as Steele reminds us, Orwell is himself rationalising the Allied air raids on Germany and the mass killing of civilians. Steele, rightly I think, rejects the idea that Germany was waging a war of conquest on the United Kingdom. He suggests that the type of negotiated peace that Orwell disparaged was entirely possible, perhaps desirable.

Having gone over to the war party, Orwell now took issue with those pacifists who had not jumped ship along with him ‑ Alex Comfort, John Middleton Murry, George Woodcock ‑ in debates that were often acrimonious. Here he missed no propagandist trick. These continuity pacifists are hypocritical (“Those who abjure violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf”), homosexual (the “Nancy poets”, the “pansy” left), and pro-fascist, in either a roundabout way, or directly (“ … there appears to have been some small overlap of membership between the Peace Pledge Union and the Blackshirts”). These are “nasty ad hominems”, Steele says, noting as well that Orwell “delivers occasional remarks which by today’s standards would usually be classed as antisemitic …”

The author’s wartime diary, which he wrote with an eye to publication, includes some of the more blatant of these remarks. The entry for October 25th, 1940, for example:

The other night examined the crowds sheltering in Chancery Lane, Oxford Circus and Baker Street Stations. Not all Jews, but I think, a higher proportion of Jews than one would normally see in a crowd of this size. What is bad about Jews is that they are not only conspicuous but go out of their way to make themselves so. A fearful Jewish woman, a regular comic paper cartoon of a Jewess, fought her way off the train at Oxford Circus, landing blows on anyone who stood in her way … They make use of England as a sanctuary, but they cannot help feeling the profoundest contempt for it. You can see this in their eyes, even when they don’t say it outright. The fact is that the insular outlook and the continental outlook are completely incompatible.

Steele argues that comments of this kind need to be put in context. Orwell was no anti-Semite. Several of his closest friends were Jewish (Tosco Fyvel, Arthur Koestler) and he often wrote sympathetically and supportively about the Jews, particularly in the later years of the war and after. It is anachronistic, says Steele, for a recent Orwell biographer such as DJ Taylor to describe remarks like those in Orwell’s diary as “insulting”. Orwell, Steele claims, “strives, as a writer, to make sharp observations, and he does not exempt any group of human beings” (didn’t he also say things about the English that might also be considered insulting?). “The modern convention,” he adds, “that no group of people may be pejoratively categorised (except for heterosexual males of northern European descent who are fair game) had not come into force in Orwell’s lifetime.”

True. People in Orwell’s time ‑ including Orwell himself ‑ were more inclined to make sweeping and negative generalisations about whole groups of other people, particularly those well down the food chain. And people today have, indeed, become less keen on these types of blanket statement, and are less tolerant of them, which is why opinions of the “what’s bad about Jews” type so bother many contemporary readers. As observations go, such observations are hardly sharp (“you can see this in their eyes …” Really?). They are exactly the type of broad brush generalisation Orwell himself dismisses as “patently absurd” in the essay “Notes on Nationalism”.

I’m not convinced either that Orwell’s take on the English is in any way comparable to his take on the Jews. What he says about the English is finally an Englishman’s account of his own people. That is a different thing entirely from what he says about Jews, where he is commenting on a minority, one with a lengthy history of persecution and exclusion. Also, what he says about England and the English is extensive. It includes two lengthy essays (“The Lion and the Unicorn” and “The English People”) and comprises both negative and positive observations, but the lasting impression is that Orwell on England is generally favourable. Setting aside his usual bugbears ‑ the nobs and the little old ladies living off their ten per cent, not to mention the intellectuals, Catholics, feminists, pansy pacifist poets, and so on, there is scarcely an area in which Orwell’s ordinary English do not have the edge on Johnny Foreigner. The cuisine? Way underrated. The political system? Just needs someone to make it work. The empire? Well, fair cop, not so good, but more of a Scottish/Jewish racket than an English one, and however bad it is, it’s a whole lot better than the unspecified empires that will shortly replace it.

Orwell, writes Conor Cruise O’Brien, “never thought it worthwhile to imagine seriously what it would be like to belong to a people with a quite different historical experience from that of the English”. Although Steele tells us that Orwell was an anti-imperialist, Conor Cruise O’Brien is right, I think, to say that the author showed little empathy towards the various anti-colonial movements then gaining ground. Indian nationalism is one of the dubious mindsets he homes in on in “Notes on Nationalism”, while elsewhere he muses on whether Gandhi might be considered a kind of contemporary Rasputin. In “Shooting an Elephant”, he admits to an ugly fantasy ‑ running a bayonet through a Buddhist priest, the Buddhist priests being conspicuously hostile to British rule.

Indian independence was the main imperial issue of the 1930s. India, as Steele relates, had already attained significant self-government and had generated a large and active independence movement with mass support. Steele says that Orwell generally favoured dominion status for India—the same status that white governed territories like Canada, Australia and the then Irish Free State had attained. Since dominion status was, he says, the same thing as independence, then Orwell advocated Indian independence. But Orwell also writes that he does believe that India can be truly independent, any more, if I remember correctly, than a domestic pet can be independent. And he also at least once he recommends that India become a dominion now with the option of “seceding” when the war is over. It is all very confusing, but only because I think Orwell did not, after all, equate dominion status with independence. No one did.

Up to the 1930s, I don’t think anyone would have thought of Canada and the other dominions as being exactly the same in status as an independent country like France or Russia. The dominions, regardless of their formal status, took their lead on foreign policy from London. In any list of territories of the British empire, they were always included, above the rest, but below the United Kingdom. And on any map, they were always coloured British empire pink. When Orwell advocates dominion status for India, I’m fairly sure he had in mind something less than independence. And given that he thought that India could not be independent, something less than independence was entirely appropriate, especially during wartime.

“It is odd,” Steele writes, “that … Orwell paid no attention to the example of Ireland, which had been so central to British politics for his entire lifetime.” It is indeed odd. But perhaps Orwell didn’t think Ireland was a properly sovereign state, just a dominion (“dominion home rule” is the term I recently came across in a 1923 House of Commons debate). When Ireland ‑ the current Republic, the twenty-six counties ‑ left the United Kingdom in 1922, it was on the understanding that it was doing so not as an independent state but as a dominion, and as a “free state”, not a republic, and the Irish delegation was given to understand that if it failed to agree to this, there would be an immediate and terrible military response. Ireland therefore became a dominion because it was not permitted to be the independent republic a majority of its people had voted for. There followed a civil war between those who believed that dominion status was enough independence to be getting on with and those who believed it wasn’t.

Irish policy following the granting of dominion status was to keep pushing the definition of dominion status further in the direction of full sovereignty, a few steps more at each imperial conference, the defining moment for Ireland as a genuinely independent state coming in 1939 when, uniquely among the dominions, it declared itself neutral in the coming conflict. Orwell has says little about this – “Eire can only remain neutral because of British protection,” he offers in “Notes on Nationalism”.

If Orwell has little to say on the subject of Ireland, he has plenty to say about Catholicism, Catholics being part of his axis of infamy, along with homosexuals, feminists and the rest (“The Primrose Quarterly,” seethes Comstock in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, “One of those poisonous literary papers where the fashionable Nancy Boy and the professional Roman Catholic walk bras dessusbras dessous”). Steele describes Orwell as a ‘“Protestant atheist’ steeped in the traditional British view of the Catholic Church as the great enemy of liberty”.

I remember Bernard Crick saying something similar during a talk he gave at Queen’s University, Belfast in 1984. Orwell, Crick reckoned, had quite deliberately given O’Brien in Nineteen Eighty-Four an Irish name because an Irish name implied Catholicism and there was more than a little of the Inquisitor General about O’Brien, Crick thought. He then read a page or so from the novel, affecting a stagey brogue when it came to O’Brien’s dialogue. I’m wondering though what liberties did Catholicism seek to discourage in Orwell’s England that were not already discouraged by church and state (the two being one in England)—divorce, homosexuality, erotica? And what liberties did Catholics oppose that Orwell did not himself also oppose ‑ contraception, abortion, homosexuality? There is something more basic going on here, I think—a conventional antagonism that has largely (largely) gone from British culture, but which still had some traction in Orwell’s time. ‘I have to go to church,’ he writes to Eleanor Jaques in June 1932. “An arduous job as the service is so popish I don’t know my way about it”; later that same year, he refers to the journalist DB Wyndham Lewis as “a stinking RC”. He bore a lifelong grudge against what he called the “Catholic gang” ‑ Chesterton, Belloc and others.

Homage to Catalonia has scarcely begun and we find Orwell enthusing at the Spanish Republic’s anti-clerical binge ‑ the church burnings, the theft of church property, the desecration of graves, the dead nuns and priests exhumed and put on public display. “Churches were pillaged everywhere,” he writes, “and as a matter of course, because it was perfectly well understood that the Spanish Church was part of the capitalist racket.” But this is a selective anticlericalism. ‘”In six months in Spain,” Orwell goes on to say, “I saw only two undamaged churches, and until about July 1937 no churches were allowed to open and hold services, except for one or two Protestant churches in Madrid.” Orwell does say why those particular churches were left unmolested. (Were they not also ‑ more so ‑ part of the capitalist racket? Didn’t Weber and Tawney say that Protestantism and capitalism were closely correlated and in a way that Catholicism and capitalism decidedly weren’t?) I assume it was because they were churches attended by important foreigners and that the Republicans therefore spared them the full force of their secularising fervour. As does Orwell. Steele, to his credit, calls this out. Orwell’s “failure to criticise leftist violence against Catholics” is, he says, “a contemptible moral surrender”. I have never been able to warm to Orwell’s Barcelona. It isn’t just his glee at the desecrations, or his disappointment that the anarchists never quite managed to blow up Sagrada Famiglia cathedral, it is also the very thing he eulogises: on the strength of Homage to Catalonia, anarchist Barcelona seems a conforming, joyless collective as bad, as oppressive, surely, as any government.

Orwell’s later politics are conventional. No anarchist, no fringe leftist, he backed Attlee’s Labour Party, which was in power from 1945 and for the rest of Orwell’s life. It implemented an ambitious programme of nationalisation and social welfare, which Orwell supported but felt could have gone further. These were the years when he published the books for which he is best known ‑Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four ‑ both of which suggest that idealistic socialism might take a bad totalitarian turn. Is such a turn inevitable, Steele wonders? Critics of socialism say it is. Orwell himself, however, rejected any such suggestion: “I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive,” he wrote to Francis A Henson of the United Automobile Workers, “but I believe … that something resembling it could arrive.” Steele notes that Orwell distinguishes bad collectivism, such as Russia under Stalin or Germany under Hitler, and good collectivism, the democratic socialism he espouses.

But where is this democratic socialism, Steele asks? What example do we have of socialist states that have collectivised their economies and managed at the same time to hang on to democracy? None, says Steele. The usual suspects ‑ Sweden, Germany after Hitler, Britain before Thatcher ‑ won’t do. Though all of them had any amount of nationalisation, income and prices policies, worker directors, shorter working weeks and comprehensive social welfare programmes, crucially all of these things coexisted alongside a substantial and conventional market economy ‑ banks, financial markets and so on. The economies of even the most ambitious of western social democracies remained resolutely market-based and therefore differ fundamentally from what Orwell meant by democratic socialism. Look, says Steele, at the parties of the left, their postwar history. Either they gave up collectivism or they gave up democracy, a big hint that they could not be collectivists and democrats at the same time; they could not, in fact, pursue democratic socialism as Orwell understood it.

And so you can forget all that blah about “late capitalism”, late as in past its use-by date. It is socialism, or at least the good, democratic version of it, that is late ‑ late as in hasn’t shown up. If left-wing critics of Orwell resent the fillip he has given the right, then Steele suspects this is because democratic socialism as Orwell understood it looks less and less like putting in an appearance. Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four with the hindsight of the past seventy years, one might conclude, pace Henry Ford, that you can have any kind of collectivism you like so long as its totalitarian collectivism, the oligarchical type of Nineteen Eighty-Four. There is no other. Viewed thus, Nineteen Eighty-Four is ‑ has become ‑ an anti-socialist work.

So far so logical. What I’m not so sure about is that Nineteen Eighty-Four is, as Steele contends, a book that makes capitalism look good. In the novel, he writes, “every hint of surviving freedom or individual dignity is associated with the past of free market capitalism, and each disappointment, as another ray of hope for liberty is blocked off, is one more sign of how thoroughly capitalism has been eliminated”.  But Orwell makes no such explicit connection between, on the one hand, freedom, hope, individual dignity and liberty, and, on the other, capitalism. True, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the condition of the imagined future is undeniably worse than that of Orwell’s actual present (the late 1940s) or his actual past (the 1910s especially, which, prep school aside, he generally romanticises). Nowhere, however, does Orwell attribute this to the demise of capitalism any more than he attributes it to the decline of the aristocracy, or the relative decline of Britain as a global power. Orwell, in his writings, tries to show that there is little dignity under capitalism and little enough practical freedom.

There has been no democratic socialism of the type that Orwell favoured. But neither has there been pristine capitalism. The free market economy of theory, the one that never fails to make things turn out nice again, remains the free market of theory, neat as a bow. Where real life markets have functioned, they have done so in a context of national states and of policy. The European Single Market, for example. The great opening up of Spain, post-civil war, which Steele refers to, involved eventual EU membership. With membership came a massive investment in infrastructure and, in time, improved productivity and the revitalisation of once moribund industries such as car production. These, I suspect, mattered more than the influence of “the religious order Opus Dei, one of whose quirks (as it seemed back then) was its espousal of free market economic policy”.

We have reached something like equilibrium, Steele concludes, “where state welfare persists at some level, but the survival of private, competitive capitalism is not endangered”. But he does not comment on whether shifting the current balance further in favour of capitalism might make us better off again. Is it capitalism, or is it the regulated capitalism of welfare states and single markets that makes us better off? The socialist, social democrat and Labour parties of Western Europe remain parties of government ‑ parties that are either in government or in serious contention to be in government. And they remain the parties of the working class and of the marginalised and excluded. Steele says that they have abandoned socialism, but when did they ever subscribe to it? Even at the height of its reforming ambitions (in 1945 and again in 1974), the British Labour Party accepted that a significant market economy would continue to operate. Neither it nor its counterparts elsewhere in Europe have ever delivered a collectivised economy. Nor have they seriously aspired to. But they did deliver on socialised healthcare, free education and social security, which in turn enabled better life chances, better quality of life, and greater social mobility. Expect all this to end if or when the social democratic turn in western capitalism is finally reversed and we will return to the conditions of Orwell’s Wigan Pier.

“By far the best and least exacting patron is the big public,” wrote Orwell. Since his death in 1950, his reputation has weathered periods of critical and far-left unpopularity, but the big public has kept the faith. It is Orwell whose ideas (ideas again) have gone deep into the general culture. The Thought Police, Big Brother, “some are more equal than others”, 1984 ‑ who hasn’t heard of them? There was always the chance he might slip from view once the year of the book had come and gone. (“RELAX,” proclaimed a T-shirt you could buy that Christmas, “IT’S 1985!”) But the book has long outlived the year – and ssales are up since Trump.

The late Ian MacDonald talked of the “biography test” ‑ is a person of sufficient interest to warrant a detailed biography? It is a test Orwell passes in style¨his life been the subject of more than half a dozen solid books, from Stansky and Abrahams to Richard Colls, by way of Bernard Crick, Michael Shelden, Jeffrey Meyers, DJ Taylor and Gordon Bowker. And Orwell studies are almost an industry ‑ Alex Zwerdling, Raymond Williams, Daphne Patai, John Rodden. Peter Davison, John Newsinger, Scott Lucas. And now David Ramsay Steele. “It is considered high praise to say of a book that, having once begun it, you can’t put it down,” Steele wrote some thirty years ago. “But for me the more significant accolade is that having finished it you can’t put it down.”

Orwell Your Orwell is that type of unputdownable book. Sharp and insightful, it is informed by a close and careful reading, not just of the Orwell opus but of its historical, intellectual and cultural context. Steele is an extraordinarily gifted writer ‑ no verbiage here, no obscurity, no jargon, just crafted, characterful writing, as befits its subject.


Martin Tyrrell is a former Eurocrat and Fulbright scholar. His five-week course on Orwell’s essays begins at Open Learning, Queen’s University, Belfast in May.



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