I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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,…

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