George Orwell is the writer I most admire

George Orwell is the writer whom I most admire.

George Orwell

George Orwell

He is not the writer with the greatest insight into things, he is not the most brilliant literary stylist, and he is not the writer who gives me the greatest pleasure.

He is the writer I would have most liked to resemble—in his honesty, in his fearlessness, in his clear writing (which is partly a product of his honesty and fearlessness) and in his affirmation of common life and ordinary people.

He is remembered for Animal Farm and 1984, but his essays and journalism are just as interesting.

He was a radical, but not the kind of radical who, like George Bernard Shaw, wanted to re-engineer human life into something unrecognizable, while leaving existing concentrations of wealth and power undisturbed.

Here is a passage from The Road to Wigan Pier, which is about the lives of unemployed coal miners in the north of England in the 1930s.  He wrote about what he saw from the window of his train as he returned to his home in the south.

As we moved slowly through the outskirts of the town we passed row after row of little grey slum houses running at right angles to the embankment.

At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked.

I had time to see everything about her – her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold.

She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye.

She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is 25 and looks 40, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen.

It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that “It isn’t the same for them as it would be for us”, and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums.

For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal.

She knew well enough what was happening to her – understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drainpipe.

via spiked review of books.

I got to thinking about Orwell the other day after I came across two book reviews on-line—one a biography and the other a collection of his writings.


Review of George Orwell: English Rebel by Robert Colls.

Review of Seeing Things As They Are: Selected Journalism and Other Writings by George Orwell.


3 Responses to “George Orwell is the writer I most admire”

  1. tiffany267 Says:

    I’m also partial to George Orwell. I don’t know if you’ve read his Homage to Catalonia; if not you would probably enjoy it. It has a passage about the physical sensation of being shot that really sent chills down my spine…


    • philebersole Says:

      I own and have read every book Orwell ever wrote, plus the four volumes of his Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters.

      I did greatly enjoy Homage to Catalonia and remember well the passage you mention. It is vintage Orwell. It begins in his characteristically matter-of-fact way, “The whole experience of being hit by a bullet is very interesting and I think it is worth describing in detail.”

      Then follows two pages of exact description of his thoughts and physical sensations on being hit, then eight more pages about what he saw and felt as he received first aid and was carried away and treated in a Spanish hospital.

      His conclusion also was characteristic. “No one I met at this time … failed to assure me that a man who is hit through the neck and survives it is the luckiest creature alive. I could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be hit at all.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. patricknelson750 Says:

    Reblogged this on patricknelson750 and commented:
    George Orwell… a great writer and after 1984 we can’t say that we haven’t been warned.


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