Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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p. vii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

In the course of this book’s composition, friends on both sides of the Atlantic gave me sage advice and trusting reassurance. In the United States, Thomas F. Staley, director of the renowned Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, showed early enthusiasm for this project and welcomed it into his...

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Introduction. Afterthoughts on His Afterlives

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pp. 1-12

At the close of May 2003, just three weeks before the centennial anniversary of George Orwell’s birth on June 25, the Chronicle of Higher Education interviewed several “experts” under the following headline: “Deconstruct This: George Orwell.” I was phoned by a Chronicle staffer as the token “traditionalist,” to use her word. The other two interviewees included...

Part One. If the Mantle Fits . . .

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Chapter 1. Virtuous Men?or “The American Orwell” (I)

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pp. 15-28

In his 1952 introduction to the American edition of Homage to Catalonia, Lionel Trilling characterized George Orwell, in an oft-quoted passage, as “a virtuous man,” “a figure in our lives.”1 “We,” Trilling said, “could be like him if only. . . .” And yet, despite his elastic use of the first-person plural, Trilling’s charged prose, his choice of details about Orwell...

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Chapter 2. “Dear Dwight,” or “The American Orwell” (II)

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pp. 29-54

Ahalf century ago, Dwight Macdonald was periodically touted as “the American Orwell.” Indeed the historian John Lukacs honored him in the Jesuit magazine America with that phrase,1 and Orwell’s widow, Sonia, considered commissioning Macdonald to write Orwell’s biography.2 Macdonald and Orwell did have a good deal...

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Chapter 3. “St. Irving”? or “The American Orwell” (III)

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pp. 55-76

In Achieving Our Country, Richard Rorty lauded Irving Howe’s “incredible energy and exceptional honesty,” “making him virtually “a warrior-saint” who “came to play the role in many people’s lives that Orwell did in his.”1 The historian Josephine Woll recalled in Dissent after Howe’s death, in a comparison that many of his friends would have endorsed...

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Chapter 4. Fellow Contrarians? or “The (Anglo-)American Orwell” (IV)

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pp. 77-96

Christopher Hitchens (1949–) is one of our most prominent and controversial public intellectuals, and numerous cultural critics have compared him—favorably or unfavorably—to George Orwell. In an October 2005 Internet poll conducted among its readers by Prospect to discover the world’s leading public intellectuals, Hitchens ranked fifth.1 His...

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Chapter 5. “True Patriot and Traditionalist,” or the (Hungarian-)American Orwell (V)

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pp. 97-118

Like his close friend and fellow gadfly intellectual Dwight Macdonald,1 the historian John Lukacs is a resolute iconoclast, an adamant antinomian, and a great admirer of Orwell. Above all, Lukacs values Orwell’s distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Following Orwell, Lukacs...

Part Two. Politics and the German Language

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Chapter 6. The (Un-rosy) State of Orwellian Unlearning

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pp. 121-134

A famous Herblock cartoon from the early postwar era shows a Moscow schoolboy slinking home from class, his shoulders drooping, his head bent. From behind the Party newspaper, whose front page features the usual headlines about Comrade Stalin’s heroic exploits, the boy’s...

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Chapter 7. Books That Led to Miniluv

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pp. 135-142

In August 2003 I met several victims of human rights crimes under the dictatorship of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) at the international George Orwell Centennial Conference held at the Haus der Zukunft in Berlin. Titled Bücher, die ins Zuchthaus führten (Books That Led to Jail), the conference featured the harrowing, Orwellian stories...

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Chapter 8. 2 2 = 5?

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pp. 143-154

When you see how they [East German educators] twisted even arithmetic exercises for first-graders into ideological lessons,” a retired professor of mathematics in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) once said to me, “You know they were serious about inculcating the...

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Chapter 9. Behind the Wall, or How the Eurasian Reich Viewed Oceania

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pp. 155-176

I have never forgotten a casual remark made to me by a Humboldt University student shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and before German reunification in October 1990. We were riding the subway in East Berlin and discussing his school days. He glanced out the window at a large clock face and said: “Every time I looked at the Tower of Nations clock”—which features a map of the...

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Chapter 10. Revenge of the Thought Police

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pp. 177-194

Leipzig is the so-called Heldenstadt (City of Heroes), as the bumper stickers on a few cars remind me. These are the streets where hundreds, and later thousands, of protestors marched through the streets with candles in their hands throughout the fall of 1989 in defi ance of the East German government. Their bravery led to the opening of...

Part Three. The Un(der)examined Orwell

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Chapter 11. Did Papa Rescue St. George?

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pp. 197-224

After the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936, an English writer set off that December for the Catalan front to battle fascism. He wound up fighting for seven months with a minor, independent, left-wing, quasi-Trotskyist militia, and then published a memoir of his experience...

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Chapter 12. Big Rock (Sugar)candy Mountain?

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pp. 225-244

After Eric Blair returned from Paris in the spring of 1928, he began tramping that autumn through the metropolitan area of London and his native Southwold. Around that time, a traditional ballad that had been popular in the hobo world since the turn of the century received its first...

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Chapter 13. Literacy and the English Language

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pp. 245-252

Pedagogy is a practical art, and it may be that other teachers have had more success in freshman English composition courses with Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” (1946) than I’ve had. Yet my reflections here draw not only on my own difficulties with the essay...

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Chapter 14. George Orwell, Literary Theorist?

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pp. 253-272

Orwell had little patience with literary theory, let alone high-flown philosophical speculation or linguistic analysis. He famously dismissed Jean Paul Sartre as “a bag of wind,” and though he admired the novels of Albert Camus, he disparaged existentialism as “a charade.” Orwell befriended A. J. (“Freddie”) Ayer, yet evidently never...

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Chapter 15. The Architectonics of Room 101

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pp. 273-288

George Orwell was an avid reader of utopian literature long before it became a topic addressed by scholarly associations and PhD dissertations in literary academe.1 The utopian visions of H. G. Wells, such as Men Like Gods (1923), shaped Eric Blair’s early views of technology and society. Even after Orwell reacted strongly against the “Wellsian...

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Chapter 16. The Review Orwell Never Wrote?

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pp. 289-296

One of Orwell’s biographers, Gordon Bowker, has speculated about “the biography that Orwell never wrote.”1 A measure of Bowker’s stimulating essay is that it provokes numerous conjectures on the part of the reader. As Peter Davison has observed: “What is more important than...

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Chapter 17. The Life Orwell Never Lived?

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pp. 297-306

Could there possibly be anything more of significance still to be said about George Orwell’s life? This book has largely devoted itself to “the un(der)examined ‘Orwell’”—the shadowy or veiled chapters of the legend, not the life. However, Peter Davison has boldly undertaken the...

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Chapter 18. The Centenarian, Our Contemporary

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pp. 307-317

Could there possibly be anything more of significance still to be said about George Orwell’s life? This book has largely devoted itself to “the un(der)examined ‘Orwell’”—the shadowy or veiled chapters of the legend, not the life. However, Peter Davison has boldly undertaken the...

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Conclusion. If He Had Lived . . .

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pp. 318-328

[I]f one imagines him as living into our own day,” wrote Orwell about Jack London in 1945, “it is very hard to be sure where his political allegiance would have lain. One can imagine him in the Communist Party, one can imagine him falling victim to Nazi racial theory, and one can imagine him the quixotic champion of some Trotskyist or Anarchist sect...

Notes

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pp. 329-388

Index

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pp. 389-403