George Orwell

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Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

George Orwell (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950) was the pen name of British novelist, essayist, and journalist Eric Arthur Blair, whose work is characterised by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and strong support of democratic socialism.

See also:
The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)
Animal Farm (1945)
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984 film based on the novel)


A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
In England, a century of strong government has developed what O. Henry called the stern and rugged fear of the police to a point where any public protest seems an indecency. But in France everyone can remember a certain amount of civil disturbance ... The highly socialised modern mind, which makes a kind of composite god out of the rich, the government, the police and the larger newspapers, has not been developed — at least not yet.
We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
A liberal intelligentsia is lacking. Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion, and such truisms as that a machine-gun is still a machine-gun even when a "good" man is squeezing the trigger ... have turned into heresies which it is actually becoming dangerous to utter.
He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.
The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside.
I consider that willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty.
To admit that an opponent might be both honest and intelligent is felt to be intolerable. It is more immediately satisfying to shout that he is a fool or a scoundrel, or both, than to find out what he is really like.
Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery.
The whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish day-dream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge.
Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.
A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible.
So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the Earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.
If I had to make a list of six books which were to be preserved when all others were destroyed, I would certainly put Gulliver's Travels among them.
Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it.
In my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated.
I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism.
If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
Public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law.
Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.
It appears to me that one defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary by using one's intelligence.
  • Spending the night out of doors has nothing attractive about it in London, especially for a poor, ragged, undernourished wretch. Moreover sleeping in the open is only allowed in one thoroughfare in London. If the policeman on his beat finds you asleep, it is his duty to wake you up. That is because it has been found that a sleeping man succumbs to the cold more easily than a man who is awake, and England could not let one of her sons die in the street. So you are at liberty to spend the night in the street, providing it is a sleepless night. But there is one road where the homeless are allowed to sleep. Strangely, it is the Thames Embankment, not far from the Houses of Parliament. We advise all those visitors to England who would like to see the reverse side of our apparent prosperity to go and look at those who habitually sleep on the Embankment, with their filthy tattered clothes, their bodies wasted by disease, a living reprimand to the Parliament in whose shadow they lie.
    • "Beggars in London", in Le Progrès Civique (12 January 1929), translated into English by Janet Percival and Ian Willison
  • This means no more than vae victis - woe to the creed that is not backed by machine-guns!
    • Review of The Two Carlyles by Osbert Burdett, in The Adelphi (March 1931)
  • To the well-fed it seems cowardly to complain of tight boots, because the well-fed live in a different world-a world where, if your boots are tight, you can change them; their minds are not warped by petty discomfort. But below a certain income the petty crowds the large out of existence; one's preoccupation is not with art or religion, but with bad food, hard beds, drudgery and the sack. Serenity is impossible to a poor man in a cold country and even his active thoughts will go in more or less sterile complaint.
    • Review of Hunger and Love by Lionel Britton, in The Adelphi (April 1931)
  • And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path. It is curious, but till that moment I had never realised what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working – bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming – all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned – reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone – one mind less, one world less.
    • "A Hanging", in The Adelphi (August 1931)
  • In England, a century of strong government has developed what O. Henry called the stern and rugged fear of the police to a point where any public protest seems an indecency. But in France everyone can remember a certain amount of civil disturbance, and even the workmen in the bistros talk of la revolution — meaning the next revolution, not the last one. The highly socialised modern mind, which makes a kind of composite god out of the rich, the government, the police and the larger newspapers, has not been developed — at least not yet.
    • Review of The Civilization of France by Ernst Robert Curtius; translated by Olive Wyon, in The Adelphi (May 1932)
  • As to a pseudonym, a name I always use when tramping etc is P. S. Burton, but if you don't think this sounds a probable kind of name, what about Kenneth Miles, George Orwell, H. Lewis Allways. I rather favour George Orwell.
    • Letter to Leonard Moore (19 November 1932)
    • The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: An Age Like This, 1920–1940, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  p. 106.
  • Man is not a Yahoo, but he is rather like a Yahoo and needs to be reminded of it from time to time.
  • Think of life as it really is, think of the details of life; and then think that there is no meaning in it, no purpose, no goal except the grave. Surely only fools or self-deceivers, or those whose lives are exceptionally fortunate, can face that thought without flinching?
  • It is a mysterious thing, the loss of faith-as mysterious as faith itself. Like faith, it is ultimately not rooted in logic; it is a change in the climate of the mind.
    • A Clergyman's Daughter, Ch. 5
  • There is a geographical element in all belief-saying what seem profound truths in India have a way of seeming enormous platitudes in England, and vice versa. Perhaps the fundamental difference is that beneath a tropical sun individuality seems less distinct and the loss of it less important.
    • Review of Indian Mosaic by Mark Channing, in The Listener (15 July 1936)
  • I am struck again by the fact that as soon as a working man gets an official post in the Trade Union or goes into Labour politics, he becomes middle-class whether he will or no. ie. by fighting against the bourgeoisie he becomes a bourgeois. The fact is that you cannot help living in the manner appropriate and developing the ideology appropriate to your income.
    • The Road to Wigan Pier Diary 6-10 February (1936)
  • For the dreadful thing about the kind of brutalities here described, is that they are quite unavoidable. When a subject population rises in revolt you have got to suppress it, and you can only do so by methods which make nonsense of any claim for the superiority of western civilisation. In order to rule over barbarians, you have got to become a barbarian yourself.
    • Review of Zest for Life by Johann Wöller, in Time and Tide (17 October 1936)
  • In a town like London there are always plenty of not quite certifiable lunatics walking the streets, and they tend to gravitate towards bookshops, because a bookshop is one of the few places where you can hang about for a long time without spending any money.
    • “Bookshop Memories” in Fortnightly (November 1936)
  • In addition to this there is the horrible — the really disquieting — prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.
  • When I left Barcelona in late June the jails were bulging; indeed, the regular jails had long since overflowed and the prisoners were being huddled into empty shops and any other temporary dump that could be found for them. But the point to notice is that the people who are in prison now are not Fascists but revolutionaries; they are there not because their opinions are too much to the Right, but because they are too much to the Left. And the people responsible for putting them there are those dreadful revolutionaries at whose very name Garvin quakes in his galoshes – the Communists.
  • And so the game continues. The logical end is a régime in which every opposition party and newspaper is suppressed and every dissentient of any importance is in jail. Of course, such a régime will be Fascism. It will not be the same as the Fascism Franco would impose, it will even be better than Franco’s Fascism to the extent of being worth fighting for, but it will be Fascism. Only, being operated by Communists and Liberals, it will be called something different.
  • Later, as power slipped from the hands of the Anarchists into the hands of the Communists and right-wing Socialists, the Government was able to reassert itself, the bourgeoisie came out of hiding and the old division of society into rich and poor reappeared, not much modified. Henceforward every move, except a few dictated by military emergency, was directed towards undoing the work of the first few months of revolution.
  • War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.
  • Every war, when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defence against a homicidal maniac.
  • The essential job is to get people to recognise war propaganda when they see it, especially when it is disguised as peace propaganda.
    • Review of The Men I Killed by Brigadier-General F. P. Crozier, CB, CMG, DSO, in New Statesman and Nation (28 August 1937)
  • You cannot be objective about an aerial torpedo. And the horror we feel of these things has led to this conclusion: if someone drops a bomb on your mother, go and drop two bombs on his mother. The only apparent alternatives are to smash dwelling houses to powder, blow out human entrails and burn holes in children with thermite, or to be enslaved by people who are more ready to do these things than you are yourself; as yet no one has suggested a practicable way out.
    • Review of Spanish Testament by Arthur Koestler, February 1938
  • One is almost driven to the cynical conclusion that men are only decent when they are powerless.
    • Review of The Freedom of the Streets by Jack Common, June 1938, pp. 335-6
  • If there are certain pages of Mr Bertrand Russell's book, Power, which seem rather empty, that is merely to say that we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
    • Review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertrand Russell in The Adelphi (January 1939)
    • Paraphrased variant: Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.
  • It is not merely that at present the rule of naked force obtains almost everywhere. Probably that has always been the case. Where this age differs from those immediately preceding it is that a liberal intelligentsia is lacking. Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion, and such truisms as that a machine-gun is still a machine-gun even when a "good" man is squeezing the trigger — and that in effect is what Mr Russell is saying — have turned into heresies which it is actually becoming dangerous to utter.
    • Review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertrand Russell in The Adelphi (January 1939)
  • It is quite possible that we are descending into an age in which two plus two will make five when the Leader says so.
    • Review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertrand Russell in The Adelphi (January 1939)
  • Acceptance of the Catholic position implies a certain willingness to see the present injustices of society continue... Individual salvation implies liberty, which is always extended by Catholic writers to include the right to private property. But in the stage of industrial development which we have now reached, the right to private property means the right to exploit and torture millions of one's fellow creatures. The Socialist would argue, therefore, that one can only defend property if one is more or less indifferent to economic justice.
    • Review of Communism and Man by F. J. Sheed in Peace News (27 January 1939)
  • Has it ever struck you that there's a thin man inside every fat man, just as they say there's a statue inside every block of stone?
    • Coming Up for Air, Part 1, Ch. 3
  • The past is a curious thing. It's with you all the time. I suppose an hour never passes without your thinking of things that happened ten or twenty years ago, and yet most of the time it's got no reality, it's just a set of facts that you've learned, like a lot of stuff in a history book. Then some chance sight or sound or smell, especially smell, sets you going, and the past doesn't merely come back to you, you're actually in the past.
  • Perhaps a man really dies when his brain stops, when he loses the power to take in a new idea.
    • Coming Up for Air, Part 3, Ch. 1
  • It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it.
    • "Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party", New Leader (24 June 1939)
  • Adults are only less superstitious than children in proportion as they have more power over their environment. In predicaments where everyone is powerless (eg war, gambling) everyone is superstitious
    • New Words (1940)
    • The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: My Country Right or Left, 1940–1943, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  p. 9 (footnote)
  • Mr Auden's brand of amoralism is only possible if you are the kind of person who is always somewhere else when the trigger is pulled. So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot.
    • Inside the Whale (1940) [1]
  • [Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all "progressive" thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won't do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin's militarised version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people "I offer you a good time," Hitler has said to them "I offer you struggle, danger and death," and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.
  • [...]I should say that it is a good rule of thumb never to mention religion if you can possibly avoid it.
    • Letter to Humphry House (11 April 1940). The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: An Age Like This, 1920–1940, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus. p. 530.
  • [T]here is something wrong with a regime that requires a pyramid of corpses every few years.
    • Letter to Humphry House, (11 April 1940). The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell: An age like this, 1920–1940, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus. p. 532.
  • 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.
  • National Socialism is a form of Socialism, is emphatically revolutionary, does crush the property owner as surely as it crushes the worker. The two regimes, having started from opposite ends, are rapidly evolving towards the same system—a form of oligarchical collectivism. . . . It is Germany that is moving towards Russia, rather than the other way about. It is therefore nonsense to talk about Germany ‘going Bolshevik’ if Hitler falls. Germany is going Bolshevik because of Hitler and not in spite of him.
    • Review of The Totalitarian Enemy by F. Borkenau, Time and Tide (4 May 1940). Orwell: My Country Right or Left - 1940 to 1943, Vol. 2, Essays, Journalism & Letters, Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, edit., Boston, MA, Nonpareil Books (2000), p. 25.
  • From the first the aim of the Nazis was to turn Germany into a war-machine, and to subordinate everything else to that purpose. But a country, and especially a poor country, which is waging or preparing for ‘total’ war must be in some sense socialistic. When the State has taken complete control of industry, when the so-called capitalist is reduced to the status of a manager, when consumption goods are so scare and strictly rationed that you cannot spend a big income even if you earn one, then the essential structure of Socialism already exists, plus the comfortless equality of war-Communism.
    • Review of The Totalitarian Enemy by F. Borkenau, Time and Tide (4 May 1940). Orwell: My Country Right or Left - 1940 to 1943, Vol. 2, Essays, Journalism & Letters, Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, edit., Boston, MA, Nonpareil Books (2000), p. 25.
  • We are in a strange period of history in which a revolutionary has to be a patriot and a patriot has to be a revolutionary.
    • Letter to The Tribune (20 December 1940), later published in A Patriot After All, 1940-1941 (1999)
  • Even as it stands, the Home Guard could only exist in a country where men feel themselves free. The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. THAT RIFLE HANGING ON THE WALL OF THE WORKING-CLASS FLAT OR LABOURER'S COTTAGE, IS THE SYMBOL OF DEMOCRACY. IT IS OUR JOB TO SEE THAT IT STAYS THERE.
    • "Don't Let Colonel Blimp Ruin the Home Guard" article for the Evening Standard, 8 January 1941
  • Society has always to demand a little more from human beings than it will get in practice.
  • The peculiarity of the totalitarian state is that though it controls thought, it does not fix it. It sets up unquestionable dogmas, and it alters them from day to day. It needs the dogmas, because it needs absolute obedience from its subjects, but cannot avoid the changes, which are dictated by the needs of power politics. It declared itself infallible, and at the same time it attacks the very concept of objective truth.
    • “Literature and Totalitarianism”, a broadcast talk in the BBC Overseas Service; printed in The Listener (19 June 1941)
  • Civilisation rests ultimately on coercion. What holds society together is not the policeman but the goodwill of common men, and yet that goodwill is powerless unless the policeman is there to back it up. Any government which refused to use violence in its own defence would cease almost immediately to exist, because it would be overthrown by any body of men, or even any individual, that was less scrupulous.
    • "No, Not One," The Adelphi (October 1941)
  • Since pacifists have more freedom of action in countries where traces of democracy survive, pacifism can act more effectively against democracy than for it. Objectively the pacifist is pro-Nazi.
    • "No, Not One," The Adelphi (October 1941)
    • See his later thoughts on this statement below from "As I Please," Tribune (8 December 1944)
  • Pacifism is only a considerable force in places where people feel themselves very safe, chiefly maritime states. [...] The notion that you can somehow defeat violence by submitting to it is simply a flight from fact. As I have said, it is only possible to people who have money and guns between themselves and reality.
    • "No, Not One," The Adelphi (October 1941)
  • The choice before human beings, is not, as a rule, between good and evil but between two evils. You can let the Nazis rule the world: that is evil; or you can overthrow them by war, which is also evil. There is no other choice before you, and whichever you choose you will not come out with clean hands.
    • "No, Not One," The Adelphi (October 1941), p. 7-8
  • I have now been in the BBC about 6 months. Shall remain in it if the political changes I foresee come off, otherwise probably not. Its atmosphere is something halfway between a girls' school and a lunatic asylum, and all we are doing at present is useless, or slightly worse than useless.
    • Diary entry (14 March 1942)
    • The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: My Country Right or Left, 1940–1943, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  p. 411
  • In this war we have one weapon which our enemies cannot use against us, and that is the English language. Several other languages are spoken by larger numbers of people, but there is no other that has any claim to be a world-wide lingua franca.
    • Review of The Sword and the Sickle by Mulk Raj Anand, Horizon (July 1942)
  • Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.
    • "Looking Back on the Spanish War" (Autumn 1942)
    • The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: My Country Right or Left, 1940–1943, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  p. 252
  • You and I both know that there can be no real solution of the Indian problem which does not also benefit Britain. Either we all live in a decent world, or nobody does. It is so obvious, is it not, that the British worker as well as the Indian peasant stands to gain by the ending of capitalist exploitation, and that Indian independence is a lost cause if the Fascist nations are allowed to dominate the world.
    • From a review of Letters on India by Mulk Raj Anand, Tribune (19 March 1943)
  • It was thinking of people like him [William Empson] that made me rather angry about what you said of the BBC, though God knows I have the best means of judging what a mixture of whoreshop and lunatic asylum it is for the most part.
    • Letter to Alex Comfort (11? July 1943)
    • The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: My Country Right or Left, 1940–1943, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  p. 305
  • Both men were the spiritual children of Voltaire, both had an ironical, sceptical view of life, and a native pessimism overlaid by gaiety; both knew that the existing social order is a swindle and its cherished beliefs mostly delusions.
    • On Mark Twain and Anatole France, in "Mark Twain - The Licensed Jester" in Tribune (26 November 1943); reprinted in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell (1968)
  • Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.
  • The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough. Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another.
    • "Can Socialists Be Happy?", Tribune (20 December 1943).
  • From Carlyle onwards, but especially in the last generation, the British intelligentsia have tended to take their ideas from Europe and have been infected by habits of thought that derive ultimately from Machiavelli.  All the cults that have been fashionable in the last dozen years, Communism, Fascism, and pacifism, are in the last analysis forms of power worship.
    • "The English People" (written Spring 1944, published 1947)[2]
  • Mr Noyes remarks at the beginning of his book that one cannot cast out devils with the aid of Beelzebub, but he is also extremely angry because anti-British books can still be published in England and praised in British newspapers. Does it not occur to him that if we stop doing this kind of thing the main difference between ourselves and our enemies would have disappeared?
    • Review. The Edge of the Abyss by Alfred Noyes
    • Observer, 27 February 1944
    • The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  pp.  100-101.
  • Shortly, Professor Hayek's thesis is that Socialism inevitably leads to despotism, and that in Germany the Nazis were able to succeed because the Socialists had already done most of their work for them, especially the intellectual work of weakening the desire for liberty. By bringing the whole of life under the control of the State, Socialism necessarily gives power to an inner ring of bureaucrats, who in almost every case will be men who want power for its own sake and will stick at nothing in order to retain it. Britain, he says, is now going the same road as Germany, with the left-wing intelligentsia in the van and the Tory Party a good second. The only salvation lies in returning to an unplanned economy, free competition, and emphasis on liberty rather than on security. In the negative part of Professor Hayek's thesis there is a great deal of truth. It cannot be said too often — at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough — that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of.
    • “Review of the Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek, etc,” The Observer (9 April 1944) and in As I please, 1943–1945: The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, Vol. 30.
  • Between them these two books sum up our present predicament.  Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war.  Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war.  There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.
    • Review of The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek and The Mirror of the Past by K. Zilliacus, reviewed in The Observer (9 April 1944).
  • Hitler, no doubt, will soon disappear, but only at the expense of strengthening (a) Stalin, (b) the Anglo-American millionaires and (c) all sorts of petty fuhrers of the type of de Gaulle. All the national movements everywhere, even those that originate in resistance to German domination, seem to take non-democratic forms, to group themselves round some superhuman fuhrer (Hitler, Stalin, Salazar, Franco, Gandhi, De Valera are all varying examples) and to adopt the theory that the end justifies the means. Everywhere the world movement seems to be in the direction of centralised economies which can be made to ‘work’ in an economic sense but which are not democratically organised and which tend to establish a caste system. With this go the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer. Already history has in a sense ceased to exist, ie. there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted, and the exact sciences are endangered as soon as military necessity ceases to keep people up to the mark. Hitler can say that the Jews started the war, and if he survives that will become official history. He can't say that two and two are five, because for the purposes of, say, ballistics they have to make four. But if the sort of world that I am afraid of arrives, a world of two or three great superstates which are unable to conquer one another, two and two could become five if the fuhrer wished it.
    • Letter to H. J. Willmett (18 May 1944), published in The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945 (2000), edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus[3]
    • Ideas which became fundamental to Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • Secondly there is the fact that the intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side.
    • Letter to H. J. Willmett (18 May 1944), published in The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945 (2000), edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus[4]
  • Of course, fanatical Communists and Russophiles generally can be respected, even if they are mistaken.  But for people like ourselves, who suspect that something has gone very wrong with the Soviet Union, I consider that willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty.  It is the only thing that from a literary intellectual's point of view is really dangerous.
    • Letter to John Middleton Murry (5 August 1944), published in The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945 (2000), edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus
  • In my small way I have been fighting for years against the systematic faking of history which now goes on.
    • Letter to Frank Barber (15 December 1944)
    • The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  p.  292.
  • Particularly on the Left, political thought is a sort of masturbation fantasy in which the world of facts hardly matters.
    • "London Letter" in Partisan Review (Winter 1945)
  • Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.
    • "Benefit Of Clergy: Some Notes On Salvador Dalí," Dickens, Dali & Others: Studies in Popular Culture (1944) [5]
  • So far as I can see, all political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.
    • "London Letter" (December 1944), in Partisan Review (Winter 1945)
  • It is fashionable to say that all the causes we fought for have been defeated, but this seems to me a gross exaggeration. The fact that after six years of war we can hold a General Election in a quite orderly way, and throw out a Prime Minister who has enjoyed almost dictatorial powers, shows that we have gained something by not losing the war.
    • London Letter to Partisan Review (15 ? August 1945)
    • The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945, Editors: Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.  p.  394.
  • At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was 'not done' to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.
    • "The Freedom of the Press", unused preface to Animal Farm (1945), published in Times Literary Supplement (15 September 1972)
  • Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows, and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.
  • Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery. We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity. James Burnham's theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet considered its ideological implications — that is, the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of "cold war" with its neighbors.
    Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralised police state. If, as seems to be the case, it is a rare and costly object as difficult to produce as a battleship, it is likelier to put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a "peace that is no peace."
    • "You and the Atom Bomb", Tribune (19 October 1945). Reprinted in George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, Volume 4: In Front of Your Nose 1946–1950 (2000) by Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus, p. 9.
    • First documented use of the phrase "cold war".
  • Scientific education for the masses will do little good, and probably a lot of harm, if it simply boils down to more physics, more chemistry, more biology, etc to the detriment of literature and history. Its probable effect on the average human being would be to narrow the range of his thoughts and make him more than ever contemptuous of such knowledge as he did not possess.
  • The whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish day-dream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.
  • Actually there is little acute hatred of Germany left in this country, and even less, I should expect to find, in the army of occupation. Only the minority of sadists, who must have their "atrocities" from one source or another, take a keen interest in the hunting-down of war criminals and quislings.
    • "Revenge is Sour", Tribune (9 November 1945)
  • The relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.
    • "Freedom of the Park", Tribune (7 December 1945)
  • Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.
  • Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. This is an illusion, and one should recognise it as such, but one ought also to stick to one's own world-view, even at the price of seeming old-fashioned: for that world-view springs out of experiences that the younger generation has not had, and to abandon it is to kill one's intellectual roots.
    • Review of A Coat of Many Colours: Occasional Essays by Herbert Read, Poetry Quarterly (Winter 1945)
  • ...but in his origins he is a Yorkshireman—that is, a member of a small, rustic, rather uncouth tribe whose members secretly believe all the other peoples of the earth to be just a little inferior to themselves. I think his best work comes from the Yorkshire strain in him.
    • Review of A Coat of Many Colours: Occasional Essays by Herbert Read, Poetry Quarterly (Winter 1945)
  • Decline of the English Murder
    • Essay title, Tribune (15 February 1946)
  • Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the Earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.
    It is not easy. It raises problems of construction and of language, and it raises in a new way the problem of truthfulness.
  • The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.
    • "Why I Write," Gangrel (Summer 1946)
  • The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects.
    • "Why I Write," Gangrel (Summer 1946)
  • Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.
    • "Why I Write," Gangrel (Summer 1946)
  • If I had to make a list of six books which were to be preserved when all others were destroyed, I would certainly put Gulliver's Travels among them.
    • "Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels" (1946)
  • In my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated. And so for the last ten years, I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the socialist movement.
  • The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.
    • Letter to Malcolm Muggeridge (4 December 1948), quoted in Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life (1980) by Ian Hunter
  • If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.
  • I have never visited Russia and my knowledge of it consists only of what can be learned by reading books and newspapers. Even if I had the power, I would not wish to interfere in Soviet domestic affairs: I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods. It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there.
    But on the other hand it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet regime for what it really was. Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class. Moreover, the workers and intelligentsia in a country like England cannot understand that the USSR of today is altogether different from what it was in 1917. It is partly that they do not want to understand (i.e. they want to believe that, somewhere, a really Socialist country does actually exist), and partly that, being accustomed to comparative freedom and moderation in public life, totalitarianism is completely incomprehensible to them.
    • Original preface to Animal Farm; as published in George Orwell: Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison
  • I am well acquainted with all the arguments against freedom of thought and speech — the arguments which claim that it cannot exist, and the arguments which claim that it ought not to. I answer simply that they don't convince me and that our civilization over a period of four hundred years has been founded on the opposite notice. For quite a decade past I have believed that the existing Russian régime is a mainly evil thing, and I claim the right to say so, in spite of the fact that we are allies with the USSR in a war which I want to see won. If I had to choose a text to justify myself, I should choose the line from Milton:
By the known rules of ancient liberty.
The word ancient emphasizes the fact that intellectual freedom is a deep-rooted tradition without which our characteristic western culture could only doubtfully exist. From that tradition many of our intellectuals are visibly turning away. They have accepted the principle that a book should be published or suppressed, praised or damned, not on its merits but according to political expediency. And others who do not actually hold this view assent to it from sheer cowardice.
  • Original preface to Animal Farm; as published in George Orwell: Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison
  • If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
    • Original preface to Animal Farm; as published in George Orwell: Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison
    • Sometimes paraphrased as "Liberty is telling people what they do not want to hear."
  • The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
  • To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
    • "In Front of Your Nose," Tribune (22 March 1946)
  • I have always suspected that if our economic and political problems are ever really solved, life will become simpler instead of more complex, and that the sort of pleasure one gets from finding the first primrose will loom larger than the sort of pleasure one gets from eating an ice to the tune of a Wurlitzer. I think that by retaining one's childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and — to return to my first instance — toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.
    • "Some Thoughts on the Common Toad," Tribune (12 April 1946)
  • The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.
  • It was only after the Soviet régime became unmistakably totalitarian that English intellectuals, in large numbers, began to show an interest in it. Burnham, although the English russophile intelligentsia would repudiate him, is really voicing their secret wish: the wish to destroy the old, equalitarian version of Socialism and usher in a hierarchical society where the intellectual can at last get his hands on the whip.
    • "Second Thoughts on James Burnham," Polemic (summer 1946)
  • In a Society in which there is no law, and in theory no compulsion, the only arbiter of behaviour is public opinion. But public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law. When human beings are governed by "thou shalt not", the individual can practise a certain amount of eccentricity: when they are supposedly governed by "love" or "reason", he is under continuous pressure to make him behave and think in exactly the same way as everyone else.
  • People talk about the horrors of war, but what weapon has man invented that even approaches in cruelty to some of the commoner diseases? "Natural" death, almost by definition, means something slow, smelly and painful.
  • In reality there is no kind of evidence or argument by which one can show that Shakespeare, or any other writer, is ‘good’. Nor is there any way of definitely proving that — for instance — Warwick Beeping is ‘bad’. Ultimately there is no test of literary merit except survival, which is itself an index to majority opinion. Artistic theories such as Tolstoy's are quite worthless, because they not only start out with arbitrary assumptions, but depend on vague terms (‘sincere’, ‘important’ and so forth) which can be interpreted in any way one chooses.
  • A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.
    • "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool," Polemic (March 1947)
  • Shakespeare starts by assuming that to make yourself powerless is to invite an attack. This does not mean that everyone will turn against you (Kent and the Fool stand by Lear from first to last), but in all probability someone will. If you throw away your weapons, some less scrupulous person will pick them up. If you turn the other cheek, you will get a harder blow on it than you got on the first one. This does not always happen, but it is to be expected, and you ought not to complain if it does happen. The second blow is, so to speak, part of the act of turning the other cheek. First of all, therefore, there is the vulgar, common-sense moral drawn by the Fool: "Don't relinquish power, don't give away your lands." But there is also another moral. Shakespeare never utters it in so many words, and it does not very much matter whether he was fully aware of it. It is contained in the story, which, after all, he made up, or altered to suit his purposes. It is: "Give away your lands if you want to, but don't expect to gain happiness by doing so. Probably you won't gain happiness. If you live for others, you must live for others, and not as a roundabout way of getting an advantage for yourself."
    • "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool," Polemic (March 1947)
  • A normal human being does not want the Kingdom of Heaven: he wants life on earth to continue. This is not solely because he is "weak," "sinful" and anxious for a "good time." Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise. Ultimately it is the Christian attitude which is self-interested and hedonistic, since the aim is always to get away from the painful struggle of earthly life and find eternal peace in some kind of Heaven or Nirvana. The humanist attitude is that the struggle must continue and that death is the price of life.
    • "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool," Polemic (March 1947)
  • There are people who are convinced of the wickedness both of armies and of police forces, but who are nevertheless much more intolerant and inquisitorial in outlook than the normal person who believes that it is necessary to use violence in certain circumstances. They will not say to somebody else, ‘Do this, that and the other or you will go to prison’, but they will, if they can, get inside his brain and dictate his thoughts for him in the minutest particulars. Creeds like pacifism and anarchism, which seem on the surface to imply a complete renunciation of power, rather encourage this habit of mind. For if you have embraced a creed which appears to be free from the ordinary dirtiness of politics — a creed from which you yourself cannot expect to draw any material advantage — surely that proves that you are in the right? And the more you are in the right, the more natural that everyone else should be bullied into thinking likewise.
    • "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool," Polemic (March 1947)
  • No one can look back on his schooldays and say with truth that they were altogether unhappy.
  • Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.
    • "The Freedom Defence Committee" in "The Socialist Leader (18 September 1948); also in The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell; Vol. IV: In front of your nose, 1945-1950 (2000), p. 447
  • I always disagree, however, when people end up saying that we can only combat Communism, Fascism or what not if we develop an equal fanaticism. It appears to me that one defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary by using one's intelligence.
    • Letter to Richard Rees (3 March 1949), The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 4: In front of your nose, 1945-1950 (1968), ed. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, p. 478
  • It is difficult for a statesman who still has a political future to reveal everything that he knows: and in a profession in which one is a baby at 50 and middle-aged at seventy-five, it is natural that anyone who has not actually been disgraced should feel that he still has a future.
  • One cannot really be Catholic & grown-up.
    • "Extracts from a Manuscript Notebook" (1949), The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol. 4 (1968)
  • At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.
    • "Extracts from a Manuscript Notebook" (1949), The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol. 4 (1968)
  • I have always thought there might be a lot of cash in starting a new religion.
    • The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell, Volume 1: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (1968), edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus Orwell, p. 304
  • [Nineteen Eighty-Four] was based chiefly on communism, because that is the dominant form of totalitarianism, but I was trying chiefly to imagine what communism would be like if it were firmly rooted in the English speaking countries, and was no longer a mere extension of the Russian Foreign Office.
  • What is needed is the right to print what one believes to be true, without having to fear bullying or blackmail from any side.
    • 1946 exchange with Randall Swingler; quoted in Every Intellectual's Big Brother: George Orwell's Literary Siblings, John Rodden, University of Texas Press, Austin, p. 30

Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)[edit]

Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry.
Fate seemed to be playing a series of extraordinarily unamusing jokes.
Full text online
At present I do not feel I have seen more than the fringe of poverty.
  • The Paris slums are a gathering-place for eccentric people — people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent. Poverty frees them from normal standards of behaviour, just as money frees people from work. Some of the lodgers in our hotel lived lives that were curious beyond words.
    • Ch. 1
  • I am trying to describe the people in our quarter, not for the mere curiosity, but because they are all part of the story. Poverty is what I am writing about, and I had my first contact with poverty in this slum. The slum, with its dirt and its queer lives, was first an object-lesson in poverty, and then the background of my own experiences. It is for that reason that I try to give some idea of what life was like there.
    • Ch. 1
  • "Ah, the poverty, the shortness the disappointment of human joy! For in reality car en realite, what is the duration of the supreme moment of love? It is nothing, an instant, a second perhaps. A second of ecstasy, and after that- dust, ashes, nothingness."
    • Ch. 2, Charlie
  • For, when you are approaching poverty, you make one discovery which outweighs some of the others. You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future. Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry. When you have a hundred francs in the world you are liable to the most craven panics. When you have only three francs you are quite indifferent; for three francs will feed you till tomorrow, and you cannot think further than that. You are bored, but you are not afraid. You think vaguely, 'I shall be starving in a day or two--shocking, isn't it?' And then the mind wanders to other topics. A bread and margarine diet does, to some extent, provide its own anodyne. And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs--and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.
    • Ch. 3
  • There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher's daughter.
    • Ch. 4; a record of a remark by Orwell's fellow tramp Boris
  • For, when you are approaching poverty, you make one discovery which outweighs some of the others. You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future. Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry.
    • Ch. 4
  • Hunger reduces one to an utterly spineless, brainless condition, more like the after-effects of influenza than anything else. It is as though all one's blood had been pumped out and lukewarm water substituted.
    • Ch. 7
  • One always abandons something in retreat. Look at Napoleon at the Beresina! He abandoned his whole army.
    • Ch. 7; a remark by Boris
  • Fate seemed to be playing a series of extraordinarily unamusing jokes.
    • Ch. 7
  • It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.
    • Ch. 9; a remark by Boris
  • I only realized during my last week that I was being cheated, and, as I could prove nothing, only twenty-five francs were refunded. The doorkeeper played similar tricks on any employee who was fool enough to be taken in. He called himself a Greek, but in reality he was an Armenian. After knowing him I saw the force of the proverb "Trust a snake before a Jew and a Jew before a Greek, but don't trust an Armenian."
    • Ch. 13
  • Roughly speaking, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it. ... Dirtiness is inherent in hotels and restaurants, because sound food is sacrificed to punctuality and smartness... The only food at the Hotel X which was ever prepared cleanly was the staff's.
    • Ch. 14
  • We crawled up to bed, tumbled down half dressed, and stayed there ten hours. Most of my Saturday nights went like this. On the whole, the two hours when one was perfectly and wildly happy seemed worth the subsequent headache. For many men in the quarter, unmarried and with no future to think of, the weekly drinking-bout was the one thing that made life worth living.
    • Ch. 17
  • Looking round that filthy room, with raw meat lying among the refuse on the floor, and cold, clotted saucepans sprawling everywhere, and the sink blocked and coated with grease, I used to wonder whether there could be a restaurant in the world as bad as ours. But the other three all said they had been in dirtier places.
    • Ch. 21; on the state of the kitchen at the newly opened Auberge.
  • How sweet the air does smell — even the air of a back-street in the suburbs — after the shut-in, subfaecal stench of the spike!
    • Ch. 27, on the morning after Orwell is let out of his first tramps' accommodation, or 'spike'.
  • He had two subjects of conversation, the shame and come-down of being a tramp, and the best way of getting a free meal.
    • Ch. 28, on Paddy the tramp
  • Paddy and I had scarcely a wink of sleep, for there was a man near us who had some nervous trouble, shell-shock perhaps, which made him cry out 'Pip!' at irregular intervals. It was a loud, startling noise, something like the toot of a small motor-horn. You never knew when it was coming, and it was a sure preventer of sleep. ...he must have kept ten or twenty people awake every night. He was an example of the kind of thing that prevents one from ever getting enough sleep when men are herded as they are in these lodging houses.'
    • Ch. 29
  • Being a beggar, he said, was not his fault, and he refused either to have any compunction about it or to let it trouble him. He was the enemy of society, and quite ready to take to crime if he saw a good opportunity. He refused on principle to be thrifty. In the summer he saved nothing, spending his surplus earnings on drink, as he did not care about women. If he was penniless when winter came on, then society must look after him. He was ready to extract every penny he could from charity, provided that he was not expected to say thank you for it. He avoided religious charities, however, for he said it stuck in his throat to sing hymns for buns. He had various other points of honour; for instance, it was his boast that never in his life, even when starving, had he picked up a cigarette end. He considered himself in a class above the ordinary run of beggars, who, he said, were an abject lot, without even the decency to be ungrateful.
    • On "Bozo", in Ch. 30
  • He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him), and took a sort of pleasure in thinking that human affairs would never improve. Sometimes, he said, when sleeping on the Embankment, it had consoled him to look up at Mars or Jupiter and think that there were probably Embankment sleepers there. He had a curious theory about this. Life on earth, he said, is harsh because the planet is poor in the necessities of existence. Mars, with its cold climate and scanty water, must be far poorer, and life correspondingly harsher. Whereas on earth you are merely imprisoned for stealing sixpence, on Mars you are probably boiled alive. This thought cheered Bozo, I do not know why. He was a very exceptional man.
    • Ch. 30
  • Beggars do not work, it is said; but then, what is work? A navvy works by swinging a pick. An accountant works by adding up figures. A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, bronchitis etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course — but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless. And as a social type a beggar compares well with scores of others. He is honest compared with the sellers of most patent medicines, high-minded compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a hire-purchase tout-in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite. He seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what should justify him according to our ethical ideas, he pays for it over and over in suffering.
    • Ch. 31
  • The most bitter insult one can offer to a Londoner is "bastard" — which, taken for what it means, is hardly an insult at all.
    • Ch. 32
  • The whole business of swearing, especially English swearing, is mysterious. Of its very nature swearing is as irrational as magic-- indeed, it is a species of magic. But there is also a paradox about it, namely this: Our intention in swearing is to shock and wound, which we do by mentioning something that should be kept secret--usually something to do with the sexual functions. But the strange thing is that when a word is well established as a swear word, it seems to lose its original meaning; that is, it loses the thing that made it into a swear word. A word becomes an oath because it means a certain thing, and, because it has become an oath, it ceases to mean that thing.
    • Ch. 32
  • It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level.
    • Ch. 33
  • My story ends here. It is a fairly trivial story, and I can only hope that it has been interesting in the same way as a trivial diary is interesting. ... At present I do not feel I have seen more than the fringe of poverty.
    Still, I can point to one or two things I have definitely learned by being hard up. I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy, nor subscribe to the Salvation Army, nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill, nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant. That is a beginning.
    • Ch. 38

Burmese Days (1934)[edit]

Living a lie the whole time — the lie that we're here to uplift our poor black brothers instead of to rob them … it corrupts us, it corrupts us in ways you can't imagine.
  • Ellis was one of those people who constantly nag others to echo their own opinions.
    • Ch. II
  • Living a lie the whole time — the lie that we're here to uplift our poor black brothers instead of to rob them ... it corrupts us, it corrupts us in ways you can't imagine.
    • John Flory, Ch. III
  • Beauty is meaningless until it is shared.
    • Ch. IV
  • It is one of the tragedies of the half-educated that they develop late, when they are already committed to some wrong way of life.
    • Ch. V
  • I always think they're rather charming-looking, the Burmese. They have such splendid bodies! Just think what sights you'd see in England if people went about half naked as they do here!
    • John Flory, Ch X
  • An earthquake is such fun when it is over.
    • Ch. XV
  • Is there anything in the world more graceless, more dishonouring, than to desire a woman whom you will never have?
    • Ch XX
  • Envy is a horrible thing. It is unlike all other kinds of suffering in that there is no disguising it, no elevating it into tragedy. It is more than merely painful, it is disgusting.
    • Ch. XX

Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)[edit]

And now abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these is money.
If you have no money, men won't care for you, women won't love you; won't, that is, care for you or love you the last little bit that matters.
The Americans always go one better on any kind of beastliness, whether it is ice-cream soda, racketeering or theosophy.
  • Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not money, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not money, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not money, it profiteth me nothing. Money suffereth long, and is kind; money envieth not; money vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. ... And now abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these is money.
    • opening lines, I Corinthians xiii (adapted)
  • Money, once again; all is money. All human relationships must be purchased with money. If you have no money, men won't care for you, women won't love you; won't, that is, care for you or love you the last little bit that matters. And how right they are, after all! For, moneyless, you are unlovable. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels. But then, if I haven't money, I DON'T speak with the tongues of men and of angels.
  • In a country like England you can no more be cultured without money than you can join the Cavalry Club.
  • That devastating omniscience! That noxious, horn-spectacled refinement! And the money that such refinement means! For after all, what is there behind it, except money? Money for the right kind of education, money for influential friends, money for leisure and peace of mind, money for trips to Italy. Money writes books, money sells them. Give me not righteousness, O Lord, give me money, only money.
    • Ch. 1
  • Of all types of human being, only the artist takes it upon himself to say that he 'cannot' work. But it is quite true; there ARE times when one cannot work. Money again, always money! Lack of money means discomfort, means squalid worries, means shortage of tobacco, means ever-present consciousness of failure - above all, it means loneliness. How can you be anything but lonely on two quid a week? And in loneliness no decent book was ever written.
    • Ch. 2
  • No need to repeat the blasphemous comments which everyone who had known Gran'pa Comstock made on that last sentence. But it is worth pointing out that the chunk of granite on which it was inscribed weighed close on five tons and was quite certainly put there with the intention, though not the conscious intention, of making sure that Gran'pa Comstock shouldn't get up from underneath it. If you want to know what a dead man's relatives really think of him, a good rough test is the weight of his tombstone.
    • Ch. 3
  • Gordon and his friends had quite an exciting time with their 'subversive ideas'. For a whole year they ran an unofficial monthly paper called the Bolshevik, duplicated with jellygraph. It advocated Socialism, free love, the dismemberment of the British Empire, the abolition of the Army and Navy, and so on and so forth. It was great fun. Every intelligent boy of sixteen is a Socialist. At that age one does not see the hook sticking out of the rather stodgy bait.
    • Ch. 3
  • There are two ways to live, he decided. You can be rich, or you can deliberately refuse to be rich. You can possess money, or you can despise money; the one fatal thing is to worship money and fail to get it.
    • Ch.3
  • Most of the employees were the hard-boiled, Americanized, go-getting type to whom nothing in the world is sacred, except money. They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket. And yet beneath their cynicism there was the final naivete, the blind worship of the money-god.
    • Ch. 3
  • It was queer. All over England young men were eating their hearts out for lack of jobs, and here was he, Gordon, to whom the very word 'job' was faintly nauseous, having jobs thrust unwanted upon him. It was an example of the fact that you can get anything in this world if you genuinely don't want it.
    • Ch. 3
  • He had reached the age when the future ceases to be a rosy blur and becomes actual and menacing.
    • Ch. 3
  • That is the devilish thing about poverty, the ever-recurrent thing - loneliness. Day after day with never an intelligent person to talk to; night after night back to your godless room, always alone. Perhaps it sounds rather fun if you are rich and sought-after; but how different it is when you do it from necessity!
    • Ch. 4
  • When you have no money your life is one long series of snubs.
    • Ch. 4
  • Gordon put his hand against the swing door. He even pushed it open a few inches. The warm fog of smoke and beer slipped through the crack. A familiar, reviving smell; nevertheless as he smelled it his nerve failed him. No! Impossible to go in. He turned away. He couldn't go shoving into that saloon bar with only fourpence halfpenny in his pocket. Never let other people buy your drinks for you! The first commandment of the moneyless. He made off down the dark pavement.
    • Ch. 4
  • Social failure, artistic failure, sexual failure - they are all the same. And lack of money is at the bottom of them all.
    • Ch. 4
  • No rich man ever succeeds in disguising himself as a poor man; for money, like murder, will out.
    • Ch. 5
  • This life we live nowadays! It's not life, it's stagnation, death-in-life. Look at all these bloody houses, and the meaningless people inside them! Sometimes I think we're all corpses. Just rotting upright.
    • Ch. 5
  • Money is the one thing you must never mention when you are with people richer than yourself. Or if you do, then it must be money in the abstract, money with a big 'M', not the actual concrete money that's in your pocket and isn't in mine.
    • Ch. 5
  • After all, it's only what Marx said. Every ideology is a reflection of economic circumstances.
    • Ch. 5
  • Poverty is spiritual halitosis.
    • Ch. 5
  • Hermione always yawned at the mention of Socialism, and refused even to read Antichrist. 'Don't talk to me about the lower classes,' she used to say. 'I hate them. They smell.' And Ravelston adored her.
    • Ch. 5
  • What rot it is to talk about Socialism or any other ism when women are what they are! The only thing a woman ever wants is money; money for a house of her own and two babies and Drage furniture and an aspidistra. The only sin they can imagine is not wanting to grab money. No woman ever judges a man by anything except his income. Of course she doesn't put it to herself like that. She says he's such a nice man - meaning that he's got plenty of money. And if you haven't got money you aren't nice. You're dishonoured, somehow. You've sinned. Sinned against the aspidistra.
    • Ch. 5
  • This woman business! What a bore it is! What a pity we can't cut it right out, or at least be like the animals—minutes of ferocious lust and months of icy chastity. Take a cock pheasant, for example. He jumps up on the hen's backs without so much as a with your leave or by your leave. And no sooner is it over than the whole subject is out of his mind. He hardly even notices his hens any longer; he ignores them, or simply pecks them if they come too near his food. He is not called upon to support his offspring, either. Lucky pheasant! How different from the lord of creation, always on the hop between his memory and his conscience
    • Ch. 6
  • Marriage is only a trap set for you by the money-god. You grab the bait; snap goes the trap; and there you are, chained by the leg to some 'good' job till they cart you to Kensal Green. And what a life! Licit sexual intercourse in the shade of the aspidistra. Pram-pushing and sneaky adulteries. And the wife finding you out and breaking the cut-glass whisky decanter over your head.
    • Ch. 6
  • Without money, you can't be straightforward in your dealings with women. For without money, you can't pick and choose, you've got to take what women you can get; and then, necessarily, you've got to break free of them. Constancy, like all other virtues, has got to be paid for in money.
    • Ch. 6
  • Why is it that one can't borrow from a rich friend and can from a half-starved relative?
    • Ch. 7
  • He would only drift and sink, drift and sink, like the others of his family; but worse than them - down, down into some dreadful sub-world that as yet he could only dimly imagine. It was what he had chosen when he declared war on money. Serve the money-god or go under; there is no other rule.
    • Ch. 7
  • She looked at him helplessly. After all, it was no use. There was this money-business standing in the way - these meaningless scruples which she had never understood but which she had accepted merely because they were his. She felt all the impotence, the resentment of a woman who sees an abstract idea triumphing over common sense.
    • Ch. 10
  • Their friendship was at an end, it seemed to him. The evil time when he had lived on Ravelston had spoiled everything. Charity kills friendship.
    • Ch. 10
  • Before, he had fought against the money code, and yet he had clung to his wretched remnant of decency. But now it was precisely from decency that he wanted to escape. He wanted to go down, deep down, into some world where decency no longer mattered; to cut the strings of his self-respect, to submerge himself—to sink, as Rosemary had said. It was all bound up in his mind with the thought of being under ground. He liked to think of the lost people, the under-ground people: tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes. It is a good world that they inhabit, down there in their frowzy kips and spikes. He liked to think that beneath the world of money there is that great sluttish underworld where failure and success have no meaning; a sort of kingdom of ghosts where all are equal. That was where he wished to be, down in the ghost-kingdom, below ambition. It comforted him somehow to think of the smoke-dim slums of South London sprawling on and on, a huge graceless wilderness where you could lose yourself forever.
    • Ch. 10
  • One's got to change the system, or one changes nothing.
    • Ch. 10
  • The Americans always go one better on any kind of beastliness, whether it is ice-cream soda, racketeering or theosophy.
    • Ch. 11

Homage to Catalonia (1938)[edit]

I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards.
Full text online
  • Chiefly I remember the horsy smells, the quavering bugle-calls (all our buglers were amateurs--I first learned the Spanish bugle-calls by listening to them outside the Fascist lines), the tramp-tramp of hobnailed boots in the barrack yard, the long morning parades in the wintry sunshine, the wild games of football, fifty a side, in the gravelled riding--school.
  • I have no particular love for the idealised "worker" as he appears in the bourgeois Communist's mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.
  • All Spaniards, we discovered, knew two English expressions. One was "O.K., baby", the other was a word used by the Barcelona whores in their dealings with English sailors, and I am afraid the compositors would not print it.
  • I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards.
  • The fat Russian agent was cornering all the foreign refugees in turn and explaining plausibly that this whole affair was an Anarchist plot. I watched him with some interest, for it was the first time that I had seen a person whose profession was telling lies — unless one counts journalists.
  • It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle ... There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.
  • An immense amount, enough to fill many books, has already been written on the subject [of the Barcelona fighting], and I do not suppose I should exaggerate if I said that nine-tenths of it is untruthful.
  • It seemed queer, in the barber's shop, to see the Anarchist notice still on the wall, explaining that tips were prohibited. "The Revolution has struck off our chains," the notice said. I felt like telling the barbers that their chains would soon be back on again if they didn't look out.
  • Human beings were behaving as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.
  • It is sometimes a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is changing the conditions of warfare. In the next great war, we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.
  • Everyone always did miss everyone else in this war, whenever it was humanly possible to do so.
  • [F]inally, a year after the outbreak of war and revolution, there remained a Government composed entirely of Right-wing Socialists, Liberals, and Communists. – chap. 5
  • The Communists had gained power and a vast increase of membership partly by appealing to the middle classes against the revolutionaries, but partly also because they were the only people who looked capable of winning the war. -- Chap. 5
  • Elsewhere in Spain no formal unification between Socialists and Communists had taken place, but the Communist viewpoint and the Right-wing Socialist viewpoint could everywhere be regarded as identical. –- chap. 5
  • The workers' militias, based on the trade unions and each composed of people of approximately the same political opinions, had the effect of canalizing into one place all the most revolutionary sentiment in the country. I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragón one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality. In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life--snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.--had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master. Of course such a state of affairs could not last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game that is being played over the whole surface of the earth. But it lasted long enough to have its effect upon anyone who experienced it. However much one cursed at the time, one realized afterwards that one had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word 'comrade' stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality. I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' that Socialism means no more than a planned state—capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the 'mystique' of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all. And it was here that those few months in the militia were valuable to me.
  • It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours.
  • The revolutionary atmosphere remained as I had first known it. General and private, peasant and militiaman, still met as equals; everyone drew the same pay, wore the same clothes, ate the same food, and called everyone else 'thou' and 'comrade'; there was no boss-class, no menial-class, no beggars, no prostitutes, no lawyers, no priests, no boot-licking, no cap-touching. I was breathing the air of equality, and I was simple enough to imagine that it existed all over Spain. I did not realize that more or less by chance I was isolated among the most revolutionary section of the Spanish working class.
  • No one I met at this time — doctors, nurses, practicantes, or fellow-patients — 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.

Charles Dickens (1939)[edit]

  • Men are only as good as their technical development allows them to be.
  • The great disadvantage, and advantage, of the small urban bourgeois is his limited outlook. He sees the world as a middle-class world, and everything outside, these limits is either laughable or slightly wicked.
    • A Collection of Essays, pp. 65-66
  • Dickens's attitude is easily intelligible to an Englishman, because it is part of the English puritan tradition, which is not dead even at this day. The class Dickens belonged to, at least by adoption, was growing suddenly rich after a couple of centuries of obscurity. It had grown up mainly in the big towns, out of contact with agriculture, and politically impotent; government, in its experience, was something which either interfered or persecuted. Consequently it was a class with no tradition of public service and not much tradition of usefulness. What now strikes us as remarkable about the new moneyed class of the nineteenth century is their complete irresponsibility; they see everything in terms of individual success, with hardly any consciousness that the community exists.
  • The thing that drove Dickens forward into a form of art for which he was not really suited, and at the same time caused us to remember him, was simply the fact that he was a moralist, the consciousness of ‘having something to say’. He is always preaching a sermon, and that is the final secret of his inventiveness. For you can only create if you can care. Types like Squeers and Micawber could not have been produced by a hack writer looking for something to be funny about. A joke worth laughing at always has an idea behind it, and usually a subversive idea. Dickens is able to go on being funny because he is in revolt against authority, and authority is always there to be laughed at.
  • When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page. It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer. I feel this very strongly with Swift, with Defoe, with Fielding, Stendhal, Thackeray, Flaubert, though in several cases I do not know what these people looked like and do not want to know. What one sees is the face that the writer ought to have. Well, in the case of Dickens I see a face that is not quite the face of Dickens's photographs, though it resembles it. It is the face of a man of about forty, with a small beard and a high colour. He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.
  • The truth is that Dickens's criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. Hence the utter lack of any constructive suggestion anywhere in his work. He attacks the law, parliamentary government, the educational system and so forth, without ever clearly suggesting what he would put in their places. Of course it is not necessarily the business of a novelist, or a satirist, to make constructive suggestions, but the point is that Dickens's attitude is at bottom not even destructive. There is no clear sign that he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that he believes it would make very much difference if it were overthrown. For in reality his target is not so much society as ‘human nature’. It would be difficult to point anywhere in his books to a passage suggesting that the economic system is wrong as a system.
  • I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his ‘message’, and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a ‘message’, whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it. All art is propaganda. Neither Dickens himself nor the majority of Victorian novelists would have thought of denying this. On the other hand, not all propaganda is art. As I said earlier, Dickens is one of those writers who are felt to be worth stealing. He has been stolen by Marxists, by Catholics and, above all, by Conservatives. The question is, What is there to steal? Why does anyone care about Dickens? Why do I care about Dickens?
  • The outstanding, unmistakable mark of Dickens's writing is the unnecessary detail.
  • There are occasions when it pays better to fight and be beaten than not to fight at all.
  • If Dickens were alive to-day he would make a trip to Soviet Russia and come back with a book rather like Gide's Retour de L'URSS.

The Lion and the Unicorn (1941)[edit]

As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.
England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality.
"The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius" (1941) Full text on line
  • As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.
    They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are ‘only doing their duty’, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life.
    • Part I : England Your England, § I
  • One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. In certain circumstances it can break down, at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not.
    • Part I : England Your England, § I
  • Also, one must admit that the divisions between nation and nation are founded on real differences of outlook. Till recently it was thought proper to pretend that all human beings are very much alike, but in fact anyone able to use his eyes knows that the average of human behaviour differs enormously from country to country. Things that could happen in one country could not happen in another.
    • Part I : England Your England, § I
  • Yes, there is something distinctive and recognisable in English civilisation. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes. It has a flavour of its own.
    • Part I : England Your England, § I
  • The gentleness of the English civilisation is perhaps its most marked characteristic. You notice it the instant you set foot on English soil. It is a land where the bus conductors are good-tempered and the policemen carry no revolvers.
    • Part I : England Your England, § II
  • A navy employs comparatively few people, and it is an external weapon which cannot affect home politics directly. Military dictatorships exist everywhere, but there is no such thing as a naval dictatorship. What English people of nearly all classes loathe from the bottom of their hearts is the swaggering officer type, the jingle of spurs, and the crash of boots.
    • Part I : England Your England, § II
  • The goose-step, for instance, is one of the most horrible sights in the world, far more terrifying than a dive-bomber. It is simply an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face. Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is "Yes, I am ugly, and you daren't laugh at me", like the bully who makes faces at his victim. Why is the goose-step not used in England? There are, heaven knows, plenty of army officers who would be only too glad to introduce some such thing. It is not used because the people in the street would laugh.
    • Part I : England Your England, § II
  • During the war of 1914-18 the English working class were in contact with foreigners to an extent that is rarely possible. The sole result was that they brought back a hatred of all Europeans, except the Germans, whose courage they admired. In four years on French soil they did not even acquire a liking for wine.
    • Part I : England Your England, § III
  • Thereupon the people picked a leader nearer to their mood, Churchill, who was at any rate able to grasp that wars are not won without fighting. Later, perhaps, they will pick another leader who can grasp that only Socialist nations can fight effectively.
    • Part I : England Your England, § III
  • England is the most class-ridden country under the sun. It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and silly. But in any calculation about it one has got to take into account its emotional unity, the tendency of nearly all its inhabitants to feel alike and act together in moments of supreme crisis. It is the only great country in Europe that is not obliged to drive hundreds of thousands of its nationals into exile or the concentration camps.
    • Part I : England Your England, § III
  • Is the English press honest or dishonest? At normal times it is deeply dishonest. All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news. Yet I do not suppose there is one paper in England that can be straightforwardly bribed with hard cash. In the France of the Third Republic all but a very few of the newspapers could notoriously be bought over the counter like so many pounds of cheese.
    • Part I : England Your England, § III
  • England is not the jewelled isle of Shakespeare’s much-quoted message, nor is it the inferno depicted by Dr Goebbels. More than either it resembles a family, a rather stuffy Victorian family, with not many black sheep in it but with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations who are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. It is a family in which the young are generally thwarted and most of the power is in the hands of irresponsible uncles and bedridden aunts. Still, it is a family. It has its private language and its common memories, and at the approach of an enemy it closes its ranks. A family with the wrong members in control — that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.
    • Part I : England Your England, § III
  • Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there.
    • Part I : England Your England, § IV
  • It must be admitted that so long as things were peaceful the methods of the British ruling class served them well enough. Their own people manifestly tolerated them. However unjustly England might be organized, it was at any rate not torn by class warfare or haunted by secret police. The Empire was peaceful as no area of comparable size has ever been. Throughout its vast extend, nearly a quarter of the earth, there were fewer armed men than would be found necessary by a minor Balkan state. As people live under, and looking at them merely from a liberal, negative standpoint, the British ruling class had their points.
    • Part I : England Your England, § IV
  • The policeman who arrests the "Red" does not understand the theories the "Red" is preaching; if he did, his own position as bodyguard of the monied class might seem less pleasant to him.
    • Part I : England Your England, § IV
  • The British ruling class were not altogether wrong in thinking that Fascism was on their side. It is a fact that any rich man, unless he is a Jew, has less to fear from Fascism than from either Communism or democratic Socialism. One ought never to forget this, for nearly the whole of German and Italian propaganda is designed to cover it up.
    • Part I : England Your England, § IV
  • The middle-class families celebrated by Kipling, the prolific lowbrow families whose sons officered the army and navy and swarmed over all the waste places of the earth from the Yukon to the Irrawaddy, were dwindling before 1914. The thing that had killed them was the telegraph. In a narrowing world, more and more governed from Whitehall, there was every year less room for individual initiative.
    • Part I : England Your England, § V
  • England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God save the King than of stealing from a poor box.
    • Part I : England Your England, § V
  • In whatever shape England emerges from the war it will be deeply tinged with the characteristics that I have spoken of earlier. The intellectuals who hope to see it Russianized or Germanized will be disappointed. The gentleness, the hypocrisy, the thoughtlessness, the reverence for law and the hatred of uniforms will remain, along with the suet puddings and the misty skies. It needs some very great disaster, such as prolonged subjugation by a foreign enemy, to destroy a national culture. The Stock Exchange will be pulled down, the horse plough will give way to the tractor, the country houses will be turned into children’s holiday camps, the Eton and Harrow match will be forgotten, but England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same.
    • Part I : England Your England, § VI
  • Fascism, at any rate the German version, is a form of capitalism that borrows from Socialism just such features as will make it efficient for war purposes. Internally, Germany has a good deal in common with a Socialist state. Ownership has never been abolished, there are still capitalists and workers, and — this is the important point, and the real reason why rich men all over the world tend to sympathize with Fascism — generally speaking the same people are capitalists and the same people workers as before the Nazi revolution. But at the same time the State, which is simply the Nazi Party, is in control of everything. It controls investment, raw materials, rates of interest, working hours, wages. The factory owner still owns his factory, but he is for practical purposes reduced to the status of a manager. Everyone is in effect a State employee, though the salaries vary very greatly. The mere efficiency of such a system, the elimination of waste and obstruction, is obvious. In seven years it has built up the most powerful war machine the world has ever seen.
    But the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite. The driving force behind the Nazi movement is the belief in human inequality, the superiority of Germans to all other races, the right of Germany to rule the world. Outside the German Reich it does not recognize any obligations.
    • Part II : Shopkeepers At War, § I
  • It is only by revolution that the native genius of the English people can be set free. Revolution does not mean red flags and street fighting, it means a fundamental shift of power. Whether it happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place. Nor does it mean the dictatorship of a single class. The people in England who grasp what changes are needed and are capable of carrying them through are not confined to any one class, though it is true that very few people with over £2,000 a year are among them. What is wanted is a conscious open revolt by ordinary people against inefficiency, class privilege and the rule of the old.
    • Part II : Shopkeepers At War, § II
  • The lady in the Rolls-Royce car is more damaging to morale than a fleet of Göring’s bombing planes.
    • Part II : Shopkeepers At War, § III
  • War is the greatest of all agents of change. It speeds up all processes, wipes out minor distinctions, brings realities to the surface.
    • Part III : The English Revolution, § II

As I Please (1943–1947)[edit]

  • Having defeated your enemy you have to choose (unless you want another war within a generation) between exterminating him and treating him generously.
    • "As I Please," Tribune, (24 December 1943)
  • So far as it goes, the distinction, between an atrocity and an act of war is valid. An atrocity means an act of terrorism which has no genuine military purpose. One must accept such distinctions if one accepts war at all, which in practice everyone does.  Nevertheless, a world in which it is wrong to murder an individual and right to drop a thousand tons of high explosive on a residential area does sometimes make me wonder whether this planet of hours is not a loony-bin made use of by some other planet.
    • "As I Please," Tribune, (31 December 1943)
  • Not to have a national anthem would be logical.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (31 December 1943)[7]
  • Antisemitism, for instance, is simply not the doctrine of a grown-up person.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (28 January 1944)[8]
  • During the Spanish civil war I found myself feeling very strongly that a true history of this war never would or could be written.  Accurate figures, objective accounts of what was happening, simply did not exist.  And if I felt that even in 1937, when the Spanish Government was still in being, and the lies which the various Republican factions were telling about each other and about the enemy were relatively small ones, how does the case stand now?  Even if Franco is overthrown, what kind of records will the future historian have to go upon?  And if Franco or anyone at all resembling him remains in power, the history of the war will consist quite largely of "facts" which millions of people now living know to be lies.
  • During part of 1941 and 1942, when the Luftwaffe was busy in Russia, the German radio regaled its home audience with stories of devastating air raids on London.  Now, we are aware that those raids did not happen.  But what use would our knowledge be if the Germans conquered Britain?  For the purpose of a future historian, did those raids happen, or didn't they?  The answer is:  If Hitler survives, they happened, and if he falls they didn't happen.  So with innumerable other events of the past ten or twenty years.  Is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion a genuine document?  Did Trotsky plot with the Nazis?  How many German aeroplanes were shot down in the Battle of Britain?  Does Europe welcome the New Order?  In no case do you get one answer which is universally accepted because it is true: in each case you get a number of totally incompatible answers, one of which is finally adopted as the result of a physical struggle.  History is written by the winners.
  • A Nazi and a non-Nazi version of the present war would have no resemblance to one another, and which of them finally gets into the history books will be decided not by evidential methods but on the battlefield......In the last analysis our only claim to victory is that if we win the war we shall tell less lies about it than our adversaries. The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits "atrocities" but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (4 February 1944)[9]
  • But it takes a war to make map-reading popular.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (11 February 1944)
  • The idea that an advanced civilization need not rest on slavery is a relatively new idea, for instance; it is a good deal younger than the Christian religion. But even if Chesterton's dictum were true, it would only be true in the sense that a statue is contained in every block of stone. Ideas may not change, but emphasis shifts constantly. It could be claimed, for example, that the most important part of Marx's theory is contained in the saying: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ But before Marx developed it, what force had that saying had? Who had paid any attention to it? Who had inferred from it — what it certainly implies — that laws, religions and moral codes are all a superstructure built over existing property relations? It was Christ, according to the Gospel, who uttered the text, but it was Marx who brought it to life. And ever since he did so the motives of politicians, priests, judges, moralists and millionaires have been under the deepest suspicion — which, of course, is why they hate him so much.'
  • If you talk to a thoughtful Christian, Catholic or Anglican, you often find yourself laughed at for being so ignorant as to suppose that anyone ever took the doctrines of the Church literally.
  • Having lived in an oriental country I have developed a certain indifference to miracles, and I well know that having delusions, or even being an outright lunatic, is quite compatible with what is loosely called genius.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (3 March 1944)[10]
  • [Man] is not likely to salvage civilization unless he can evolve a system of good and evil which is independent of heaven and hell.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (3 March 1944)[11]
  • Let a politician die, and his worst enemies will stand up on the floor of the House and utter pious lies in his honour, but a writer or artist must be sniffed at, at least if he is any good.
  • [E]ven stupidity is better than totalitarianism.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (10 March 1944)[12]
  • It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (24 March 1944)[13]
  • But Fascism is also a political and economic system.  Why, then, cannot we have a clear and generally accepted definition of it?  Alas! we shall not get one—not yet, anyway.  To say why would take too long, but basically it is because it is impossible to define Fascism satisfactorily without making admissions which neither the Fascists themselves, nor the Conservatives, nor Socialists of any colour, are willing to make.  All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (24 March 1944)[14]
  • The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside.  Quite a number of people console themselves with this thought, now that totalitarianism in one form or another is visibly on the up-grade in every part of the world.  Out in the street the loudspeakers bellow, the flags flutter from the rooftops, the police with their tommy-guns prowl to and fro, the face of the Leader, four feet wide, glares from every hoarding; but up in the attics the secret enemies of the regime can record their thoughts in perfect freedom—that is the idea, more or less.
  • The greatest mistake is to imagine that the human being is an autonomous individual. The secret freedom which you can supposedly enjoy under a despotic government is nonsense, because your thoughts are never entirely your own. Philosophers, writers, artists, even scientists, not only need encouragement and an audience, they need constant stimulation from other people. It is almost impossible to think without talking. ... Take away freedom of speech, and the creative faculties dry up.
  • In the nineteenth century some parts of the world were unexplored, but there was almost no restriction on travel.  Up to 1914 you did not need a passport for any country except Russia.  The European emigrant, if he could scrape together a few pounds for the passage, simply set sail for America or Australia, and when he got there no questions were asked.  In the eighteenth century it had been quite normal and safe to travel in a country with which your own country was at war.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (12 May 1944)[15]
  • A phrase much used in political circles in this country is "playing into the hands of".  It is a sort of charm or incantation to silence uncomfortable truths.  When you are told that by saying this, that or the other you are "playing into the hands of" some sinister enemy, you know that it is your duty to shut up immediately.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (9 June 1944)[16]
  • Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (7 July 1944)
  • [T]he outcry against killing women, if you accept killing at all, is sheer sentimentality.  Why is it worse to kill a woman than a man?
    • "As I Please," Tribune (14 July 1944)[17]
  • The whole question of evolution seems less momentous than it did, because, unlike the Victorians, we do not feel that to be descended from animals is degrading to human dignity.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (21 July 1944)[18]
  • In any form of art designed to appeal to large numbers of people,...[t]he rich man is usually 'bad', and his machinations are invariably frustrated.  'Good poor man defeats bad rich man' is an accepted formula.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (28 July 1944)[19]
  • War damages, the fabric of civilisation not by the destruction it causes (the net effect of a war may even be to increase the productive capacity of the world as a whole) nor even by the slaughter of human beings, but by the stimulated hatred and dishonesty.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (4 August 1944)[20]
  • Anyone who knows of a provable instance of colour discrimination ought always to expose it.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (11 August 1944)[21]
  • Stop to consider how the so-called owners of the land got hold of it.  They simply seized it by force, afterwards hiring lawyers to provide them with title-deeds.  In the case of the enclosure of the common lands, which was going on from about 1600 to 1850, the land-grabbers did not even have the excuse of being foreign conquerors; they were quite frankly taking the heritage of their own countrymen, upon no sort of pretext except that they had the power to do so.[22]
  • I note that once again there is serious talk of trying to attract tourists to this country after the war...[b]ut it is quite safe to prophesy that the attempt will be a failure.  Apart from the many other difficulties, our licensing laws and the artificial price of drink are quite enough to keep foreigners away.  ...  But even these prices are less dismaying to foreigners than the lunatic laws which permit you to buy a glass of beer at half past ten while forbidding you to buy it at twenty-five past, and which have done their best to turn the pubs into mere boozing shops by excluding children from them.
How downtrodden we are in comparison with most other peoples is shown by the fact that even people who are far from being "temperance" don't seriously imagine that our licensing laws could be altered.  Whenever I suggest that pubs might be allowed to open in the afternoon, or to stay open till midnight, I always get the same answer:  "The first people to object would be the publicans.  They don't want to have to stay open twelve hours a day."  People assume, you see, that opening hours, whether long or short, must be regulated by the law, even for one-man businesses.  In France, and in various other countries, a café proprietor opens or shuts just as it suits him.  He can keep open the whole twenty-four hours if he wants to; and, on the other hand, if he feels like shutting his cafe and going away for a week, he can do that too.  In England we have had no such liberty for about a hundred years, and people are hardly able to imagine it.[23]
  • "As I Please" column in The Tribune (18 August 1944)
  • First of all, a message to English left-wing journalists and intellectuals generally: Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for.  Don't imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the boot-licking propagandist of the Soviet régime, or any other régime, and then suddenly return to mental decency.  Once a whore, always a whore.
    • "As I Please" column in The Tribune (1 September 1944)[24]
  • [Some correspondents] rightly claimed that State patronage [for artists and authors] is a better guarantee against starvation than private patronage, but seemed to me too ready to disregard the censorship that this implies.  The usual line was that it is better for the artist to be a responsible member of a community than an anarchic individualist.  The issue, however, is not between irresponsible "self-expression" and discipline; it is between truth and lies. Artists don't so much object to aesthetic discipline.  Architects will design theatres or churches equally readily, writers will switch from the three-volume novel to the one-volume, or from the play to the film, according to the demand.  But the point is that this is a political age.  A writer inevitably writes—and less directly this applies to all the arts—about contemporary events, and his impulse is to tell what he believes to be the truth.  But no government, no big organization, will pay for the truth.  To take a crude example: can you imagine the British Government commissioning E. M. Forster to write A Passage to India?  He could only write it because he was not dependent on State aid.
    • "As I Please" column in The Tribune (13 October 1944)[25][26]
  • The thing that I think very striking is that no one, or no one I can remember, ever writes of an execution with approval.  The dominant note is always horror.  Society, apparently, cannot get along without capital punishment—for there are some people whom it is simply not safe to leave alive—and yet there is no one, when the pinch comes, who feels it right to kill another human being in cold blood.  I watched a man hanged once.  There was no question that everybody concerned knew this to be a dreadful, unnatural action.  I believe it is always the same—the whole jail, warders and prisoners alike, is upset when there is an execution.  It is probably the fact that capital punishment is accepted as necessary, and yet instinctively felt to be wrong, that gives so many descriptions of executions their tragic atmosphere.  They are mostly written by people who have actually watched an execution and feel it to be a terrible and only partly comprehensible experience which they want to record; whereas battle literature is largely written by people who have never heard a gun go off and think of a battle as a sort of football match in which nobody gets hurt.
    • "As I Please" column in The Tribune (3 November 1944)[27]
  • The thing that strikes me more and more—and it strikes a lot of other people, too—is the extraordinary viciousness and dishonesty of political controversy in our time.  I don't mean merely that controversies are acrimonious.  They ought to be that when they are on serious subjects.  I mean that almost nobody seems to feel that an opponent deserves a fair hearing or that the objective truth matters as long as you can score a neat debating point.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (8 December 1944)[28]
  • We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance.  Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort, are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant.  I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once.  The same argument is applied to Trotskyism...To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore "Trotskyism is Fascism".  And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated. This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it.  If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (8 December 1944)[29]
  • The important thing is to discover which individuals are honest and which are not, and the usual blanket accusation merely makes this more difficult.  The atmosphere of hatred in which controversy is conducted blinds people to considerations of this kind.  To admit that an opponent might be both honest and intelligent is felt to be intolerable.  It is more immediately satisfying to shout that he is a fool or a scoundrel, or both, than to find out what he is really like.  It is this habit of mind, among other things, that has made political prediction in our time so remarkably unsuccessful.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (8 December 1944)[30]
  • Victor Raikes, the Tory M.P., who is an able and outspoken reactionary, made a speech which I should have considered a good one if it had referred only to Poland and Jugoslavia.  But after dealing with those two countries he went on to speak about Greece, and then suddenly black became white, and white black.  There was no booing, no interjections from the quite large audience—and none there, apparently, who could see that the forcing of quisling governments upon unwilling peoples is equally undesirable whoever does it.
  • The Daily Worker disapproves of dictatorship in Athens, the Catholic Herald disapproves of dictatorship in Belgrade.  There is no one who is able to say—at least, no one who has the chance to say in a newspaper of big circulation—that this whole dirty game of spheres of influence, quislings, purges, deportation, one-party elections and hundred per cent plebiscites is morally the same whether it is done by ourselves, the Russians or the Nazis.  Even in the case of such frank returns to barbarism as the use of hostages, disapproval is only felt when it happens to be the enemy and not ourselves who is doing it.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (26 January 1945)[31]
  • It is not a good symptom that hanging should still be the accepted form of capital punishment in this country.  Hanging is a barbarous, inefficient way of killing anybody, and at least one fact about it—quite widely known, I believe—is so obscene as to be almost unprintable.
    • "As I Please" column in The Tribune (15 November 1946)[32]
  • While the game of deadlocks and bottle-necks goes on, another more serious game is also being played. It is governed by two axioms. One is that there can be no peace without a general surrender of sovereignty: the other is that no country capable of defending its sovereignty ever surrenders it. If one keeps these axioms in mind one can generally see the relevant facts in international affairs through the smoke-screen with which the newspapers surround them.
    • "As I Please," Tribune (13 December 1946)
  • This business of making people conscious of what is happening outside their own small circle is one of the major problems of our time, and a new literary technique will have to be evolved to meet it. Considering that the people of this country are not having a very comfortable time, you can't perhaps, blame them for being somewhat callous about suffering elsewhere, but the remarkable thing is the extent to which they manage to be unaware of it. Tales of starvation, ruined cities, concentration camps, mass deportations, homeless refugees, persecuted Jews — all this is received with a sort of incurious surprise, as though such things had never been heard of but at the same time were not particularly interesting. The now-familiar photographs of skeleton-like children make very little impression. As time goes on and the horrors pile up, the mind seems to secrete a sort of self-protecting ignorance which needs a harder and harder shock to pierce it, just as the body will become immunised to a drug and require bigger and bigger doses.
    • "As I Please," The Tribune (17 January 1947)
  • Since the decay of the belief in personal immortality, death has never seemed funny, and it will be a long time before it does so again. Hence the disappearance of the facetious epitaph, once a common feature of country churchyards. I should be astonished to see a comic epitaph dated later than 1850. There is one in Kew, if I remember rightly, which might be about that date. About half the tombstone is covered with a long panegyric on his dead wife by a bereaved husband: at the bottom of the stone is a later inscription which reads, ‘Now he’s gone, too’.'
  • But is it really necessary, in 1947, to teach children to use expressions like "native" and "Chinaman"?
    The last-named word has been regarded as offensive by the Chinese for at least a dozen years. As for “native,” it was being officially discountenanced even in India as long as twenty years ago.
    It is no use answering that it is childish for an Indian or an African to feel insulted when he is called a “native.” We all have these feelings in one form or another. If a Chinese wants to be called a Chinese and not a Chinaman, if a Scotsman objects to be called a Scotchman, or if a Negro demands his capital N, it is only the most ordinary politeness to do what is asked of one.

Looking Back on the Spanish War (1943)[edit]

We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil.
Full text online
  • We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don't take the sword perish by smelly diseases.
    • § 1
  • I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans, and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists. But what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in solely on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.
    • § 2
  • Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’.
    • § 4
  • This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. [...] A British and a German historian would disagree deeply on many things, even on fundamentals, but there would still be that body of, as it were, neutral fact on which neither would seriously challenge the other. It is just this common basis of agreement, with its implication that human beings are all one species of animal, that totalitarianism destroys. Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as ‘the truth’ exists. There is, for instance, no such thing as ‘Science’. There is only ‘German Science’, ‘Jewish Science’, etc. The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’ — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs — and after our experiences of the last few years that is not a frivolous statement.
    • § 4
  • The intelligentsia are the people who squeal loudest against fascism, and yet a respectable proportion of them collapse into defeatism when the pinch comes. They are far-sighted enough to see the odds against them, and moreover they can be bribed — for it is evident that the Nazis think it worth while to bribe intellectuals.
    • § 5
  • When one thinks of the cruelty, squalor, and futility of war - and in this particular case of the intrigues, the persecutions, the lies and the misunderstandings - there is always the temptation to say: "One side is as bad as the other. I am neutral." In practice, however, one cannot be neutral, and there is hardly such a thing as a war in which it makes no difference who wins. Nearly always one side stands more or less for progress, the other more or less for reaction.
    • § 5
  • The outcome of the Spanish war was settled in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin — at any rate not in Spain. After the summer of 1937 those with eyes in their heads realized that the Government could not win the war unless there were some profound change in the international set-up, and in deciding to fight on Negrin and the others may have been partly influenced by the expectation that the world war which actually broke out in 1939 was coming in 1938. The much-publicized disunity on the Government side was not a main cause of defeat. The Government militias were hurriedly raised, ill-armed and unimaginative in their military outlook, but they would have been the same if complete political agreement had existed from the start. At the outbreak of war the average Spanish factory-worker did not even know how to fire a rifle (there had never been universal conscription in Spain), and the traditional pacifism of the Left was a great handicap. The thousands of foreigners who served in Spain made good infantry, but there were very few experts of any kind among them. The Trotskyist thesis that the war could have been won if the revolution had not been sabotaged was probably false. To nationalize factories, demolish churches, and issue revolutionary manifestoes would not have made the armies more efficient.
    • § 6
  • The Fascists won because they were the stronger; they had modern arms and the others hadn't. No political strategy could offset that.
    The most baffling thing in the Spanish war was the behaviour of the great powers. The war was actually won for Franco by the Germans and Italians, whose motives were obvious enough. The motives of France and Britain are less easy to understand. In 1936 it was clear to everyone that if Britain would only help the Spanish Government, even to the extent of a few million pounds' worth of arms, Franco would collapse and German strategy would be severely dislocated. By that time one did not need to be a clairvoyant to foresee that war between Britain and Germany was coming; one could even foretell within a year or two when it would come. Yet in the most mean, cowardly, hypocritical way the British ruling class did all they could to hand Spain over to Franco and the Nazis. Why? Because they were pro-Fascist, was the obvious answer. Undoubtedly they were, and yet when it came to the final showdown they chose to stand up to Germany. It is still very uncertain what plan they acted on in backing Franco, and they may have had no clear plan at all. Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time, and at certain moments a very important question.
    • § 6
  • I believe that in the future we shall come to feel that Stalin's foreign policy, instead of being so diabolically clever as it is claimed to be, has been merely opportunistic and stupid.
    • § 6
  • When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported Fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity. What a crew! Think of a programme which at any rate for a while could bring Hitler, Petain, Montagu Norman, Pavelitch, William Randolph Hearst, Streicher, Buchman, Ezra Pound, Juan March, Cocteau, Thyssen, Father Coughlin, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Arnold Lunn, Antonescu, Spengler, Beverley Nichols, Lady Houston, and Marinetti all into the same boat! But the clue is really very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings. Behind all the ballyhoo that is talked about ‘godless’ Russia and the ‘materialism’ of the working class lies the simple intention of those with money or privileges to cling to them.
    • § 7
  • The major problem of our time is the decay of the belief in personal immortality, and it cannot be dealt with while the average human being is either drudging like an ox or shivering in fear of the secret police. How right the working classes are in their ‘materialism’! How right they are to realize that the belly comes before the soul, not in the scale of values but in point of time! Understand that, and the long horror that we are enduring becomes at least intelligible. All the considerations are likely to make one falter — the siren voices of a Petain or of a Gandhi, the inescapable fact that in order to fight one has to degrade oneself, the equivocal moral position of Britain, with its democratic phrases and its coolie empire, the sinister development of Soviet Russia, the squalid farce of left-wing politics — all this fades away and one sees only the struggle of the gradually awakening common people against the lords of property and their hired liars and bumsuckers. The question is very simple. Shall people like that Italian soldier be allowed to live the decent, fully human life which is now technically achievable, or shan't they? Shall the common man be pushed back into the mud, or shall he not? I myself believe, perhaps on insufficient grounds, that the common man will win his fight sooner or later, but I want it to be sooner and not later — some time within the next hundred years, say, and not some time within the next ten thousand years.
    • § 7

Antisemitism in Britain (1945)[edit]

Published in Contemporary Jewish Record (April 1945). Full essay online
  • [...] there is no real Jewish “problem” in England. The Jews are not numerous or powerful enough, and it is only in what are loosely called “intellectual circles” that they have any noticeable influence.
  • [...] above a certain intellectual level people are ashamed of being antisemitic and are careful to draw a distinction between “antisemitism” and “disliking Jews”.
  • [...] antisemitism is an irrational thing. The Jews are accused of specific offences (for instance, bad behaviour in food queues) which the person speaking feels strongly about, but it is obvious that these accusations merely rationalise some deep-rooted prejudice.
  • A minority of the refugees behaved in an exceedingly tactless way, and the feeling against them necessarily had an antisemitic undercurrent, since they were largely Jews.
  • I have already indicated that I believe antisemitism to be essentially a neurosis, but of course it has its rationalisations, which are sincerely believed in and are partly true. The rationalisation put forward by the common man is that the Jew is an exploiter.
  • [...] antisemitism is rationalised by saying that the Jew is a person who spreads disaffection and weakens national morale.
  • Yet one of the marks of antisemitism is an ability to believe stories that could not possibly be true.

Notes on Nationalism (1945)[edit]

Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.
Published in Polemic (October 1945); Full essay online with original footnotes - alternate site
Those who "abjure" violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.
  • By "nationalism" I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled "good" or "bad." But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By "patriotism" I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
  • Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.
  • 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.
  • [T]ransferred nationalism has been a common phenomenon among literary intellectuals. With Lafcadio Hearne the transference was to Japan, with Carlyle and many others of his time to Germany, and in our own age it is usually to Russia. But the peculiarly interesting fact is that re-transference is also possible. A country or other unit which has been worshipped for years may suddenly become detestable, and some other object of affection may take its place with almost no interval. In the first version of H. G. Wells's Outline of History, and others of his writings about that time, one finds the United States praised almost as extravagantly as Russia is praised by Communists today: yet within a few years this uncritical admiration had turned into hostility. The bigoted Communist who changes in a space of weeks, or even days, into an equally bigoted Trotskyist is a common spectacle. In continental Europe Fascist movements were largely recruited from among Communists, and the opposite process may well happen within the next few years. What remains constant in the nationalist is his state of mind: the object of his feelings is changeable, and may be imaginary.
  • [F]or an intellectual, transference has an important function which I have already mentioned shortly in connection with Chesterton. It makes it possible for him to be much more nationalistic — more vulgar, more silly, more malignant, more dishonest — that he could ever be on behalf of his native country, or any unit of which he had real knowledge. When one sees the slavish or boastful rubbish that is written about Stalin, the Red Army, etc. by fairly intelligent and sensitive people, one realises that this is only possible because some kind of dislocation has taken place. In societies such as ours, it is unusual for anyone describable as an intellectual to feel a very deep attachment to his own country. Public opinion — that is, the section of public opinion of which he as an intellectual is aware — will not allow him to do so. Most of the people surrounding him are sceptical and disaffected, and he may adopt the same attitude from imitativeness or sheer cowardice: in that case he will have abandoned the form of nationalism that lies nearest to hand without getting any closer to a genuinely internationalist outlook. He still feels the need for a Fatherland, and it is natural to look for one somewhere abroad. Having found it, he can wallow unrestrainedly in exactly those emotions from which he believes that he has emancipated himself. God, the King, the Empire, the Union Jack — all the overthrown idols can reappear under different names, and because they are not recognised for what they are they can be worshipped with a good conscience. Transferred nationalism, like the use of scapegoats, is a way of attaining salvation without altering one's conduct.
  • 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 majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of western countries. The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia or China. It is not claimed, again, that the Indians should abjure violence in their struggle against the British. Pacifist literature abounds with equivocal remarks which, if they mean anything, appear to mean that statesmen of the type of Hitler are preferable to those of the type of Churchill, and that violence is perhaps excusable if it is violent enough. After the fall of France, the French pacifists, faced by a real choice which their English colleagues have not had to make, mostly went over to the Nazis, and in England there appears to have been some small overlap of membership between the Peace Pledge Union and the Blackshirts. Pacifist writers have written in praise of Carlyle, one of the intellectual fathers of Fascism. All in all it is difficult not to feel that pacifism, as it appears among a section of the intelligentsia, is secretly inspired by an admiration for power and successful cruelty.
  • The old-style contemptuous attitude towards 'natives' has been much weakened in England, and various pseudo-scientific theories emphasising the superiority of the white race have been abandoned. Among the intelligentsia, colour feeling only occurs in the transposed form, that is, as a belief in the innate superiority of the coloured races. This is now increasingly common among English intellectuals, probably resulting more often from masochism and sexual frustration than from contact with the Oriental and Negro nationalist movements. Even among those who do not feel strongly on the colour question, snobbery and imitation have a powerful influence. Almost any English intellectual would be scandalised by the claim that the white races are superior to the coloured, whereas the opposite claim would seem to him unexceptionable even if he disagreed with it. Nationalistic attachment to the coloured races is usually mixed up with the belief that their sex lives are superior, and there is a large underground mythology about the sexual prowess of Negroes.
  • Many people were undisguisedly pleased when Singapore fell or when the British were driven out of Greece, and there was a remarkable unwillingness to believe in good news, e.g. el Alamein, or the number of German planes shot down in the Battle of Britain. English left-wing intellectuals did not, of course, actually want the Germans or Japanese to win the war, but many of them could not help getting a certain kick out of seeing their own country humiliated, and wanted to feel that the final victory would be due to Russia, or perhaps America, and not to Britain.
  • If one harbours anywhere in one's mind a nationalistic loyalty or hatred, certain facts, although in a sense known to be true, are inadmissible. Here are just a few examples. I list below five types of nationalist, and against each I append a fact which it is impossible for that type of nationalist to accept, even in his secret thoughts:
BRITISH TORY. Britain will come out of this war with reduced power and prestige.
COMMUNIST. If she had not been aided by Britain and America, Russia would have been defeated by Germany.
IRISH NATIONALIST. Eire can only remain independent because of British protection.
TROTSKYIST. The Stalin regime is accepted by the Russian masses.
PACIFIST. Those who "abjure" violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.
All of these facts are grossly obvious if one's emotions do not happen to be involved: but to the kind of person named in each case they are also intolerable, and so they have to be denied, and false theories constructed upon their denial. I come back to the astonishing failure of military prediction in the present war. It is, I think, true to say that the intelligentsia have been more wrong about the progress of the war than the common people, and that they were more swayed by partisan feelings. The average intellectual of the Left believed, for instance, that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany. He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.
  • There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when 'our' side commits it.

The Prevention of Literature (1946)[edit]

Published in Polemic (January 1946); Full text online - alternate site
  • The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a plea for discipline versus individualism. The issue truth-versus-untruth is as far as possible kept in the background. Although the point of emphasis may vary, the writer who refuses to sell his opinions is always branded as a mere egoist. He is accused, that is, either of wanting to shut himself up in an ivory tower, or of making an exhibitionist display of his own personality, or of resisting the inevitable current of history in an attempt to cling to unjustified privileges.
  • A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened. Then, again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and a revaluation of prominent historical figures.
  • One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognise that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.
  • Totalitarianism, however, does not so much promise an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. It can never permit either the truthful recording of facts or the emotional sincerity that literary creation demands. But to be corrupted by totalitarianism one does not have to live in a totalitarian country. The mere prevalence of certain ideas can spread a kind of poison that makes one subject after another impossible for literary purposes. Wherever there is an enforced orthodoxy — or even two orthodoxies, as often happens — good writing stops. This was well illustrated by the Spanish civil war. To many English intellectuals the war was a deeply moving experience, but not an experience about which they could write sincerely. There were only two things that you were allowed to say, and both of them were palpable lies: as a result, the war produced acres of print but almost nothing worth reading.

Politics and the English Language (1946)[edit]

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
Published in Horizon (April 1946); Full text online - alternate site (no footnotes)
  • Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.
  • A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
  • The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable". The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.
  • When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases -- bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder -- one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved, as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity.
  • The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.
    But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.
  • Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style.
  • Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive voice where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
  • One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.
    • footnote 3

Reflections on Gandhi (1949)[edit]

It is difficult to see how Gandhi's methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary.
"Reflections on Gandhi", in Partisan Review (January 1949) - Full text online
  • Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, but the tests that have to be applied to them are not, of course, the same in all cases. In Gandhi's case the questions one feels inclined to ask are: to what extent was Gandhi moved by vanity — by the consciousness of himself as a humble, naked old man, sitting on a praying mat and shaking empires by sheer spiritual power — and to what extent did he compromise his own principles by entering politics, which of their nature are inseparable from coercion and fraud? To give a definite answer one would have to study Gandhi's acts and writings in immense detail, for his whole life was a sort of pilgrimage in which every act was significant.
  • At about the time when the autobiography first appeared I remember reading its opening chapters in the ill-printed pages of some Indian newspaper. They made a good impression on me, which Gandhi himself at that time did not.
  • Strictly speaking, as a Nationalist, he was an enemy, but since in every crisis he would exert himself to prevent violence — which, from the British point of view, meant preventing any effective action whatever — he could be regarded as "our man." In private this was sometimes cynically admitted. The attitude of the Indian millionaires was similar. Gandhi called upon them to repent, and naturally they preferred him to the Socialists and Communists who, given the chance, would actually have taken their money away. How reliable such calculations are in the long run is doubtful; as Gandhi himself says, "in the end deceivers deceive only themselves"; but at any rate the gentleness with which he was nearly always handled was due partly to the feeling that he was useful.
  • I could see even then that the British officials who spoke of him with a mixture of amusement and disapproval also genuinely liked and admired him, after a fashion. Nobody ever suggested that he was corrupt, or ambitious in any vulgar way, or that anything he did was actuated by fear or malice. In judging a man like Gandhi one seems instinctively to apply high standards, so that some of his virtues have passed almost unnoticed. For instance, it is clear even from the autobiography that his natural physical courage was quite outstanding: the manner of his death was a later illustration of this, for a public man who attached any value to his own skin would have been more adequately guarded. Again, he seems to have been quite free from that maniacal suspiciousness which, as E. M. Forster rightly says in A Passage to India, is the besetting Indian vice, as hypocrisy is the British vice. Although no doubt he was shrewd enough in detecting dishonesty, he seems wherever possible to have believed that other people were acting in good faith and had a better nature through which they could be approached.
  • Of late years it has been the fashion to talk about Gandhi as though he were not only sympathetic to the Western Left-wing movement, but were integrally part of it. Anarchists and pacifists, in particular, have claimed him for their own, noticing only that he was opposed to centralism and State violence and ignoring the other-worldly, anti-humanist tendency of his doctrines.
  • The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals.
  • It is difficult to see how Gandhi's methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary.
  • One feels of him that there was much he did not understand, but not that there was anything that he was frightened of saying or thinking. I have never been able to feel much liking for Gandhi, but I do not feel sure that as a political thinker he was wrong in the main, nor do I believe that his life was a failure. ... One may feel, as I do, a sort of aesthetic distaste for Gandhi, one may reject the claims of sainthood made on his behalf (he never made any such claim himself, by the way), one may also reject sainthood as an ideal and therefore feel that Gandhi's basic aims were anti-human and reactionary: but regarded simply as a politician, and compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind!


  • Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.
    • Attributed to Orwell in State of Fear (2004) by Michael Crichton, and Picking Fights with Thunderstorms (2005) by Sheila Suess Kennedy
  • In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
    • No source for this quote among Orwell's writings has yet been located, and the earliest published source of this phrase found on Google Books is this snippet from p. 5 of Science Dimension, Volumes 14–18 (1982) published by the National Research Council Canada. Quote Investigator has an article "In a Time of Universal Deceit – Telling the Truth Is a Revolutionary Act" indicating their attempts to trace the quote. The earliest similar remarks they had found were in a 1982 book titled “Partners in Ecocide: Australia’s Complicity in the Uranium Cartel” by Venturino Giorgio Venturini, where the word “universal” was omitted, and a specific originating text was not identified: "In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
    • Variants:
      • During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
      • In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
      • In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
      • Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.
      • Truth is treason in an empire of lies. (Often attributed by Ron Paul to Orwell but never sourced.)
    • In the mid-19th century Karl Georg von Raumer made a remark, which has a similar meaning. In Geschichte der Pedagogic (1855), he states: 'Jede keimende Wahrheit ist revolutionär gegen den entgegenstehenden herrschenden Irrthum, jede keimende Tugend revolutionär gegen das im Schwange gehende, ihr widersprechende Laster' which translates as: "Every germinating truth is revolutionary against the opposing ruling error, every germinating virtue is revolutionary against popular contradictory lies."
    • In 1898 French socialist Jean Jaurès said, "When a society, when an institution, lives only by lies, truth is revolutionary." He was speaking with reference to the ongoing Dreyfus Affair. The statement is quoted in Ruth Harris, The Man on Devil's Island: Alfred Dreyfus and the Affair that Divided France (2010), p. 262. (She cites Le petit Meridional, 3 July 1898, as the original source.) This seems very close in spirit and in phrasing to the pseudo-Orwell quotation. (The cumulative index to the many volumes of Orwell's writing compiled and edited by Peter Davison does not reveal any direct references to Jaurès or the Dreyfus Affair.)
  • If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.
    • Attributed to Orwell by John H. Bunzel, president of San Jose State University, as reported in Phyllis Schlafly, The Power of the Positive Woman (1977), p. 151; but not found in Orwell's works or in reports contemporaneous with his life. Possibly a paraphrase of Orwell's description of the rationale behind Newspeak in 1984.


  • We sleep peaceably in our beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.
    • This has commonly been attributed to Orwell but has not been found in any of his writings. Quote Investigator found the earliest known appearance in a 1993 Washington Times essay by Richard Grenier: "As George Orwell pointed out, people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." The absence of quotation marks indicates Grenier was using his own words to convey Orwell's opinion; thus it may have originated as a paraphrase of his statement in Notes on Nationalism (May 1945): "Those who 'abjure' violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf." There are also similar sentiments expressed in an essay which Orwell wrote on Rudyard Kipling, quoting from one of Kipling's poems: "Yes, making mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep." In the same essay Orwell also wrote of Kipling: "He sees clearly that men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them."
  • It's not a matter of whether the war is not real, or if it is, Victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact.
    • Michael Moore declares these lines in his film Fahrenheit 9/11, preceding them with the words "George Orwell once wrote that". They are nearly identical to a block of voiceover in the 1984 Richard Burton/John Hurt movie version of 1984 when Winston (Hurt) is silently reading Goldstein's book. All of the lines are excerpts from various parts of Goldstein's book in part 2, chapter 9 of the novel with some paraphrasing. Note that the fourth sentence begins with "This new version". In Moore's speech there is no antecedent for this phrase; consequently, the sentence makes no sense in that context. [33] [34]
  • We have a hunger for something like authenticity, but are easily satisfied by an ersatz facsimile.
    • Actually a statement by Miles Orvell, in The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880–1940 (1989)
  • There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.
    • Possibly a paraphrase of Bertrand Russell in My Philosophical Development (1959): "This is one of those views which are so absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them." It is similar in meaning to Orwell's line from Notes on Nationalism (1945): "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool." However, Russell was commenting not on politics, as Orwell was, but on some philosophers and their ideas about language.

Quotes about Orwell[edit]

His personal life — what we glimpse of it — even when he was fairly affluent seems to have been an illustrated lesson in survival techniques under extreme conditions, as though he expected to be cast adrift in a capsule. ~ Mary McCarthy
Alphabetized by author
George Orwell was the wintry conscience of a generation which in the thirties had heard the call of the rasher assumptions of political faith. ~ V. S. Pritchett
Orwell in 1948 understood that despite the Axis defeat, the will to fascism had not gone away, that far from having seen its day it had perhaps not yet even come into its own… ~ Thomas Pynchon
What he feared most was the blind spot between us and the future, the space between identities where we could get lost forever. ~ Wilfrid Sheed
Orwell can only be understood as an essentially quixotic man. … He defended, passionately and as a matter of principle, unpopular causes. … His was the isolation of every man who seeks the truth diligently, no matter how unpleasant its implications may be to others or even to himself. ~ George Woodcock
  • I often feel I will never pick up a book by Orwell again until I have read a frank discussion of the dishonesty and hysteria that mar some of his best work.
    • Kingsley Amis, What Became of Jane Austen?, and Other Questions. 1970.
  • As for novels that I've enjoyed, I mean, the only political novel that comes immediately to mind is the obvious one, 1984, which I read on my own before it was required reading at school. And, of course, the other, Animal Farm.
  • Racism keeps people who are being managed from finding out the truth through contact with each other. It serves the insidious purpose of the wars in George Orwell's novel 1984. Orwell's imaginary world is a lot like the real world for black Americans today. But many of us, and most whites, have consistently refused to accept that they live in a managed society where conflict between the races is maintained and managed because it serves a purpose.
  • He could not blow his nose without moralising on conditions in the handkerchief industry. This habit of mind informed everything he wrote. Animal Farm and 1984 are political novels, Homage to Catalonia, The Road to Wigan Pier and all his essays ask a cui bono and try to unseat the profit-makers, whoever they be. This ruling purpose is the secret of his best writing but far too evident in his worst. If we look dispassionately at his achievement, we notice the enormous preponderance of journalism in these four volumes.
    • Cyril Connolly, The Evening Colonnade (1973), in John Rodden, Every Intellectual's Big Brother: George Orwell's Literary Siblings (2006)
  • What struck me in Orwell was his lack of historical sense and of psychological insight into political life, coupled with an acute, though narrow, penetration into some aspects of politics, and with an incorruptible firmness of opinion.
    • Isaac Deutscher, in "1984 —The Mysticism of Cruelty" in Heretics and Renegades (1955)
  • Toward the end of his life he did ... become a kind of Tory anarchist — as he once described himself ... or even Tory socialist, someone, that is, who, though without exercising double-think, managed to fuse conservative ideas (about patriotism, for example) with radical ones (about the equitable distribution of wealth, for example).
    • Peter Edgerly Firchow, in Modern Utopian Fictions from H.G. Wells to Iris Murdoch (2007), p. 106
  • A second escape from determinism involved the discrediting of dictatorships. Tyrants had been around for thousands of years; but George Orwell's great fear, while writing 1984 on his lonely island in 1948, was that the progress made in restraining them in the 18th and 19th centuries had been reversed. Despite the defeats of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, it would have been hard to explain the first half of the 20th century without concluding that the currents of history had come to favor authoritarian politics and collectivist economics. Like Irish monks at the edge of their medieval world, Orwell at the edge of his was seeking to preserve what little was left of civilization by showing what a victory of the barbarians would mean. Big Brothers controlled the Soviet Union, China, and half of Europe by the time 1984 came out. It would have been Utopian to expect that they would stop there. But they did: the historical currents during the second half of the 20th century turned decisively against communism. Orwell himself had something to do with this: his anguished writings, together with the later and increasingly self-confident ones of Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, Havel, and the future pope Karol Wojtyla, advanced a moral and spiritual critique of Marxism-Leninism for which it had no answer. It took time for these sails to catch wind and for these rudders to take hold, but by the late 1970s they had begun to do so. John Paul II and the other actor-leaders of the 1980s then set the course. The most inspirational alternatives the Soviet Union could muster were Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko, a clear sign that dictatorships were not what they once had been.
  • When we asked the librarians which book on their shelves best captured their experience, they immediately mentioned 1984. "It smacks of a 1984 kind of government. Big Brother is always watching you," said Chase referring to George Orwell's classic tale about life under a paranoid, all-controlling authoritarian regime. "They told me you don't have to be suspected of any criminal activity to be a target of an NSL. Now they can serve it on anyone. There's no court authorization needed, and they are not telling Congress what's going on. They've made themselves judge, jury, and executioner. "I don't think this makes us safer," Chase continued. "It makes us more fearful. It makes America a more dangerous place if we can't talk about how our government works."
    • Amy Goodman Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times (2008)
  • The Spanish Civil War shaped the political consciousness of a whole generation, which overwhelmingly saw it as representing heroic resistance to Fascism. Goldman and J. C. Powys did not belong to that generation – they belonged to the generation of its parents or, even, grandparents. And rather than resistance to Fascism, it was the social achievements of the Spanish Revolution that inspired them. In that they stand alone, among figures of the front rank, with Read and Orwell (and it will be seen how he and Homage to Catalonia fared, on the left at least, his reputation only taking off when Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were taken up as being anti-Soviet at the onset of the Cold War).
    • David Goodway, in Anarchist Seeds beneath the Snow (2006), p. 129
  • For most of us the image of Tony is dominated by the boundless admiration we feel for the way he confronted his death. There was a Roman grandeur about his refusal to concede to the inevitable that recalls memories of classical eulogies. It was not just the decision to carry on the chess game to mate, but the decision to provoke death by demonstrating his full abilities as a grandmaster, doomed but never defeated. It is a moving image, but we must abandon it: encouraging mythopoeia is not for historians. Tony has been presented as another George Orwell. This is wrong, because while both were enormously gifted and profoundly polemical, they were very different. Tony lacked Orwell's combination of prejudices, forward and backward-looking Old Testament prophecy and imaginative denunciation – he could never have written 1984 or Animal Farm. And Orwell, the more powerful writer, had neither Tony's remarkable range of knowledge, nor his wit, intellectual speed and manoeuvrability: there is no way he could have doubled as an academic. But the comparison with Orwell is also dangerous because essentially it is not about two writers but about a political era that should now be over for good, the Cold War. Orwell's reputation was constructed as an intellectual anti-Soviet missile site and even today, when the rest of Orwell has emerged or re-emerged, it still remains frozen in the 1950s. Tony was, of course, as anti-Stalinist as anyone, and bitterly critical of those who did not abjure the CP even when they were demonstrably not Stalinists and were, like myself, slowly edging clear of the original world hope of October 1917. Like those opposed to the performing of Wagner in Israel, he could let political dislike get in the way of aesthetic enjoyment, dismissing Brecht's poem about the Comintern cadres, ‘An die Nachgeborenen, ‘admired by so many’, as ‘obnoxious’ not on literary grounds, but because it inspired believers in an evil cause. Yet it is evident from Thinking the 20th Century that his basic concern during the acute phase of the Cold War was not the Russian threat to the ‘free world’ but the arguments within the left.​ Marx – not Stalin and the Gulag – was his subject. True, after 1968 he became much more of a militant oppositionist liberal over Eastern Europe, an admirer of the mixed but more usually right-wing academic tourists who provided much of our commentary on the end of the East European Communist regimes. This also led him and others who should have known better into creating the fairy tale of the Velvet and multicoloured revolutions of 1989 and after. There were no such revolutions, only different reactions to the Soviet decision to pull out. The real heroes of the period were Gorbachev, who destroyed the USSR, and men within the old system like Suárez in Franco’s Spain and Jaruzelski in Poland, who effectively ensured a peaceful transition and were execrated by both sides. Indeed, in the 1980s Tony’s essentially social-democratic liberalism was briefly infected by François Furet’s Hayekian economic libertarianism. I don’t think this late Cold War afterglow was central to Tony’s development, but it helped to give more body and depth to his very impressive Postwar.
    • Eric Hobsbawm, "After the Cold War", London Review of Books (2012)
  • Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals-the ultimate revolution?...I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large-scale biological and atomic war-in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.
    • Aldous Huxley letter to Orwell (October 1949) anthologized in More Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience edited by Shaun Usher (2015)
  • The word ‘Orwellian’ is a daunting example of the fate that a distinguished writer can suffer at the hands of journalists. When, as almost invariably happens, a totalitarian set-up, whether in fact or in fantasy – in Brazil or in Brazil – is called Orwellian, it is as if George Orwell had conceived the nightmare instead of analysed it, helped to create it instead of helping to dispel its euphemistic thrall. (Similarly Kafka, through the word Kafkaesque, gets the dubious credit for having somehow wished into existence the same sort of bureaucratic labyrinth that convulsed him to the heart.) Such distortions would be enough to make us give up on journalism altogether if we happened to forget that Orwell himself was a journalist.
  • Two of Orwell's best attributes operating at once: he had a global grasp, and he was able to guess the truth by the way the other side told lies.
    • Clive James, in "The All of Orwell" in The New Yorker (18 January 1999), reprinted in Even As We Speak (2001), p. 12
  • Orwell served in a low-level but locally senior administrative capacity for the Burma imperial police from 1924 to 1927. Reading him, one never feels that he developed much of an interest in the Empire per se; his writings from those years suggest the emergence of a set of moral and political considerations—deriving to be sure from his criticisms of Imperial rule—which will in the fullness of time permeate his observations on England itself. Orwell's awareness that the Burmese (or Indian) question transcended issues of local injustice and concerned above all the impropriety and impossibility of imperial domination, would certainly color his political stance back home.
    It seems fair to add that Orwell was one of the first commentators to grasp that issues of justice and subordination, no less than the traditional themes of class and politics, must be taken up by the Left—indeed, they were henceforth part of what it meant to be Left. We forget that well into the interwar decades it had been perfectly possible to combine social reformism and even political radicalism at home with liberal imperialism. Until quite recently it had been possible to believe that the key to social improvement in Britain lay in retaining, defending and even expanding the empire. By the 1930s, this position had begun to sound ethically as well as politically incoherent, and Orwell can take some credit for this shift in sensibilities.
    • Tony Judt, in Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder, Thinking the twentieth century (2012), Ch. 2: London and Language: English Writer
  • Orwell's original title was 1948. The publishers said he couldn't call it that, because that was this year. Orwell said that's the point. He was talking about what was really going on, now, 1948. This is what I mean when I say the future is a metaphor.
  • Blair's personal life and Orwell's public activity both reflected one powerfully single-minded personality. Blair-Orwell was made of one piece: a recurrent theme in the testimonies of all those who knew him at close range was his "terrible simplicity." He had the "innocence of a savage." ... Orwell once defined himself half in jest — but only half — as a "Tory Anarchist." Indeed, after his first youthful experience in the colonial police in Burma, he only knew that he hated imperialism and all forms of political oppression; all authority appeared suspect to him, even "mere success seemed to me a form of bullying." Then after his inquiry into workers' conditions in northern industrial England during the Depression he developed a broad nonpartisan commitment to “socialism”: “socialism does mean justice and liberty when the nonsense is stripped off it.” The decisive turning point in his political evolution took place in Spain, where he volunteered to fight fascism. First he was nearly killed by a fascist bullet and then narrowly escaped being murdered by the Stalinist secret police:
What I saw in Spain, and what I have seen since of the inner workings of left-wing political parties, have given me a horror of politics…. I am definitely “left,” but I believe that a writer can only remain honest if he keeps free of party labels.
From then on he considered that the first duty of a socialist is to fight totalitarianism, which means in practice “to denounce the Soviet myth, for there is not much difference between Fascism and Stalinism.”
  • Though he was a strong believer in individual difference and came to fear, above all, the thought that people would become interchangeable parts in a totalitarian system, he seems to have felt that as a subject for study himself he was a universal, i.e., a fair sample of his kind, capable of normative reactions under dissection. His end has something macabre in it, like the end of some Victorian pathologist who tested his theories on his own organs, neglecting asepsis. In his last letters, he speaks of his appearance as being "frightening," of being a "death's head," but all along he has been something of a specter at the feast. He was prone to see the handwriting on the wall, for England, for socialism, for personal liberty; indeed, his work is one insistent reminder, and his personal life — what we glimpse of it — even when he was fairly affluent seems to have been an illustrated lesson in survival techniques under extreme conditions, as though he expected to be cast adrift in a capsule.
    • Mary McCarthy, "The Writing on the Wall," (1969) The Writing on the Wall and Other Literary Essays (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970, ISBN 0-15-698390-7), p. 159
  • Although he was always critical of the 1945-51 Labour government's moderation, his support for it began to pull him to the right politically. This did not lead him to embrace conservatism, imperialism or reaction, but to defend, albeit critically, Labour reformism.
    The other crucial dimension to Orwell's socialism was his recognition that the Soviet Union was not socialist. Unlike many on the left, instead of abandoning socialism once he discovered the full horror of Stalinist rule in the Soviet Union, Orwell abandoned the Soviet Union and instead remained a socialist — indeed he became more committed to the socialist cause than ever.
  • Old George Orwell got it backward. Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother's holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted. He's making sure you're fully absorbed... and this [act of] being fed, it's worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what's in your mind. With everyone's imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world.
  • There was something about him, the proud man apart, the Don Quixote on a bicycle (and if Saint Thomas More was the first Englisman, as one historian called him, then Orwell was perhaps the last) that caught one's imagination right away. That made one think of a knight errant and of social justice as the Holy Grail. One felt safe with him; he was so intellectually honest. His mind was like a court where the judge was the lawyer for the defence.
    • Paul Potts, London Magazine (March 1957)
  • George Orwell was the wintry conscience of a generation which in the thirties had heard the call of the rasher assumptions of political faith. He was a kind of saint and, in that character, more likely in politics to chastise his own side than the enemy.
  • Orwell in 1948 understood that despite the Axis defeat, the will to fascism had not gone away, that far from having seen its day it had perhaps not yet even come into its own — the corruption of spirit, the irresistible human addiction to power were already long in place, all well-known aspects of the Third Reich and Stalin's USSR, even the British Labour party — like first drafts of a terrible future.
  • In Burma and Paris and London and on the road to Wigan pier, and in Spain, being shot at, and eventually wounded, by fascists — he had invested blood, pain and hard labour to earn his anger, and was as attached to it as any capitalist to his capital. It may be an affliction peculiar to writers more than others, this fear of getting too comfortable, of being bought off.
  • The question remains, why end a novel as passionate, violent and dark as this one with what appears to be a scholarly appendix?
    The answer may lie in simple grammar. From its first sentence, "The Principles of Newspeak" is written consistently in the past tense, as if to suggest some later piece of history, post-1984, in which Newspeak has become literally a thing of the past — as if in some way the anonymous author of this piece is by now free to discuss, critically and objectively, the political system of which Newspeak was, in its time, the essence. Moreover, it is our own pre-Newspeak English language that is being used to write the essay. Newspeak was supposed to have become general by 2050, and yet it appears that it did not last that long, let alone triumph, that the ancient humanistic ways of thinking inherent in standard English have persisted, survived, and ultimately prevailed, and that perhaps the social and moral order it speaks for has even, somehow, been restored.
  • Orwell's defenders always look to contextualize Orwell's shortcomings in a historic moment. Whatever his infraction, he was a victim of circumstance — times were different then, and, for example, Hitler was looking really good for a minute there. Orwell never meant that his books should be employed to stultify schoolchildren. And yet that's what Animal Farm is — an educational missile aimed at any healthy impulse towards reform. The argument that "Animal Farm" is a generalized indictment of totalitarianism is simply unsupportable by the text or any existing presentation of the text. Rather, the intelligence of the pigs as opposed to the stupidity of the other animals, and the ultimate hopelessness of revolution, renders Animal Farm a de facto endorsement of the status quo.
  • What he feared most was the blind spot between us and the future, the space between identities where we could get lost forever.
  • My God, what an impact [1984] had on me. The idea of Big Brother was, and I may still, influence my thinking about democracy; the idea that we would have a government that was all-knowing and all-doing for human beings was frightening…That was a seminal piece in my waking up to the role of government in individual lives.
  • If we ask what it is he [Orwell] stands for, ... the answer is: the virtue of not being a genius, of fronting the world with nothing more than one's simple, direct, undeceived intelligence, and a respect for the powers one does have. ... He communicates to us the sense that what he has done any one of us could do. Or could do if we but made up our mind to do it, if we but surrendered a little of the can't that comforts us, if for a few weeks we paid no attention to the little group with which we habitually exchange opinions, if we took our chance of being wrong or inadequate, if we looked at things simply and directly, having in mind only our intention of finding out what they really are, not the prestige of our great intellectual act of looking at them. He liberates us. He tells us that we can understand our political and social life merely by looking around us; he frees us from the need for the inside dope. He implies that our job is not to be intellectual, certainly not to be intellectual in this fashion or that, but merely to be intelligent according to our own lights—he restores the old sense of the democracy of the mind, releasing us from the belief that the mind can work only in a technical, professional way and that it must work competitively. He has the effect of making us believe that we may become full members of the society of thinking men. That is why he is a figure for us.
    • Lionel Trilling, "George Orwell and the politics of truth," The Opposing Self (1950), pp. 156-158
  • When I remember George Orwell, I see again the long, lined face that so often reminded me not of a living person, but of a character out of fiction. It was the nearest I had seen in real life to the imagined features of Don Quixote, and the rest of the figure went with the face. For Orwell was a thin, angular man, with worn gothic features accentuated by deep vertical furrows that ran down the cheeks and across the corners of the mouth. The thinness of his lips was emphasized by a very narrow line of dark moustache: it seemed a hard, almost cruel mouth, until he smiled, and then an expression of unexpected kindliness would irradiate his whole face. The general gauntness of his looks was accentuated by the deep sockets from which his eyes looked out, always rather sadly. ... The resemblance to Don Quixote was appropriate, for in many was Orwell can only be understood as an essentially quixotic man. ... He defended, passionately and as a matter of principle, unpopular causes. Often without regard to reason he would strike out against anything which offended his conceptions of right, justice and decency, yet, as many who crossed lances with him had reason to know, he could be a very chivalrous opponent, impelled by a sense of fair play that would lead to public recantation of accusations he had eventually decided were unfair. In his own way he was a man of the left, but he attacked its holy images as fervently as he did those of the right. And however much he might on occasion find himself in uneasy and temporary alliance with others, he was — in the end — as much a man in isolation as Don Quixote. His was the isolation of every man who seeks the truth diligently, no matter how unpleasant its implications may be to others or even to himself.
    • George Woodcock, in The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell (1966), Ch. I: The Man I Remembered, p. 3

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