I’m a huge fan of George Orwell. Guess you could say he’s my literary crush. I love all his books and I can’t help but feel that he was an empath writing about the human condition and the inequalities in society as well as making some predictions of the future which have somehow all become part of our reality nowadays.
For Christmas, when asked what I wanted for my gift, I gave my husband a long list of literature. This was on the list.
It’s Books v. Cigarettes, a small book filled with some of his essays published from 1940 through to 1950 on various topics. The title of the book is the first essay where he delves into the cost of spending on books versus spending on cigarettes and then argues the value of books, increasing intellectual curiosity and honesty – what was needed at the time. In the end, he concludes that reading is one of the cheapest past times.
Although the argument may be dated, rather than cigarettes for the modern age, I would think it’s our busy lives and risk of being fake news across multiple media all the time that is dangerous nowadays. Also books are really expensive nowadays (especially if you buy them new), so maybe this conclusion doesn’t align to what we are seeing today. (On the other hand, you can argue that there’s an abundance of books that can be bought second-hand, borrowed from others, e-books which are cheaper and of course, libraries where they can be borrowed).
If anything, the danger is from peoples apathy towards reading preferring to consume content online? (Which in turn, is affecting our attention and focus for long form reading unfortunately). Or possibly, we have an abundance of reading material nowadays but we don’t know about the background and intent of it. Orwell does say that literature – and art – is political…maybe that’s why I love reading it because the writers have the sheer audacity of expressing the human condition on paper in words that evoke personal meaning and action; and where the masses read this and their “eyes are opened”.
I wanted to write some quotes from the book here because I didn’t want to forget them. These may be of interest to you too if you’ve not read Orwell.
The enemies of truthfulness, freedom of thought are the press lords, the film magnates and the bureaucrats but that on a long view, the weakening of the desire for liberty among the intellectuals themselves is the most serious of all.
The journalist is unfree and is conscious of unfreedom when he is faced to write lies to suppress what seems to him important news: the imaginative writer is unfree when he has to falsify his subjective feelings which from his point of view are facts. He may distort and caricature reality in order to make his meaning clearer, but he cannot misrepresent the scenery of his own mind; he cannot say with any conviction that he likes what he dislikes or believes what he disbelieves………there is no such things as a genuinely non-political literature.
To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.
But to be corrupted by totalitarianism one does not have to live in a totalitarian country. The mere presence of certain ideas can spread poison that makes one subject after another impossible for literary purposes….whenever there is enforced orthodoxy – or even two orthodoxies – as often happens – good writing stops.
A poem is an arrangement of sounds and associations as a painting is an arrangement of brush marks. For short snatches, poetry can even dispense with meaning altogether. It is easy for a poet to keep away from dangerous subjects and avoid uttering heresies; and even when he does utter them, they may escape notice.
Poetry might survive in a totalitarian age.
Destruction of intellectual liberty cripples the journalist, the writer, the historian, the novelist, the critic, the poet, in that order.
Imagination will not breed in captivity.
It would probably not be beyond human ingenuity to write books by machinery.
Imagination even consciousness would be eliminiated from the process of writing. Books would be planned in their broad lines by bureaucrats, and would pass through so many hands that when they finished they would be no more an individual product than a Ford car at the end of an assembly line…..anything produced would be rubbish.
Any attack on intellectual liberty and on the concept of objective truth, threatens in the long run every department of thought.
Any writer who adopts the totalitarian outlook who finds excuses for persecution and the falsification of reality, thereby destroys himself as a writer.
A bought mind is a spoiled mind.
Unless spontaneity enters at some point or another, literary creation is impossible and language itself becomes ossified.
Patriotism has nothing to do with conservatism. It is a devotion to something that is changing but is felt to be mystically the same.
Here’s my video book review if you’re interested to watch what I thought of the book and George Orwell’s writing.