orwell and the ordinary

Download (26)Martin Tyrrell at the Dublin Review of Books:

Orwell’s self-conscious ordinariness went beyond his writing. Some who knew him recalled that he supped his tea from a saucer, often with a satisfied slurp, like Steptoe senior, and that he even affected a kind of cockney accent. “The FACK that you’re black … and that I’m white, has nudding whatever to do wiv it”, William Empson remembered him saying to one of the scriptwriters from the BBC’s Eastern Service.

It is the ordinary people, says Orwell in The Lion and the Unicorn, who, with their bluff carthorse stoicism and love of country, will take on the dictators, the totalitarians. Look to them, he suggests in My Country Right or Left, not the “boiled rabbits of the Left” if you’re seeking revolution, resistance, signs of life even. Who would guess from that essay, which appeared a year after war was declared, or from any of his other wartime writings, that Orwell had been exactly such a boiled rabbit himself, and not that long ago either. As Steele informs us, Orwell was a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), a party of the far left fringe that ran the Pythonesque London Bureau, the so-called “Three and a Half International”. That ILP phase finds Orwell an eloquent propagandist for his party’s distinctive line on the coming war, which is to oppose it. All talk of fascism versus democracy is eyewash, says pre-war Orwell, the usual demonisation of the prospective enemy.

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