What would George Orwell make of it all today?

The word Orwellian has come to mean whatever people want it to mean – borrowed and bandied about by the left and right. John Rentoul reviews a new collection of unknown works that reveal the true Orwell

Tuesday 23 February 2021 21:30
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<p>Clarity of thought and language gave Orwell’s writing its power</p>

Clarity of thought and language gave Orwell’s writing its power

You can see why I have always admired George Orwell. His real name was Blair. He was of the left but suspicious of its extravagant and rhetorical forms. He was against totalitarianism of both left and right, but felt the betrayal of left-wing values more acutely, hence the emotional power of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four

Obviously, therefore, he is a hero to those of us who thought New Labour was the best kind and that Eric Blair’s namesake was, on balance, a good prime minister. But Orwell was not a “centrist”, and I imagine he would have objected to the word. The use of words was another of his big things, and he might have had something to say about the propaganda uses of some of New Labour’s language. In fact, he did have something to say, in his 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language”, about the word “progressive”, which was one of Tony Blair’s favourites. Orwell included it in a list of words used “in most cases more or less dishonestly”. 

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