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Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens
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Why Orwell Matters (original 2002; edition 2008)

by Christopher Hitchens

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754512,315 (3.84)42
Member:mkboylan
Title:Why Orwell Matters
Authors:Christopher Hitchens
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Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens (2002)

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Showing 5 of 5
I love George Orwell, but I haven’t read 1984 and Animal Farm since I was 17—the summer before college—and I haven’t read the rest of his fiction at all. But I love the nonfiction. I taught “Shooting and Elephant” and “Politics and the English Language” to countless freshman and not only memorized important passages, but stored away their main ideas, about anti-colonialism and about deliberate obfuscation, among those very most important ideas to me. I recently read Down and Out in Paris and London, The Road to Wigan Pier, and Homage to Catalonia and was convinced that Orwell matters significantly. So this book was a natural for me.Hitchens’ writing and his arguments are sophisticated. I read this one like a text at school, looking up relevant stuff, marking passages, writing in the margins. It’s a little book. Hitchen’s goal was not a complete analysis of Orwell so much a plea to take this guy seriously, don’t let this 20th century writer fade away as relevant only to his own time (1903-1950—Orwell died of TB and he might have been saved had he been able to get the appropriate antibiotic from the US in the immediate post-war period).Hitchens seems to think Orwell’s anti-colonial stance his most significant since that’s the first concept he tackles. So do I. I’m positive that “Shooting an Elephant”, which I read first in a Freshman English class myself, colored my view of colonialism, arguments about postcolonial literature, and about the third world generally. Before reading this book I’d have said my own anti-colonial bent was learned as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa; now I’d say the fire was probably lit by Orwell and that was a huge part of my motivation to join the Peace Corps in the first place. Hitchens goes on to analyze how both the left and the right have used and abused Orwell as well as his ideas about America, “Englishness”, feminism, and anti-Communism. He typically deals not only with Orwell’s relationship with the ideas but how proponents of those ideas deal with Orwell. Finally he analyzes the fiction, convincing me to reread 1984 if not to read all the fiction. He even touches on Orwell and post-modernism in a chapter that not only rescues Orwell from the post-modernists, but causes me embarrassment at my initial enthusiasm for post-modernist analysis of literature and validates my current views that it’s just as well the academic world is getting over that craze. ( )
3 vote fourbears | Apr 24, 2010 |
A good overview of Orwell by one of his biggest fans, Christopher Hitchens. ( )
  br77rino | Apr 10, 2010 |
I like Christopher Hitchens, because he seems so fair and balanced. The other book I've read of his, 'God is Not Great', is the perfect antidote to Dawkins' 'The God Delusion' - it covers the same ground, makes many of the same points, but in such an even-handed way that it is impossible to criticise his style: it's the substance that matters.

This, an earlier book, concentrates on George Orwell, hailed by some as a kind of saint, and pilloried by others. Hitchens takes the middle road, addressing those who put too much stock in the great writer as well as those that have attacked him or misused his name; in the end, one realises that Orwell is a man like any other, with both strengths and weaknesses that must be fairly considered. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jul 6, 2009 |
An interesting exploration of Orwell's literary and political persona and how he has been both claimed and vilified by both the political left and political right. His staunch opposition to both Stalin and Hitler were heroic especially in retrospect and earned him a lot of opprobrium both from those intellectuals who should have known better but made excuses for Stalin, and from British and American officialdom during the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union. Worth reading in light of the modern tendency of some contemporaries to brush over the horrors of certain dictatorships in Africa and Asia and come to support, or at least make excuses for them, simply because they are anti-Western, on the "principle" that "they're against America/the capitalist West, so they must be alright". ( )
  john257hopper | Oct 23, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
It is not easy to write a good book about Orwell now. He has been written about so extensively, and sometimes well, that to justify devoting a whole book to him one would really need to have discovered some new material or be able to set him in some new context (not that this will deter publishers eager to cash in on his centenary). The main problem with Orwell’s Victory is that Hitchens doesn’t have enough to say about Orwell to fill a book, so he writes, in effect, as Orwell’s minder, briskly seeing off various characers who have in some way or other got him wrong. This is the structuring principle for a series of chapters on ‘Orwell and Empire’, ‘Orwell and the Left’, ‘Orwell and the Right’ and so on. Some of the offenders clearly deserve what they get, but there’s something repetitive and relentless about it, as though the duffing-up were more important than dealing with Orwell’s own writing.
 
My verdict: it’s worth a read, but only if you a) like Christopher Hitchens and, more important, b) have read a lot of Orwell.
 
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Dedicated by permission: To Robert Conquest -- premature anti-fascist, premature anti-Stalinist, poet and mentor, and founder of the untied front against bullshit.
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Moral and mental glaciers melting slightly
Betray the influence of his warm intent.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0465030505, Paperback)

In this widely acclaimed biographical essay, Christopher Hitchens assesses the life, the achievements, and the myth of the great political writer and participant George Orwell. In true emulative and contrarian style, Hitchens is both admiring and aggressive, sympathetic yet critical, taking true measure of his subject as hero and problem. Answering both the detractors and the false claimants, Hitchens tears down the façade of sainthood erected by the hagiographers and rebuts the critics point by point. He examines Orwell and his perspectives on fascism, empire, feminism, and Englishness, as well as his outlook on America, a country and culture towards which he exhibited much ambivalence. Whether thinking about empires or dictators, race or class, nationalism or popular culture, Orwell's moral outlook remains indispensable in a world that has undergone vast changes in the fifty years since his death. Combining the best of Hitchens's polemical punch and intellectual elegance in a tightly woven and subtle argument, this book addresses not only why Orwell matters today, but how he will continue to matter in a future, uncertain world.Christopher Hitchens, one of the most incisive minds of our own age, meets Orwell on the page in this provocative encounter of wit, contention and moral truth.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:44 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"In this trenchant critical essay, Christopher Hitchens assesses the life, the achievements, and the myth of the great political writer and participant George Orwell. In his emulative and contrarian style, Hitchens is both admiring and aggressive, sympathetic yet critical, taking true measure of his subject as hero and problem. Answering both the detractors and the false claimants, Hitchens tears down the facade of sainthood erected by the hagiographers and rebuts the critics point by point. He examines Orwell and his perspectives on fascism, empire, feminism, and Englishness, as well as his outlook on America, a country and culture towards which he exhibited much ambivalence."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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