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Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom (2017)

by Thomas E. Ricks

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4351347,005 (3.85)15
"From #1 New York Times bestselling author Thomas E. Ricks, a dual biography of Winston Churchill and George Orwell, with a focus on the pivotal years from the mid-1930s through the 1940s, when their farsighted vision and inspired action in the face of the threat of fascism and communism helped preserve democracy for the world. Both George Orwell and Winston Churchill came close to death in the mid-1930's--Orwell shot in the neck in a trench line in the Spanish Civil War, and Churchill struck by a car in New York City. If they'd died then, history would scarcely remember them. At the time, Churchill was a politician on the outs, his loyalty to his class and party suspect. Orwell was a mildly successful novelist, to put it generously. No one would have predicted that by the end of the 20th century they would be considered two of the most important people in British history for having the vision and courage to campaign tirelessly, in words and in deeds, against the totalitarian threat from both the left and the right. Together, to an extent not sufficiently appreciated, they kept the West's compass set toward freedom as its due north. It's not easy to recall now how lonely a position both men once occupied. By the late 1930's, democracy was discredited in many circles, and authoritarian rulers were everywhere in the ascent. There were some who decried the scourge of communism, but saw in Hitler and Mussolini 'men we could do business with,' if not in fact saviors. And there were others who saw the Nazi and fascist threat as malign, but tended to view communism as the path to salvation. Churchill and Orwell, on the other hand, had the foresight to see clearly that the issue was human freedom--that whatever its coloration, a government that denied its people basic freedoms was a totalitarian menace and had to be resisted. In the end, Churchill and Orwell proved their age's necessary men. The glorious climax of Churchill and Orwell is the work they both did in the decade of the 1940'sto triumph over freedom's enemies. And though Churchill played the larger role in the defeat of Hitler and the Axis, Orwell's reckoning with the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984 would define the stakes of the Cold War for its 50-year course, and continues to give inspiration to fighters for freedom to this day. Taken together, in Thomas E. Ricks's masterful hands, their lives are a beautiful testament to the power of moral conviction, and to the courage it can take to stay true to it, through thick and thin"--… (more)
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» See also 15 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Writing a biography of two different people in the same book seems like a hard thing to do, but Thomas Ricks pulls it off in Churchill and Orwell:the Fight for Freedom. Both men were against totalitarianism and both were influential. While Churchill was more famous during his lifetime the legacy of Orwell's books may last longer. Both Churchill and Orwell almost died before their greatest accomplishments. Churchill was hit by a car while crossing a street in New York and spent weeks in the hospital with multiple broken bones. He looked to the right(which would have worked in England) and stepped in front of a car coming from the left. Orwell was shot through the neck while fighting in with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. The bullet missed his spine and his arteries by millimeters and he lived to write his greatest works.

Both men were persistent. Churchill encouraged England to fight when many of his Party wanted to surrender to the Nazis. Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, never gave up when his writing career when sales were few and publishers reluctant. Both fought for the freedom of the individual against totalitarianism. Both were ahead of their peers is seeing reality. ( )
  MMc009 | Jan 30, 2022 |
Like many others, I found Thomas Ricks' paired biography of statesman Winston Churchill and author George Orwell to be an odd pairing, given that they apparently never met and had no direct connection. There were some parallels which Ricks tried to draw, but even without that, I enjoyed reading and hearing about each man, in his own sphere of influence. Churchill we all know as a statesman and Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II, and Orwell as the author of "Animal Farm" and "1984". But Ricks goes beyond those points in his book, and points out how each man, in his own way, stood up to those who misused their power and oppressed others. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
My WWII (and Orwell, and Churchill) historical knowledge really isn't very good, but I enjoyed this perspective of it. ( )
  fidgetyfern | Feb 23, 2021 |
I read the book and I read a lot of the reviews. I like the concept of a dual biography but I guess I just lose the threads. I see the comparisons and the parallels but to find out right out front that George Orwell was at heart a fascist really disturbed me. The fact that he, and not necessarily Churchill had an effect long after he was gone. Even in the present environment, the warnings inherent in "1984" are becoming popular in world culture. ( )
  bdinsman | Sep 10, 2020 |
Well-written and informative, this dual biography is a good introduction to both of these influential 20th Century figures. It motivates me to want to want to go beyond the essays and read Homage to Catalonia and the late novels for which Orwell is best known. And to pick up a full-length biography of Churchill. ( )
  STLreader | Aug 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
According to Ricks, both Winston Churchill and George Orwell lived through World War II and had a shared outlook on the war. "At a time not unlike today — when people were wondering whether democracy was sustainable, when a lot of people thought you needed authoritarian rule, either from the right or the left — Orwell and Churchill, from their very different perspectives, come together on a key point: We don't have to have authoritarian government."
 
both men’s “dominant priority, a commitment to human freedom, gave them common cause”. They didn’t need any personal interaction to be kindred spirits in the struggles against Hitler’s Nazism and Stalin’s Marxism-Leninism. “They responded with the same tools — their intellects, their confidence in their own judgements even when those judgements were rebuked by most of their contemporaries, and their extraordinary skill with words. And both steered by the core principles of liberal democracy: freedom of thought, speech, and association.”
added by danielx | editEvening Standard (May 25, 2017)
 
Churchill and Orwell never met, Ricks writes separate biographies and then works hard to deliver a common theme. He succeeds because these two men made cases for individual freedom better than anyone in their century.
added by danielx | editKirkus Reviews (May 23, 2017)
 
Only after war broke out in 1939 did Churchill and Orwell find common cause, seeing the conflict in similar terms even if they did not work together. For Churchill, this was a war “to establish, on impregnable rocks, the rights of the individual, and it is a war to establish and revive the stature of man.” For Orwell, “If this war is about anything at all, it is a war in favor of freedom of thought.”
 
These two were pillars of the 20th century struggle against “the twin totalitarian threats of fascism and communism,” Ricks argues. “Churchill’s flamboyant extroversion, his skills with speech, and the urgency of a desperate wartime defense led him to a communal triumph that did much to shape our world today. Orwell’s increasingly phlegmatic and introverted personality, combined with a fierce idealism and a devotion to accuracy in writing, brought him as a writer to fight to protect a private place in that modern world.” Both men shared this unshakable belief: that their audience deserved the truth
 
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Dedicated to all those who seek to preserve our freedoms
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On December 13, 1931, a fifty-seven-year-old English politician, still a member of Parliament but quite unwelcome in his own party's government, stepped out of a taxi on New York's Fifth Avenue.
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"From #1 New York Times bestselling author Thomas E. Ricks, a dual biography of Winston Churchill and George Orwell, with a focus on the pivotal years from the mid-1930s through the 1940s, when their farsighted vision and inspired action in the face of the threat of fascism and communism helped preserve democracy for the world. Both George Orwell and Winston Churchill came close to death in the mid-1930's--Orwell shot in the neck in a trench line in the Spanish Civil War, and Churchill struck by a car in New York City. If they'd died then, history would scarcely remember them. At the time, Churchill was a politician on the outs, his loyalty to his class and party suspect. Orwell was a mildly successful novelist, to put it generously. No one would have predicted that by the end of the 20th century they would be considered two of the most important people in British history for having the vision and courage to campaign tirelessly, in words and in deeds, against the totalitarian threat from both the left and the right. Together, to an extent not sufficiently appreciated, they kept the West's compass set toward freedom as its due north. It's not easy to recall now how lonely a position both men once occupied. By the late 1930's, democracy was discredited in many circles, and authoritarian rulers were everywhere in the ascent. There were some who decried the scourge of communism, but saw in Hitler and Mussolini 'men we could do business with,' if not in fact saviors. And there were others who saw the Nazi and fascist threat as malign, but tended to view communism as the path to salvation. Churchill and Orwell, on the other hand, had the foresight to see clearly that the issue was human freedom--that whatever its coloration, a government that denied its people basic freedoms was a totalitarian menace and had to be resisted. In the end, Churchill and Orwell proved their age's necessary men. The glorious climax of Churchill and Orwell is the work they both did in the decade of the 1940'sto triumph over freedom's enemies. And though Churchill played the larger role in the defeat of Hitler and the Axis, Orwell's reckoning with the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984 would define the stakes of the Cold War for its 50-year course, and continues to give inspiration to fighters for freedom to this day. Taken together, in Thomas E. Ricks's masterful hands, their lives are a beautiful testament to the power of moral conviction, and to the courage it can take to stay true to it, through thick and thin"--

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