Friday, April 22, 2005

Inside the Whale, by George Orwell

This must certainly be my last posting on George Orwell. I hate to say it, but I think I’ve overdone it now on his writings, by which I really mean his journalism. Ironically enough, I’ve just bought four volumes of his complete journalism and letters, or as near enough as I can get to complete. I bought them more as a set of reference books really. You can never be too short of an Orwell quote.

Inside the Whale and Other Essays is a pretty slim volume of Orwell’s writings. There are a few I’ve read already – Politics and the English Language, The Prevention of Literature, Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool – and some I haven’t.

The title essay is a long piece about English writers between 1920-1940, or thereabouts. It kicks off praising Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, which I tried to read but gave up on. I was surprised that he liked it so much, and feel that it might be the sex descriptions that border on misogyny.

Another longish essay, England Your England, I couldn’t really get into. When people start talking about national characteristics my eyes start to glaze over. You know, your regular Englishman is this, that and the other.

His piece on Gulliver’s Travels – one of Orwell’s all time favourite novels, he claims to have read it at least a dozen times – was truly fascinating. He breaks down Swift’s own political prejudices. Orwell writes, ‘The durability of Gulliver’s Travels goes to show that, if the force of belief is behind it, a world-view which only just passes the test of sanity is sufficient to produce a great work of art.’

The last essay I had not read was Boy’s Weeklies, in which Orwell goes over the underlying politics of boys adventure stories, which I found quite fascinating as well.

I’m sure I will go back to reading Orwell some time in the not too distant future, but at the moment I need a break!

No comments: