was an English intellectual who died in 1950
and used literature for the only reason it ultimately really exists –
to try to change the world for the better.
He was, in the deeper sense, a political writer,
someone who wanted art to help
us grow kinder, fairer, wiser.
变得更善良 公正 智慧
In 1946, a year after the publication of
his momentously popular fable
he wrote an essay titled,
‘Why I Write’,
which laid out his approach with a characteristic clarity.
What I wanted to do throughout the past ten years
is to make political writing into an art.
My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship,
a sense of injustice.
When I sit down to write a book,
I don’t say to myself,
“I’m going to produce a work of art.”
I write it because there is some lie I want to expose,
some fact to which I want to draw attention,
and my initial concern is to get a hearing.
To understand why Orwell matters,
we therefore have to understand
what this most political of writers loved,
and what he hated.
What he was in rebellion against, and what he championed.
This is what will give us the keys to understanding his remarkable work,
and painful yet deeply fulfilled life.
George Orwell always hated the social group of
which he was, despite everything,
an exemplary member: Intellectuals.
From an early age, he had wanted to be a writer.
But George Orwell excelled at never quite belonging.
He was born in 1903 in India,
which was then part of the British Empire,
to economically fragile civil servant parents,
who fought for him
to have a classic upper middle class English upbringing.
And then hoped he might become a doctor, or a lawyer.
They sent him to what turned out to be a crippling,
mean spirited English prep school at the age of eight.
From where he won a scholarship to Eton.
But he turned against the values and spirit of the English public school system.
He never went to university,
and after a stint as an imperial policeman in Burma,
he settled into the life of
the odd-jobbing literary intellectual.
Working in a Hamstard book shop,
reviewing other people’s books,
and eventually, writing some of his own.
Nevertheless, Orwell’s disdain of intellectuals was a constant.
He accused them of a range of sins,
a lack of patriotism, resentment of money and physical vigour,
concealed sexual frustration, pretension, and dishonesty.
He knew it all form the inside,
but Orwell’s greatness emerge from the right determination
with which he recognized
and came to triumph against such tendencies in himself.
“The really important fact about the English intelligentsia,” he once wrote,
“is their severance from the common culture of the country.”
In left wing circles,
it’s always felt that
there’s something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman,
and that it’s a duty to snigger at every English institution
from horse racing to suet puddings.
Orwell’s generation of intellectuals,
which had witnessed the First World War and the Great Depression,
was obsessed with airy, abstract,
large schemes to redeem human kind.
Some were fanatical communists,
others staunch defenders of radical capitalism,
a few admired the new authoritarian regimes of
Italy, Spain, and Germany,
and wanted something similar to take hold in the anglophone sphere.
and was for a time, a little seduced.
But he came gradually to champion something far more radical:
The tastes, opinions, needs and outlook of someone
he called “the ordinary person”.
喜好 观点 需求和思想
A knowledge of ordinary life came rather late to Orwell.
As a typical product of an English public school,
he was a little exposed in anyone below his own social class.
A tendency compounded by
a naturally aloof, bookish and different manner.
A friend described him in age 25 as,
“remarkably moth-eaten for one his age”
But Orwell set out to make up for his lack of knowledge
and gradually came to be the great defender of
what he repeatedly called ordinary life.
The life of people,
not especially blessed with material goods,
people who work on ordinary jobs
who don’t have much of education,
who won’t achieve greatness
and yet, nevertheless, love, care for others,
work, have fun, raise children,
仍然工作 玩乐 养育孩子
and have large thoughts about the deepest questions,
in ways that Orwell thought especially admirable.
Orwell’s journey into ordinary life,
began in the spring of 1928.
When he left the privileges of his class behind,
and went to work in series of menial service jobs in the French and English capitals,
experiences he was to recount in his book,
“Down and Out in Paris and London” published in 1933.
The book is filled with affection and portraits of life
behind stairs in hotels and restaurants
and revels in the camaraderie,
humor and warmth
of an assortment of cleaners
or shoe rubbers, waiters, chefs
擦鞋匠 侍者 厨师
and the occasional prostitute and tramp.
It was a side of life
Orwell was further to investigate in a book chronicling his journeys
around the industrial coal mining of Northern England
In a 1937 book titled,
The Road to Wigan Pier
again, without sentimentality or reverse snobbery,
Orwell casts the generous complex eye over
the people he met,
and concluded that the average pup in a coal mining village
contain more intelligence, wisdom
than the British cabinet or the high table of an Oxbridge College.
或牛津剑桥大学的贵宾 更聪明 更智慧
Orwell especially liked the lack of prudishness and hypocrisy
among the ordinary people he met.
One thing one notices when he writes,
if he looks directly at the common people
especially in the big towns,
is that they are not puritanical.
They are in veteran gamblers, drink as much as their wages will permit,
and devoted to body jokes
and use, probably, the foulest language in the world.
Then, as now, there was plenty of information in the news
about ordinary people.
But Orwell understood that
these news tended to turn people into abstractions.
And he saw it as the role of his craft, literary journalism,
to flesh out the human beings behind the statistics.
And so, correct the prejudice and casual racism that circulated all around.
In an essay written
on a trip to Marrakech
Orwell wrote sarcastically are the typically neo-colonial attitude of travelers
towards the local inhabitants.
The people here have brown faces.
There are so many of them,
are they really the same flesh as yourself?
Do they even have names?
Or they merely a kind of undifferentiated brown stuff
about as an individual as bees or coral insects.
All people who work with their hands
are partly invisible.
And the more important work that they do,
the less visible they are.
Orwell’s love of the ordinary inspired his curiosity
about a range of themes
not often considered in literature.
He thought about and wrote in praise of comics and country walks
他通过思考 写作来赞美漫画 乡间小路
dancing and flowers.
He wrote bravely in defense of English cooking
kippers, Yorkshire pudding,
Devonshire cream, muffins and crumpets he wrote.
And then asked, where else other than English cooking
do you see potatoes roasted under the joint?
which is far in a way the best way of cooking them.
Orwell wrote tenderly
in defense of Charles Dickens
at the time when this great writer was considered low-brow
and too popular to win the esteemed intellectuals.
In a great essay of 1946,
Politics and the English Language,
Orwell stood up against the pros typical of intellectuals
full of long fancy words
and defended a simple, almost naive way of writing.
He outlined the list of rules for how to write well,
which included a complete ban on fancy words
Orwell revealed a hatred of foreign words
like status quo and deus ex machina.
“there is really no need for any of hundreds of foreign phrases now current in English.”
George Orwell is today extremely famous for two books
which played a very small part in his life.
if measured simply in terms of years
he wrote Animal Farm in 1945
when he was 42
and he published Nineteen Eighty-four in 1949
when he was 45.
but he was dead by January 1950
at the age of only 46.
In other words, he had just four short years
being the Orwell we know today.
Nevertheless, these two books are anchored in deep thinking
that Orwell had done all his adult life
about how literature should be written
in an age of movies and mass communication.
In short, he knew that the task of a writer
was to ensure that the most serious ideas should achieve mass popularity,
a double act,
which required particular skill and intelligence.
Animal farm is a political trapped about
how revolutions fall prey to counter-revolutions.
and turn their backs on their own original ideas.
It fairly maps out the progress of French Revolution.
the European Revolutions of 1848
and the Russian Revolution of 1917.
But, described like this,
no one outside of the few academics
would ever bother to read it.
Orwell’s genius was
to hit upon of form the fable
which would carry his story to a mass audience
and could be understood as he put it by more or less, anyone.
So Orwell did what Aesop, Walt Disney,
La Fontaine and Beatrix Potter
among many others have done,
Which is to tell a story about humans via animals.
In the process, Orwell revealed, the sins of the revolutionaries
are not limited to people involved in actual revolutions.
Indeed, that it’s a permanent human possibility
to believe when he’s guided by high ideals
and then go on to betray them all.
Every time a revolution now goes wrong,
people bring up Animal Farm.
And declare it to be ahead of its time.
This is the genius of Orwell’s fable.
By cutting out all contemporary human references,
Orwell found a way to tell us about ourselves
for all time
even for the future.
Having successfully reinvented the fable,
Orwell, in an astonishing burst of creativity,
then reinvented the science fiction novel.
As a boy, he’d loved the novels of H.G. Wells.
Especially, the Time Machine and The War of the Worlds.
Like Wells, Orwell seized upon trends in his own time
and try to imagine how they might develop over the long term.
His science fiction novel is set in Airstrip One.
A place once known as Great Britain,
but now a province of the super state of Oceania.
And locked in perpetual ideological conflict
with two other blocks,
and East Asia.
Like all great dystopian novels,
Orwell’s book was an attempt to warn his own society
about its own alarming trends.
For example, he could see that
what can tyrannize a country
is not so much outright torture
or clumsy covert restrictions on free speech,
but a lulling of the citizenry
through sophisticated entertainment and empty-headed news reports.
All wrapped up in a constant reference to freedom.
So, In 1984,
society is full of intriguing new machines
which both addicted,
and at the same time watch over their citizens.
Julia, the leading female figure in the novel,
works in the department of government known as “Mini True”
which systematically distorts access
to information in highly subtle ways.
to blind the citizenry to their enslavement.
Julia operates a machine that turns out porn novels.
Alongside, films oozing with sex,
rubbishing newspapers containing almost nothing but
sport, crime and astrology.
The people, however, don’t feel they are enslaved.
As Orwell so well understood,
the really clever and scary regimes of the modern world
在现代社会 真正奸诈的 可怕的政权
aren’t the obviously dictatorial ones.
they are, the apparently, democratic ones
that give their citizens the distinct feeling that they are free.
Well in fact, blinding them
with constant sexual titillation, and sentimental distractions.
George Orwell had the wisdom to make himself remarkably future-proof.
He was weary of economic and political abstractions.
He start close to the truth of ordinary life.
The realities of sex, food, money, love and pleasure.
关于性 食物 爱与欢愉的事实
And he wrote with total clarity
about enduring eternal themes on human nature.
He is, perhaps, the most successful serious English-language writer of the 20th century,
and gives us the tools to continue to imagine
what writing should be in our own time.
Ultimately, Orwell’s message
is the same as the plea that he discerned
in all of Charles Dickens’ books.
In the essay he wrote on him
namely, that human beings should behave better.
This, as he pointed out, is either a terrific cliche
or just about the most important instruction in the whole of life.
It was Orwell’s genius to remind as that it is, of course,
very much, the latter.