Thursday, June 25, 2015

George Orwell: A Mind For Our Times

Six years ago the American polymath, William Katz - the man behind Urgent Agenda - posted this timely quote from George Orwell's novel, 1984:

The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians.

It has taken the American experience a bit more than two generations to take on the meaning of government by the "new aristocracy" Orwell described.

George Orwell Press Photo, 1932

So who was this prescient and enigmatic writer? George Orwell - Eric Arthur Blair - was born on this day in India in 1903, educated at Eton College, and through self-study and his experiences in Asia and Europe. Wikipedia defines him aptly as "an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism."

Most of us know him only as the author of 1984 but there is much more to read and appreciate from this man who is consistently described as one of the most influential writers of the last century. If you only know him as a novelist, I suggest you read some of his early essays, especially Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), and Homage to Catalonia (1938). These works explore social justice themes in some of the finest, most vivid, and descriptive writing to be found in modern English. For another aspect of Orwell's insight readers should explore his literary criticism, available in several compilations.

For a man who passed away at 46, George Orwell left us an enormous body of work that I am sure will influence social and political thought for a very long time.

For the visually inclined, here is the first part of a seven-part biography available on Youtube:

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