Saturday, February 10, 2007

Anthony Daniels Slights the Hagiographers' St. George Orwell

Great writer as Orwell was, he is not beyond criticism—as I am sure he would have been the first to agree. He never encouraged anyone to turn him into a plaster saint, though his very abjuration of claims to sanctity is, paradoxically, one of the grounds for his canonization; this modesty should not obscure from us the fact that he was full of contradictions, his powers of analysis were very deficient, he often lacked the imagination to see the consequences of what he said, he accepted political clichés uncritically, notwithstanding his brilliant essay on that very subject, and though he made much of what he saw as the quintessentially English quality of decency (I don’t think anyone would make that mistake nowadays after half an hour in any English town or city), which he contrasted with the cruelty promoted by ideology, he was not himself entirely immune from the latter, at least in the abstract.
Anthony Daniels, Orwell's "Catalonia" revisited

Daniels goes on to note Orwell's weaknesses--his service to socialist cant and his cavalier attitude towards the crimes of Barcelonan anarchists.

In my teens I enjoyed the only two Orwell books everybody reads. Yet his dystopia and his political fable have certainly produced a few uncritical young admirers who go on to read the rest of his works and accept Orwell's flimsy radical advocacy. I wonder how long the average American high school curriculum will sustain Orwell's ambivalent position as an anti-Soviet moralist.

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