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Homage to Catalonia  
Homage catalonia.jpg
Author George Orwell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Non-Fiction, Political
Publisher Secker and Warburg (London)
Publication date 25 April 1938
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 368 pp (Paperback edition) 248 pp (Hardback edition)

Homage to Catalonia is political journalist and novelist George Orwell's personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War, written in the first person. The first edition was published in 1938.

Contents

Overview

Orwell served as both a private and a corporal in Catalonia and Aragon from December 1936 until June 1937. The political party whose militia he served with (the POUM, an anti-Stalinist communist party) was declared an illegal organization and Orwell was subsequently forced to flee or face imprisonment.

By his own admission, Orwell joined the POUM rather than the Communist-run International Brigades by chance—but his experiences, in particular his and his wife's narrow escape from the Communist purges in Barcelona in June 1937, [1] greatly increased his sympathy for POUM and, while not challenging his moral and political adhesion to the cause of Socialism and Marxism, made him a lifelong anti-Stalinist.

At the front, Orwell was shot through the neck and was nearly killed. He wrote in Homage to Catalonia that people frequently told him he was lucky to survive, but that he personally thought "it would be even luckier not to be hit at all."

George Orwell, and his wife, Eileen O'Shaughnessy, who accompanied him to Spain, returned to England. After nine months of animal husbandry and writing up Homage to Catalonia at their cottage at Wallington, Hertfordshire, Orwell's health declined and he had to spend several months at a sanatorium in Kent.

Because of the book's criticism of the Communists in Spain, it was rejected by Gollancz, who had previously published all Orwell's books, and Orwell finally found a sympathetic publisher in Frederic Warburg. Warburg was willing to publish books by the dissident left, that is, by socialists hostile to Stalinism.[1]

The book was finally published in April 1938 but "made virtually no impact whatsoever and by the outbreak of war with Germany had sold only 900 copies."[1]

According to John Newsinger, "the Communist vendetta against the book" was ongoing as recently as 1984, when Lawrence and Wishart published Inside the Myth, a collection of essays "bringing together a variety of standpoints hostile to Orwell in an obvious attempt to do as much damage to his reputation as possible."[1]

Summary of chapters

It should be noted that the following summary is based on a later edition of the book which contains some amendments that Orwell requested: two chapters (formerly chapters five and eleven) describing the politics of the time were moved to appendices. Orwell felt that these chapters should be moved so that readers could ignore them if they wished; the chapters, which became appendices, were journalistic accounts of the political situation in Spain, and Orwell felt these were out of place in the midst of the narrative.

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Chapter one

The book begins with Orwell describing the camaraderie of the atmosphere in revolutionary Spain during 1937. He asserts that Barcelona appeared to have been "a town where the working class were in the saddle": a large number of businesses had been collectivised, "the Anarchists" (referring to the Spanish CNT and FAI) were "in control", tipping was prohibited by workers themselves, and servile forms of speech, such as "Señor" or "Don", were abandoned. He goes on to describe events at the Lenin Barracks (formerly the Lepanto Barracks) where militiamen were given "what was comically called 'instruction'" in preparation for fighting at the front.

Most of the remainder of this chapter is devoted to describing the faults of the POUM workers' militia, as he saw them, half-complaining about the sometimes frustrating tendency of Spaniards to put things off until "mañana" (tomorrow), noting his struggles with Spanish (aggravated by the local use of Catalan) and praising the friendliness and generosity of the majority of Spaniards he met. Orwell leads us on to the next chapter by describing the "conquering-hero stuff"—parades through the streets and cheering crowds—that the militiamen experienced at the time he was sent to the Aragón front.

Chapter two

Orwell arrives in Alcubierre (in January 1937) to witness the squalid conditions, aggravated by the village's proximity to the civil war front. He then mentions the arrival of various "Fascist deserters" and the poor weaponry that the militiamen in that area of the front received. Rifles weren't handed out until their third day in the village. The chapter ends on his centuria's arrival at trenches near Zaragoza and the first time a bullet nearly hit him. He adds that, to his own dismay, he ducked.

Chapter three

The narration begins as a description of the—perhaps unique—mundaneness of trench warfare, the sneaking about in the mist and on night patrols. Here he praises the Spanish militias: for their relative social equality, for their holding of the front while the army was trained in the rear, and for the "democratic 'revolutionary' type of discipline" which he says is "more reliable than might be expected." This democratic and egalitarian approach remained intact on the front, he said, even while it was being almost systematically destroyed behind the lines by the Stalinist-controlled government, police and press during that year. Throughout the chapter, Orwell describes the various shortages and problems at the front—firewood, tobacco, and adequate munitions—as well as the danger of accidents inherent in a badly trained and poorly armed group of soldiers.

Chapter four

After some three weeks at the front, Orwell and the other English militiaman in his unit, Williams, join a contingent of fellow Englishmen sent out by the Independent Labour Party to a position at Monte Oscuro, closer to Zaragosa. At this position, he witnesses the sometimes propagandistic shouting between the Fascist and Socialist trenches and hears of the fall of Málaga. In February, he is sent with the other POUM militiamen 50 miles to Huesca; he mentions the running joke phrase "Tomorrow we'll have coffee in Huesca," attributed to the general commanding the government troops who made one of many failed assaults on the town.

Chapter five

Orwell complains, in chapter five, that on the eastern side of Huesca, where he was stationed, nothing ever seemed to happen—except the onslaught of spring, and, with it, lice. He was in a ("so-called") hospital at Monflorite for ten days at the end of March 1937 with "a poisoned hand." He describes rats that "really were as big as cats, or nearly" (in his famous Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell's character Winston Smith has a phobia of rats that Orwell himself shared to some degree). He makes a reference here to the lack of orthodox "religious feeling," telling us that the Roman Catholic Church was to the Spanish "a racket, pure and simple." He muses that Christianity may have, to some extent, been replaced by Anarchism. The latter portion of the chapter briefly details various operations in which Orwell took part: silently advancing the Loyalist frontline by night, for example.

Chapter six

One of these operations, which in chapter five had been postponed, was a "holding attack" on Huesca, designed to draw the Fascist troops away from an Anarchist attack on "the Jaca road." It is described herein. Orwell notes the offensive of that night where his group of fifteen captured a Fascist position, but then retreated to their lines with captured rifles and ammunition. The diversion was successful in drawing troops from the Anarchist attack.

Chapter seven

This chapter reads like an interlude. Orwell shares his memories of the 115 days he spent on the war front, including a recognition that his political ideas were changing slowly. By the time he left Spain, he had become a "convinced democratic Socialist."

Chapter eight

Herein Orwell details noteworthy changes in the social and political atmosphere when he returns to Barcelona after more than three months at the front. He describes a lack of revolutionary atmosphere and the class division that he had thought would not reappear, i.e., with visible division between rich and poor and the return of servile language. Orwell had been determined to leave the POUM, and confesses here that he "would have liked to join the Anarchists," but instead sought a recommendation to join the International Column, so that he could go to the Madrid front. The latter half of this chapter is devoted to describing the conflict between the Anarchist CNT and the Socialist UGT and the resulting cancellation of the May Day demonstration and the build-up to the street fighting of the Barcelona May Days.

Chapter nine

Orwell relates his involvement in the Barcelona street fighting that began on 3rd of May when the Government Assault Guards tried to take the telephone exchange from the CNT workers who controlled it. For his part, Orwell acted as part of the POUM, guarding a POUM-controlled building. Although he realises that he is fighting on the side of the working class, Orwell describes his dismay at coming back to Barcelona on leave from the front only to get mixed up in street fighting. In his second appendix to the book, Orwell discusses the political issues at stake in the May 1937 Barcelona fighting, as he saw them at the time and later on, looking back.

Chapter ten

Here he begins with musings on how the Spanish Civil War might turn out. Orwell predicts that the "tendency of the post-war Government... is bound to be Fascistic." He returns to the front, where he is shot through the throat by a sniper,[2] an injury that takes him out of the war. After spending some time in a hospital in Lleida, he was moved to Tarragona where his wound was finally examined more than a week after he'd left the front.

Chapter eleven

Orwell tells us of his various movements between hospitals in Siétamo, Barbastro, and Monzón while getting his discharge papers stamped, after being declared medically unfit. He returns to Barcelona only to find that the POUM had been "suppressed": it had been declared illegal the very day he had left to obtain discharge papers and POUM members were being arrested without charge. He sleeps that night in the ruins of a church; he cannot go back to his hotel because of the danger of arrest.

Chapter twelve

This chapter explores the political persecution he encountered with regard to his and his wife's visit to Georges Kopp, unit commander of the ILP Contingent while Kopp was incarcerated in a Spanish makeshift jail. Having done all he could to free Kopp, ineffectively and at great personal risk, Orwell decides to leave Spain. Crossing the Pyrenees frontier, "thanks to the inefficiency of the police," he and his wife arrived in France "without incident."

Appendix one

The broader political context in Spain and the revolutionary situation in Barcelona at the time is discussed. The political differences among the PSUC (the Catalan Communists), the anarchists, and the POUM, are considered.

Appendix two

An attempt to dispel some of the myths in the foreign press at the time (mostly the pro-Communist press) about the street fighting that took place in Catalonia in early May 1937. This was between anarchists and POUM members, against Communist/government forces which sparked off when local police forces occupied the telephone exchange, which had until then been under the control of CNT workers.

See also

References

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to George Orwell article)

From Wikiquote

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell was the pen name of British novelist, essayist, and journalist Eric Arthur Blair (1903-06-251950-01-21).

See also:
The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)
Animal Farm (1945)
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

Contents

Sourced

  • Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not money, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not money, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not money, it profiteth me nothing. Money suffereth long, and is kind; money envieth not; money vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. ... And now abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these is money.
I Corinthians xiii (adapted)
  • They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket.
    • Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)
  • One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.
  • If there are certain pages of Mr Bertrand Russell's book, Power, which seem rather empty, that is merely to say that we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. It is not merely that at present the rule of naked force obtains almost everywhere. Probably that has always been the case. Where this age differs from those immediately preceding it is that a liberal intelligentsia is lacking. Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion, and such truisms as that a machine-gun is still a machine-gun even when a "good" man is squeezing the trigger -- and that in effect is what Mr Russell is saying -- have turned into heresies which it is actually becoming dangerous to utter.
    • Review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertrand Russell in Adelphi (January 1939); Paraphrased variant: Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.
  • Men are only as good as their technical development allows them to be.
  • When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page. It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer. I feel this very strongly with Swift, with Defoe, with Fielding, Stendhal, Thackeray, Flaubert, though in several cases I do not know what these people looked like and do not want to know. What one sees is the face that the writer ought to have. Well, in the case of Dickens I see a face that is not quite the face of Dickens's photographs, though it resembles it. It is the face of a man of about forty, with a small beard and a high colour. He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.
    • "Charles Dickens" (1939), Inside the Whale and Other Essays (1940)
  • [Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flag and loyalty-parades…. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.
  • Since pacifists have more freedom of action in countries where traces of democracy survive, pacifism can act more effectively against democracy than for it. Objectively the pacifist is pro-Nazi.
    • "No, Not One," Adelphi (October 1941)
  • You and I both know that there can be no real solution of the Indian problem which does not also benefit Britain. Either we all live in a decent world, or nobody does. It is so obvious, is it not, that the British worker as well as the Indian peasant stands to gain by the ending of capitalist exploitation, and that Indian independence is a lost cause if the Fascist nations are allowed to dominate the world.
    • From a review of Letters on India by Mulk Raj Anand, Tribune (1943-03-19)
  • Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.
  • During part of 1941 and 1942, when the Luftwaffe was busy in Russia, the German radio regaled its home audience with stories of devastating air raids on London. Now, we are aware that those raids did not happen. But what use would our knowledge be if the Germans conquered Britain? For the purpose of a future historian, did those raids happen, or didn’t they? The answer is: If Hitler survives, they happened, and if he falls they didn’t happen. So with innumerable other events of the past ten or twenty years. Is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion a genuine document? Did Trotsky plot with the Nazis? How many German aeroplanes were shot down in the Battle of Britain? Does Europe welcome the New Order? In no case do you get one answer which is universally accepted because it is true: in each case you get a number of totally incompatible answers, one of which is finally adopted as the result of a physical struggle. History is written by the winners.
  • Between them these two books sum up our present predicament. Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.
  • The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside. Quite a number of people console themselves with this thought, now that totalitarianism in one form or another is visibly on the up-grade in every part of the world. Out in the street the loudspeakers bellow, the flags flutter from the rooftops, the police with their tommy-guns prowl to and fro, the face of the Leader, four feet wide, glares from every hoarding; but up in the attics the secret enemies of the regime can record their thoughts in perfect freedom — that is the idea, more or less.
  • Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.
  • Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.
    • "Benefit Of Clergy: Some Notes On Salvador Dalí," Dickens, Dali & Others: Studies in Popular Culture (1944) [7]
  • So far as I can see, all political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.
    • "London Letter" (December 1944), in Partisan Review (Winter 1945)
  • Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows, and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.
  • … in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of "cold war" with its neighbours.[Commonly cited as the first documented use of the phrase "cold war"]
    • "You and the Atom Bomb", Tribune, 19 October 1945.
    • Reprinted in Orwell; Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus (2000). "1945". George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, Volume 4: In Front of Your Nose (1946–1950). David R. Godine. pp. p. 9. ISBN 1567921361.  
  • Scientific education for the masses will do little good, and probably a lot of harm, if it simply boils down to more physics, more chemistry, more biology, etc to the detriment of literature and history. Its probable effect on the average human being would be to narrow the range of his thoughts and make him more than ever contemptuous of such knowledge as he did not possess.
  • The whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish day-dream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.
  • Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.
  • Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.
    • Review of A Coat of Many Colours: Occasional Essays by Herbert Read, Poetry Quarterly (Winter 1945)
  • The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a plea for discipline versus individualism. The issue truth-versus-untruth is as far as possible kept in the background. Although the point of emphasis may vary, the writer who refuses to sell his opinions is always branded as a mere egoist. He is accused, that is, either of wanting to shut himself up in an ivory tower, or of making an exhibitionist display of his own personality, or of resisting the inevitable current of history in an attempt to cling to unjustified privileges.
  • So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the Earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.
  • The Spanish war and other events in 1936-7 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I know it.
    • "Why I Write," Gangrel (Summer 1946)
  • Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.
    • "Why I Write," Gangrel (Summer 1946)
  • In my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated. And so for the last ten years, I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the socialist movement.
    • Preface to Animal Farm (1945)
  • If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
    • Preface to Animal Farm (1945)
  • The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
  • To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
    • "In Front of Your Nose," Tribune (1946-03-22)
  • Certainly we ought to be discontented, we ought not simply to find out ways of making the best of a bad job, and yet if we kill all pleasure in the actual process of life, what sort of future are we preparing for ourselves? If a man cannot enjoy the return of spring, why should he be happy in a labour-saving Utopia? What will he do with the leisure that the machine will give him?
  • By preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.
    • "Some Thoughts on the Common Toad," Tribune (1946-04-12)
  • The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.
    • "Some Thoughts on the Common Toad," Tribune (1946-04-12)
  • In a Society in which there is no law, and in theory no compulsion, the only arbiter of behaviour is public opinion. But public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law. When human beings are governed by "thou shalt not", the individual can practise a certain amount of eccentricity: when they are supposedly governed by "love" or "reason", he is under continuous pressure to make him behave and think in exactly the same way as everyone else.
  • People talk about the horrors of war, but what weapon has man invented that even approaches in cruelty to some of the commoner diseases? "Natural" death, almost by definition, means something slow, smelly and painful.
  • While the game of deadlocks and bottle-necks goes on, another more serious game is also being played. It is governed by two axioms. One is that there can be no peace without a general surrender of sovereignty: the other is that no country capable of defending its sovereignty ever surrenders it. If one keeps these axioms in mind one can generally see the relevant facts in international affairs through the smoke-screen with which the newspapers surround them.
  • This business of making people conscious of what is happening outside their own small circle is one of the major problems of our time, and a new literary technique will have to be evolved to meet it. Considering that the people of this country are not having a very comfortable time, you can't perhaps, blame them for being somewhat callous about suffering elsewhere, but the remarkable thing is the extent to which they manage to be unaware of it. Tales of starvation, ruined cities, concentration camps, mass deportations, homeless refugees, persecuted Jews — all this is received with a sort of incurious surprise, as though such things had never been heard of but at the same time were not particularly interesting. The now-familiar photographs of skeleton-like children make very little impression. As time goes on and the horrors pile up, the mind seems to secrete a sort of self-protecting ignorance which needs a harder and harder shock to pierce it, just as the body will become immunised to a drug and require bigger and bigger doses.
  • But is it really necessary, in 1947, to teach children to use expressions like "native" and "Chinaman"?
  • A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.
  • If you turn the other cheek, you will get a harder blow on it than you got on the first one. This does not always happen, but it is to be expected, and you ought not to complain if it does happen.
    • "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool," Polemic (March 1947)
  • A normal human being does not want the Kingdom of Heaven: he wants life on earth to continue. This is not solely because he is "weak," "sinful" and anxious for a "good time." Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise. Ultimately it is the Christian attitude which is self-interested and hedonistic, since the aim is always to get away from the painful struggle of earthly life and find eternal peace in some kind of Heaven or Nirvana. The humanist attitude is that the struggle must continue and that death is the price of life.
    • "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool," Polemic (March 1947)
  • No one can look back on his schooldays and say with truth that they were altogether unhappy.
  • Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.
    • "The Freedom Defence Committee" in "The Socialist Leader (18 September 1948); also in The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell; Vol. IV : In front of your nose, 1945-1950 (2000), p. 447
  • The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals.
    • "Reflections on Gandhi, in Partisan Review (January 1949); full essay here
  • I always disagree, however, when people end up saying that we can only combat Communism, Fascism or what not if we develop an equal fanaticism. It appears to me that one defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary by using one's intelligence.
  • It is difficult for a statesman who still has a political future to reveal everything that he knows: and in a profession in which one is a baby at 50 and middle-aged at seventy-five, it is natural that anyone who has not actually been disgraced should feel that he still has a future.
  • One cannot really be Catholic & grown-up.
    • "Extracts from a Manuscript Notebook" (1949), The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol. 4 (1968)
  • During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
    • As quoted in My Few Wise Words of Wisdom‎' (2000) by Charles Walker
    • Variants: In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
      In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
      In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
      Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.
  • Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.

Down and out in Paris and London (1933)

Full text online
  • Poverty is what I'm writing about.
  • The Paris slums are a gathering-place for eccentric people — people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent. Poverty frees them from normal standards of behaviour, just as money frees people from work. Some of the lodgers in our hotel lived lives that were curious beyond words.
  • For, when you are approaching poverty, you make one discovery which outweighs some of the others. You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future. Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry.
  • Hunger reduces one to an utterly spineless, brainless condition, more like the after-effects of influenza than anything else. It is as though all one's blood had been pumped out and lukewarm water substituted.
  • There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher's daughter.
    • Record of a remark by Orwell's fellow tramp Boris
  • One always abandons something in retreat. Look at Napoleon at the Beresina! He abandoned his whole army.
    • A remark by Boris
  • Fate seemed to be playing a series of extraordinarily unamusing jokes.
  • It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.
    • A remark by Boris
  • Roughly speaking, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it. ... Dirtiness is inherent in hotels and restaurants, because sound food is sacrificed to punctuality and smartness... The only food at the Hotel X which was ever prepared cleanly was the staff's.
    • About "Hotel X"
  • Looking round that filthy room, with raw meat lying among the refuse on the floor, and cold, clotted saucepans sprawling everywhere, and the sink blocked and coated with grease, I used to wonder whether there could be a restaurant in the world as bad as ours. But the other three all said they had been in dirtier places.
    • 'On the state of the kitchen at the newly opened "Auberge.
  • How sweet the air does smell — even the air of a back-street in the suburbs — after the shut-in, subfaecal stench of the spike!
    • The morning after Orwell is let out of his first tramps' accommodation, or 'spike'
  • Paddy and I had scarcely a wink of sleep, for there was a man near us who had some nervous trouble, shell-shock perhaps, which made him cry out 'Pip!' at irregular intervals. It was a loud, startling noise, something like the toot of a small motor-horn. You never knew when it was coming, and it was a sure preventer of sleep. ...he must have kept ten or twenty people awake every night. He was an example of the kind of thing that prevents one from ever getting enough sleep when men are herded as they are in these lodging houses.'
    • On sleeping in a communal room in a cheap lodging house.
  • He had two subjects of conversation, the shame and come-down of being a tramp, and the best way of getting a free meal.
    • On Paddy the tramp, Orwell's itinerant pal
  • Being a beggar, he said, was not his fault, and he refused either to have any compunction about it or to let it trouble him. He was the enemy of society, and quite ready to take to crime if he saw a good opportunity. He refused on principle to be thrifty. In the summer he saved nothing, spending his surplus earnings on drink, as he did not care about women. If he was penniless when winter came on, then society must look after him. He was ready to extract every penny he could from charity, provided that he was not expected to say thank you for it. He avoided religious charities, however, for he said it stuck in his throat to sing hymns for buns. He had various other points of honour; for instance, it was his boast that never in his life, even when starving, had he picked up a cigarette end. He considered himself in a class above the ordinary run of beggars, who, he said, were an abject lot, without even the decency to be ungrateful.
    • On "Bozo"
  • He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him), and took a sort of pleasure in thinking that human affairs would never improve. Sometimes, he said, when sleeping on the Embankment, it had consoled him to look up at Mars or Jupiter and think that there were probably Embankment sleepers there. He had a curious theory about this. Life on earth, he said, is harsh because the planet is poor in the necessities of existence. Mars, with its cold climate and scanty water, must be far poorer, and life correspondingly harsher. Whereas on earth you are merely imprisoned for stealing sixpence, on Mars you are probably boiled alive. This thought cheered Bozo, I do not know why. He was a very exceptional man.
  • The most bitter insult one can offer to a Londoner is "bastard" — which, taken for what it means, is hardly an insult at all.
  • My story ends here. It is a fairly trivial story, and I can only hope that it has been interesting in the same way as a trivial diary is interesting. ... At present I do not feel I have seen more than the fringe of poverty.
    Still, I can point to one or two things I have definitely learned by being hard up. I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy, nor subscribe to the Salvation Army, nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill, nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant. That is a beginning.

Homage to Catalonia (1938)

Full text online
  • I have no particular love for the idealised 'worker' as he appears in the bourgeois Communist's mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.
  • All Spaniards, we discovered, knew two English expressions. One was "O.K., baby", the other was a word used by the Barcelona whores in their dealings with English sailors, and I am afraid the compositors would not print it.
  • The fat Russian agent was cornering all the foreign refugees in turn and explaining plausibly that this whole affair was an Anarchist plot. I watched him with some interest, for it was the first time that I had seen a person whose profession was telling lies — unless one counts journalists.
  • It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle ... There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.
  • Human beings were behaving as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.
  • It is sometimes a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is changing the conditions of warfare. In the next great war, we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.
  • Everyone always did miss everyone else in this war, whenever it was humanly possible to do so.
  • No one I met at this time — doctors, nurses, practicantes, or fellow-patients — failed to assure me that a man who is hit through the neck and survives it is the luckiest creature alive. I could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be hit at all.

The Lion and the Unicorn (1941)

Full text on line
  • As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.
    They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are ‘only doing their duty’, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life.
  • One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. In certain circumstances it can break down, at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not.
    • The Lion and the Unicorn (1941), Part I : England Your England
  • England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God save the King than of stealing from a poor box.
    • The Lion and the Unicorn (1941), Part I : England Your England
  • Is the English press honest or dishonest? At normal times it is deeply dishonest. All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news. Yet I do not suppose there is one paper in England that can be straightforwardly bribed with hard cash. In the France of the Third Republic all but a very few of the newspapers could notoriously be bought over the counter like so many pounds of cheese.

Looking Back on the Spanish War (1943)

Full text online
  • We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don't take the sword perish by smelly diseases.
  • I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans, and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists. But what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in solely on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.

Notes on Nationalism (1945)

Published in Polemic (October 1945); Full essay online
  • By "nationalism" I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled "good" or "bad." But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.
  • Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.
  • The average intellectual of the Left...could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.

Politics and the English Language (1946)

Published in Horizon (April 1946); Full text online
  • But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
  • Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive voice where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Misattributed

  • We sleep peaceably in our beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.
    • This has commonly been attributed to Orwell but has not been found in any of his writings. There are similar comments in an essay which Orwell wrote on Rudyard Kipling, quoting from one of Kipling's poems:
      "Yes, making mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep" - Tommy

      It is also similar to what he had written in "Notes on Nationalism":
      Those who "abjure" violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.

  • If you want to imagine the future, imagine a boot, stamping on a human face forever.
    • Slight misquotation in the booklet for Grand Theft Auto 2 of O'Brien's remark in Nineteen Eighty-Four : If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.
  • It's not a matter of whether the war is not real, or if it is, Victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact.
    • Michael Moore declares these lines in his film Fahrenheit 9/11 as something "Orwell once wrote". They could be a paraphrase of statements that occur in Nineteen Eighty-Four, or something Orwell wrote about some of the themes in his famous story. They do not appear in precisely this form within the story itself. There has been indication elsewhere that this might be a verbatim reading of lines spoken by one of the characters in one of the movie versions of "1984".
  • To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past.
  • We have a hunger for something like authenticity, but are easily satisfied by an ersatz facsimile.
    • Miles Orvell, in The Real Thing : Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940 (1989)

Quotes about Orwell

  • Though he was a strong believer in individual difference and came to fear, above all, the thought that people would become interchangeable parts in a totalitarian system, he seems to have felt that as a subject for study himself he was a universal, i.e., a fair sample of his kind, capable of normative reactions under dissection. His end has something macabre in it, like the end of some Victorian pathologist who tested his theories on his own organs, neglecting asepsis. In his last letters, he speaks of his appearance as being "frightening," of being a "death's head," but all along he has been something of a specter at the feast. He was prone to see the handwriting on the wall, for England, for socialism, for personal liberty; indeed, his work is one insistent reminder, and his personal life — what we glimpse of it — even when he was fairly affluent seems to have been an illustrated lesson in survival techniques under extreme conditions, as though he expected to be cast adrift in a capsule.
    • Mary McCarthy, "The Writing on the Wall," (1969) The Writing on the Wall and Other Literary Essays (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970, ISBN 0-15-698390-7), p. 159
  • What he feared most was the blind spot between us and the future, the space between identities where we could get lost forever.
    • Wilfrid Sheed, "George Orwell, Artist" (1972), The Good Word & Other Words (Viking/Penguin, 1980, ISBN 0140054979), p. 46
  • [Orwell] could not blow his nose without moralising on conditions in the handkerchief industry.
  • Old George Orwell got it backward. Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother's holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted. He's making sure you're fully absorbed... and this [act of] being fed, it's worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what's in your mind. With everyone's imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world.
  • Orwell in 1948 understood that despite the Axis defeat, the will to fascism had not gone away, that far from having seen its day it had perhaps not yet even come into its own — the corruption of spirit, the irresistible human addiction to power were already long in place, all well-known aspects of the Third Reich and Stalin's USSR, even the British Labour party — like first drafts of a terrible future.
  • In Burma and Paris and London and on the road to Wigan pier, and in Spain, being shot at, and eventually wounded, by fascists — he had invested blood, pain and hard labour to earn his anger, and was as attached to it as any capitalist to his capital. It may be an affliction peculiar to writers more than others, this fear of getting too comfortable, of being bought off.
    • Thomas Pynchon, "The Road to 1984" - foreword to a 2003 edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four (ISBN 0452284236)
  • The question remains, why end a novel as passionate, violent and dark as this one with what appears to be a scholarly appendix?
    The answer may lie in simple grammar. From its first sentence, "The Principles of Newspeak" is written consistently in the past tense, as if to suggest some later piece of history, post-1984, in which Newspeak has become literally a thing of the past — as if in some way the anonymous author of this piece is by now free to discuss, critically and objectively, the political system of which Newspeak was, in its time, the essence. Moreover, it is our own pre-Newspeak English language that is being used to write the essay. Newspeak was supposed to have become general by 2050, and yet it appears that it did not last that long, let alone triumph, that the ancient humanistic ways of thinking inherent in standard English have persisted, survived, and ultimately prevailed, and that perhaps the social and moral order it speaks for has even, somehow, been restored.
    • Thomas Pynchon, "The Road to 1984" - foreword to a 2003 edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four (ISBN 0452284236)

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