No Definitely Good News At All

Eric Blair is a gentle name, and it’s hard to believe that an Eric Blair was, inter alia, a policeman, a tramp, a wounded soldier, and a (sort-of) revolutionary. This bio might fit a name such as Che Guevara or George Patton, but an Eric Blair? However, Eric had another life, and using the nom-de-plume George Orwell, he wrote two of the most important books of the 20th Century, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. He died of consumption at 46, leaving those novels, and seven others. But his literary output was far greater. As a working journalist and literary critic, he wrote extensively on stuff, and a four volume collection of his work, 1920 through 1950, is published.

I’ve enjoyed these volumes more than his books; you can read each essay at random, he writes as if he is talking to you, and although politically dated, his many human observations remain true. The best are from the series of articles he wrote for The Tribune. He calls his column “As I Please”, a title simultaneously aggressive and self-effacing. There is no doubt that if Orwell were writing now then “As I Please” would be an immensely successful blog. On the 29th November 1946 he looked at the front page of his newspaper and observed that the USSR was querying the numbers of Allied Forces in occupied Europe (Cold War here we come), the civil war in Greece raged, a blood-bath occurred in India, Ghandi was on a hunger strike, and there were more bombs in Jerusalem. Even minor stories, Orwell observes, are, at best, only marginally good news. So he writes “There is no definitely good news at all on the front page” Mr Orwell, where ever you are, let me just inform you that nothing has changed.

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