George Orwell

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George Orwell

Post  eddie on Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:44 pm

The link to the "Why no Lenin pig in Animal Farm?" thread on the old ATU site has expired, so it's time for a new Orwell thread.

Let's kick things off with the announcement of the 2011 Orwell Prize winner:

George Orwell casts long shadow over prize

Displaying Orwellian attributes aplenty Tom Bingham's The Rule of Law and Afsaneh Moqadam's Death to the Dictator! were my top picks when judging this year's Orwell book prize


'Turning political writing into an art' ... George Orwell at work. Photograph: © Vernon Richards/UCL

How much of an influence does George Orwell have on books being written today? Over the last few months, while judging this year's Orwell book prize, I've found myself repeatedly asking this question. While the prize doesn't require writers to slavishly imitate Orwell, it does stipulate that successful entries must display a number of Orwellian attributes, such as "clarity", "intellectual courage" and "critical thought". Above all, works should aspire to Orwell's ambition of "turning political writing into an art". So the question of Orwell's continuing influence, rather than idle speculation, was integral to the judging process. We were being asked to hold today's political writing up to an Orwellian standard, and assess it accordingly.

A number of things became clear. Firstly, Orwell continues to have a discernible influence on today's writing in terms of some types of book that are published. More than anyone else, he popularised the genre of immersive reportage, in works such as Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier, using it primarily to investigate poverty. This approach remains popular. My fellow judges and I read a number of books that start from the premise of going out into the world and actually doing something (rather than merely observing) and writing about the experience. Examples included Katherine Hibbert's Free: Adventures on the Margins of a Wasteful Society, Charlie Carroll's On the Edge: One Teacher, a Camper Van, Britain's Toughest Schools, and Tim Butcher's (longlisted) Chasing the Devil: The Search for Africa's Fighting Spirit.

Secondly, and I think more problematically, Orwell continues to cast a long shadow over any book, whether fiction or non-fiction, that deals with the abuse of political power. Several entries felt superficially Orwellian in this respect, most notably Heather Brooke's The Silent State, about the increasing lack of accountability in British government, and Helen Dunmore's The Betrayal, set in Stalin's Russia during the early 1950s (and the only novel on the shortlist). Yet Orwell's influence in this regard is perhaps more bogus than real, the product of our tendency to extend the word "Orwellian" to any piece of writing that is concerned with sinister, shadowy forces and overweening state power. Certainly Brooke's and Dunmore's books, good as they are, don't bear much resemblance to anything Orwell actually wrote.

Thirdly, Orwell continues to make himself felt in terms of intellectual influence. Many of today's political writers regard Orwell as a touchstone: none more so than Christopher Hitchens, whose Hitch-22 was on our shortlist. Orwell is Hitchens's hero, and in his memoir, he describes how he influenced his thinking and, indeed, his whole approach to journalism. But, once again, this doesn't mean that Hitch-22 is a particularly Orwellian book. Hitchens's writing, accomplished as it is, lacks the clarity and apparent simplicity of Orwell's; equally it is impossible to imagine Orwell writing a conventional biography replete with show-offy tales about his famous chums.

The final way in which Orwell influences today's writers is the hardest to describe, but to my mind the most important. Orwell's truly defining characteristic as a writer was surely stylistic, and had to do with the unflinching, rigorously honest quality of his prose. Reading him, you always feel that he is working things out for himself, proceeding in his arguments solely from his own observations, not from the received opinions that most writers rely on as a substitute for real thought.

This was the quality I most wanted to see in the books I read, and occasionally I found it – in, for example, Afsaneh Moqadam's superbly unsparing account of a protester's capture and imprisonment during the Iranian upheavals of 2009, Death to the Dictator!. This book, largely overlooked on its release, was the single work I was most excited to discover. Our eventual winner, though, was Tom Bingham's The Rule of Law, which, in a different way, also displays a very Orwellian preparedness to cut to the heart of an issue that has immense importance across the world today. It is a topical, as well as worthy, winner.

Posted by Will Skidelsky Tuesday 17 May 2011 19.40 BST guardian.co.uk

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011


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Re: George Orwell

Post  eddie on Thu May 19, 2011 5:59 pm

pig

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Re: George Orwell

Post  eddie on Sun Aug 07, 2011 12:35 am

Summer readings: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

The parallels between Orwell's masterpiece and my ancestral home of Kolkata were myriad for me one hot summer holiday

I've been travelling to Kolkata my whole life – my family originally hails from that part of India – but when I was 14 I took a copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four with me and found myself entering a conspiracy of synchronicity.


Nineteen Eighty-Four: Anniversary Edition by George Orwell

This corner of Communist party dominance in the world's largest democracy – a city with a love of all things Soviet and pride in its syrupy bureaucracy – seemed as close to Airstrip One and Oceania's remorseless machinery of control as I could have come via my own imagination.

Political life is a prominent feature of Kolkata: pictures and slogans slap you from buses and billboards and the sides of people's houses. To this day, when I picture Big Brother, I imagine a Bollywood-style mafia don, moustachioed and resplendent in burnt orange robes and chunky gold rings shaped like hammers and sickles.

The centre of the city's civil service machine is a beautiful and imposing structure called the Writers' Building, which could easily be a close relative of the Ministry of Peace or Truth or Love. And just as those titles in doublespeak hide the dastardly acts committed behind closed doors, the "writing" done there strives – as only faceless, remorseless bureaucracy can – to sap its citizens of the will to live as they seek to obtain a property deed or tax form.

As Winston Smith begins his doomed journey of self-discovery and a vicious battle of wills with Big Brother's nefarious agents, personified by the sinister O'Brien, I realised certain things about myself. While my cousins wandered around that smoggy, chokingly hot city, sporting India's finest and brightest colours and cloths, I skulked sweatily in my Pepe ice wash jeans and Nike trainers, hating them like Winston's and Julia's hate their worker uniforms. It was that summer it dawned on me that I was hot, uncomfortable and looked a fool. Even when I embraced white cotton pyjamas and batik-print Punjabi shirts, everyone knew there was something not quite right. Despite fluent Bengali my accent was stilted. My haircut; my gestures – they knew I was Indian, yet not. The Thought Police came in a mishmash of avatars on trains and trams and at tea shops and pan stalls. And they knew.

For evidence of the Two Minutes' Hate I just needed to bring up the topic of playing Pakistan at cricket. And it went on for hours. Room 101? For many of that city's most wretched residents – struck with leprosy, malnutrition or abject poverty – "the worst thing in the world" is a daily occurrence. Meanwhile, the hypnotic ambiguity of the Bengali language mimicked doublespeak. Kal means both yesterday and tomorrow; when you are going, you say ashi, which means "I'm coming"; dada means older brother and bhai younger brother – but your older brother can be your boro bhai. And, perhaps most aptly of all, babu means both cherub and civil servant. MiniTrue would be proud.

On any day in Kolkata, the sensory overload is palpable as people snake through the unkempt avenues and the heat and the rains lash you alternately. But that trip and that book in concert left me dizzy. While Orwell's masterpiece is terrifying in its crushing of the spirit, ultimately Kolkata is a place that enriches the soul.

I already loved the city, but on that trip I learned to love Orwell. And naturally, I loved Big Bhai.

Posted by Saptarshi Ray Saturday 6 August 2011 09.00 BST guardian.co.uk

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: George Orwell

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:28 am

Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four forecast for Hollywood remake

An American consortium that includes director Ron Howard is set to make a new film of George Orwell's highly influential novel

Ben Child

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 22 March 2012 11.35 GMT


Will the new film be prolefeed or doubleplusgood? … Penguin book cover of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

Hollywood is planning a new version of Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell's classic dystopian science-fiction novel which warned of the dangers of totalitarian government and spawned the term Big Brother.

Set in a world where three warring superstates battle each other eternally without any hope of victory, Orwell's 1949 novel has already had two big-screen adaptations. The 1956 version, starring Edmond O'Brien, Michael Redgrave and Jan Sterling, changed the storyline radically from the source material and is these days hard to find, as it was withdrawn from circulation by Orwell's estate following the expiry of a distribution agreement. The best-known version is Michael Radford's critically acclaimed 1984 retelling, starring John Hurt as everyman Winston Smith, the restless party worker who dares to dream of independent thought and possible romance. Richard Burton, in his final role, played the perfidious O'Brien, with Suzanna Hamilton as Julia, the object of Smith's doomed affections.

The new version is being put together by a consortium of Hollywood production companies including Imagine Entertainment, which is partly owned by Oscar-winning film-maker Ron Howard. Shepard Fairey, the street artist who produced the iconic Barack Obama "Hope" poster, was instrumental in bringing the project to the attention of the producers.

The consortium has secured rights from Orwell's estate and is currently searching for screenwriters, so the project is at an early stage. It's not known whether Howard himself is considering a director's role.

Nineteen Eighty-Four takes place entirely in the Oceania province of Airstrip One, formerly the United Kingdom, and while the new producers are firmly US-based there is nothing at this stage to suggest that they plan to relocate the action. The blockbuster success of films such as the Harry Potter series has proved beyond doubt that American audiences are no longer – if they ever were – put off by British accents.

As well as the two theatrical versions, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been a huge influence on cinema over the past half-century. Among the most notable are Terry Gilliam's flawed 1985 masterpiece Brazil, which takes many of its cues from Orwell's vision of a society governed by state-licensed mind control, and the 2006 comic-book adaptation V for Vendetta (based on Alan Moore's cult graphic novel), which also posits a British future under a fascist dictatorship. The latter has picked up something of a cult status in recent years after hackers' groups such as Anonymous adopted the iconic Guy Fawkes mask worn by vigilante V as a symbol of rebellion against tyranny.

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Re: George Orwell

Post  eddie on Sat May 05, 2012 4:57 pm

The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited by Stephen Armstrong – review

A forceful, if flawed, study of Orwell's home town

Stuart Maconie

guardian.co.uk, Friday 4 May 2012 22.55 BST


Children on a Wigan street in 1939. Photograph: Kurt Hutton/Getty Images

There are only so many good ideas in the world, one supposes. This might explain why revisiting and retracing is such a popular artistic and literary endeavour – high, low and middlebrow. It might be Dara O'Briain and Griff Rhys Jones and Rory McGrath being blokey and jokey on a river somewhere à la Jerome K Jerome for ITV1. Or it might be Beryl Bainbridge following in the footsteps of JB Priestley's English Journey for an earnest travelogue during the Thatcher years.


The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited
by Stephen Armstrong

At about the same time as Bainbridge's book was published, the journalist and activist Bea Campbell came to my home town to show how little things had changed for the impoverished working classes since Orwell's famous 1930s visit, which led to his writing The Road to Wigan Pier. By then, though, Wigan Pier was a nightclub (a rather good one actually) and some of us were more interested in seeing if we or any of our mates were in the photographs of the club accompanying Campbell's text than her well-meant but baleful ruminations.

There has always been an understandable if deluded reluctance among some Wiganers fully to appreciate Orwell's similarly good intentions. When the pier area (a loading stage for barges on the Leeds-Liverpool canal) was redeveloped in the 1980s, the naming of a new pub as The Orwell met with much opposition. George Formby was the dedicatee preferred by many; a son of the town, a George who was said to have projected a much more positive image of the townsfolk, at least in that they were imbecilic but happy dolts rather than downtrodden serfs.

A certain amount of this attitude remains. In among the harrowing tales of abuse, exploitation and general misery recounted in this new revisiting by Stephen Armstrong (so many people must have walked in Orwell's footsteps by now, it's a wonder there's any asphalt left on Darlington Street) you find folk such as Bob, tucked away on page 65: "Wigan's alright … there's lots of people here who don't like the cloth caps and whippet image Orwell's book gave us. The town's not that bad – all the two ups and two downs have gone, the air's clean. It's alright … I mean, it's getting worse."

If you have a heart at all, you'll soon realise that, like Orwell, Armstrong's is clearly in the right place. Orwell's 1937 work was an explicit call to arms, a cri de coeur; Armstrong's is similarly, according to the blurb, "a wake-up call to the nation". This stale, transatlantic usage wouldn't have pleased Orwell, of which more in a moment. But what is in no doubt is that Armstrong has gone to Wigan – and indeed to a selection of northern towns and cities – in order to expose a situation with depressing echoes of Orwell's day: huge inequalities of wealth, comfort and life chances unaddressed by a government composed of distant, unsympathetic plutocrats and public schoolboys, and all of this against a backdrop of vast, systemic economic corruption and mismanagement.

Like Orwell, Armstrong seeks out the victims of greed and incompetence, only this time they are not haunted, ravaged young women "dollystoning" the steps but a "precariat" of cheap, exploited migrant workers, vulnerable and damaged young people, and the laid-off and recently redundant, eating rubbish, cleaning their sinks with vinegar and paying what the Save the Children fund calls "the poverty premium": the sour irony by which the poor face higher prices for nearly everything – food, rent, heating – because of a lack of choice, transport and credit. Armstrong's first-hand accounts of working in the striplit hell of a food-processing plant are, for me, the most successful passages in the book.

Unlike Orwell, though, whose first-hand testimony was part of a wider theoretical and often lyrical plea for justice (and in its latter half, a notorious diatribe against a certain sort of socialist – the fruit-juice drinker and New Statesman reader), Armstrong's book is dense with facts, figures, reports and interviews. It is powerful stuff, but it sometimes makes for a clotted read. And stylistically, the two writers are worlds apart. While we know what Armstrong means when he says that the social reformer Seebohm Rowntree "cut people the same kind of slack as Orwell did", or when he says of the concept of relative deprivation "you can sniff at the label and consider it way too generous a definition of poverty", you can sense Orwell bridling from beyond the grave at the slipshod expression. This may seem harsh, but if you're going to borrow the title and the concept of one of the finest pieces of social reportage and documentary social history by one of the greatest modern English writers, you need to be on your mettle in every sentence.

As I write this, the viral YouTube hit of the day is footage of a hundred youths rampaging through a McDonald's outlet in Wigan town centre. It makes for grim viewing, just as the sight of clutches of middle-aged men swearing, spitting and drinking outside the town centre pubs at 11am depresses me on my trips back. The reasons for this apparent social shift, this new, ugly, public face of a lumpen proletariat Orwell rarely encountered, are many and complex. Most of them are surveyed in this forceful, if flawed, book.

• Stuart Maconie's Hope and Glory: The Days that Made Britain is published by Ebury Press.

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Re: George Orwell

Post  Lee Van Queef on Mon May 07, 2012 7:50 am

The best.

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Re: George Orwell

Post  Yakima Canutt on Thu May 10, 2012 12:22 pm

"Socialism necessarily gives power to an inner ring of bureaucrats, who in almost every case will be men who want power for its own sake and will stop at nothing in order to retain it." - Mister Orwell

affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid affraid





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Re: George Orwell

Post  pinhedz on Thu May 10, 2012 12:51 pm

That was an astute observation on the part of Mister Orwell.

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Re: George Orwell

Post  Yakima Canutt on Thu May 10, 2012 6:06 pm

We could also propose that "Capitalism necessarily gives power to an inner ring of 'investment bankers' who in almost every case will be men who want power for its own sake and will stop at nothing in order to retain it."


But with capitalism, one gets more and better tchotchkes, gewgaws, and lagniappes.
     

Idea


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Re: George Orwell

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