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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

George Orwell: English Rebel (Oxford University Press), by Robert Colls

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George Orwell was among the British intellectuals of the 1930s and ’40s who never had to apologize: unlike many of them, he was against fascism and communism from the get-go. In fact, as Robert Colls writes, he was against a great many things, including the right wing, even though he was somewhat conservative, and the left, even though he was a Socialist. In other words, Orwell was fascinating and unclassifiable, even in his attitude toward his own country. Although he despised the British Empire, he was, as Colls shows, in many ways English to the bone. And when the Nazis threatened his homeland, he became an eloquent spokesman for his nation’s virtues. A profoundly political writer, Orwell never worked out a systematic political program, but responded intensely to the things he hated and, occasionally, the things he loved.