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February 2007

Orwell's “Catalonia” revisited

by Anthony Daniels

On reexamining George Orwell's classic tale of the Spanish Civil War.

Sainthood is a thing that human beings must avoid.
—George Orwell on Gandhi

In any political argument of philosophical significance, everyone wants George Orwell as an ally. To be able to claim that he is so, however, you must first place him on an ideological map and then discover that, by happy coincidence, you occupy precisely the same position yourself. Hey presto, Orwell is on your side, and your opponents are thereby reduced to persons of ill-will or bad faith!

Why should Orwell be so desired and desirable, in short so unanswerable, an ally? He is a secular saint, over whose relics everyone squabbles. There are good reasons for this, no doubt. In his essay, Why I Write, published in 1946, Orwell disarmingly tells us that all writers are to some extent egotistical: they desire to seem clever, to be talked about and admired, and to be remembered after their death. Of all ...

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Anthony Daniels's most recent book is In Praise of Prejudice (Encounter Books).


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25 February 2007, on page 11

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