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 the...