where every grain of soil has passed through innumerable human bodies…an epoch of fear, tyranny and regimentation. To say, ‘I accept’, in an age like our own is to say that you accept concentration camps, rubber truncheons, Hitler, Stalin, bombs, aeroplanes, tinned food, machine guns, putsches, purges, slogans, Bedaux belts, gas-masks, submarines, spies provocateurs, press-censorship, secret prisons, aspirins, Hollywood films and political murders….
I have not read Mr Miller. But I take Orwell’s word that he succeeds, working in this way. Yet I wonder if the nature of one man can provide an aesthetic formula for others. It might release the imaginations of numerous young men, constricted by political conscience, yet without the talent for thinking in terms of groups as well as individuals. It sounds a swell idea, while you are surrounded with transparent blubber. But I suspect that if the view through those glass walls became too wide, the abstracted artist might find himself dragged from the whale to the concentration camp. Does he then accept the rubber truncheon with quietism? Or is the idea that if you keep quiet enough, Sir John Anderson1 won’t notice you?
I have recommended everybody to read Inside the Whale. Afterwards, I recommend a book written some time ago by M. Julien Benda, called Le Trahison des Clercs.2
P. M. (Philip Mairet), New English Weekly
14 March 1940, pp. 307-8
There is no English writer of today whose words came better off the page and into the mind than those of George Orwell; which is a way of saying that he is a good writer, one who knows his business according to the African negro’s definition of literature, that it is ‘speaking paper. ’ A book of Orwell’s is a book that talks. It is worth asking why
1 Sir John Anderson (1882-1958) was Home Secretary during 1939-40.
2 Benda’s The Great Betrayal (1927) attacked committed literature and proposed that the intellectual should remain above mere emotional and practical concerns.