This ending seems to me a triumph of composition. All that has been detailed with such gruesome care about the terribleness of a French hospital is brought to imaginative climax through the anecdote at the end. Proust could hardly have done better.
Orwell died, in 1950, at the age of forty-six, stricken by tuberculosis. It is depressing to think that if he had lived, he would today be no more than sixty-five years old. How much we have missed in these two decades! Imagine Orwell ripping into one of Harold Wilson’s mealy speeches, imagine him examining the thought of Spiro Agnew, imagine him dissecting the ideology of Tom Hayden,1 imagine him casting a frosty eye on the current wave of irrationalism in Western culture!
The loss seems enormous…. He was one of the few heroes of our younger years who remains untarnished. Having to live in a rotten time was made just a little more bearable by his presence.
Malcolm Muggeridge, Esquire
March 1969, pp. 12-14
The four volumes of George Orwell’s collected essays, journalism and letters, impeccably edited by his widow Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, are wonderfully readable, wonderfully illuminating, and a rare treasure for any aspiring writer. I have always thought that Orwell, apart from anything else, was the perfect twentieth-century stylist. His dry sentences with their splendid clarity and smoldering indignation convey better than any other contemporary writer the true mood of our times. He stood alone in every sense, but especially in the temper of his mind, avoiding alike the incoherence (Joyce, Beckett), the pedantry (Eliot, Sartre, Pound), the false rhetoric (Hemingway, Céline), the hysteria (D. H. Lawrence, John Osborne), and other devices for evading an all too overwhelmingly tragic reality. As a
1 Tom Hayden, radical American student leader.