knows—on the island of Jura off the coast of Scotland—and went there; in view of his dangerous tubercular condition, it was a disastrous move. Everything came true for him when it was too late; he fell sick, managed to finish Nineteen Eighty-Four in a feverish state, and then came south. When I saw him a few days before he died he was talking eagerly about going to Switzerland and taking his fishing rod with him. Of course, he never went. Had it come off; had he, now comfortably off, settled down in some delightful spot free from financial worry and the deadline pressure, would he then have produced great works of literature? I doubt it. I think his journalism was his best work and when I say his best I mean the best.
George Steiner, New Yorker
March 1969, pp. 139-51
George Steiner (b. 1929 in France), critic and Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge; author of Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky (1958) and The Death of Tragedy (1960).
To me, the notion of ‘reviewing’ George Orwell is mildly impertinent. Anyone who earns his living writing about books and politics, who tries to get the words on the page aligned cleanly, so that the light can get through, finds himself in a special relationship to Orwell. Partly, there is exasperation—a feeling that Orwell did the job so much better, that in him style was not laborious métier but a way of drawing breath. Mostly, however, there is a sense of insurance. One might get things right because he did, because he kept his balance under continuous political and psychological stress, because he wrote, and wrote voluminously, under pressure of need and journalistic occasion, and did so with almost unfailing justice and vivacity; because there was in his personal and professional life a comeliness—unobtrusive yet to everyone who came in contact with it oddly penetrating, like one of