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A fresh view of George Orwell

A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.  It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

It’s hardly as though his profile needed a boost, but what the hell. George Orwell’s publisher Penguin recently declared the inaugural “George Orwell Day” on January 21, the anniversary of his death. Organized in conjunction with the Media Standards Trust, a London-based NGO which runs the prestigious Orwell Prize for political journalism, the commemoration would be an opportunity to reflect on the life and work of one of the 20th century’s most influential political writers. And, of course, to buy his books: To mark the happy, possibly superfluous occasion, Penguin has reissued several of Orwell’s political works, with attractive new jackets designed by David Pearson. Orwell’s 1945 essay Politics and the English Language is perhaps the least known of the five reissues (the others are the novels and 1984, and the memoirs Homage to Catalonia, Down and Out in Paris and London). It is, however, arguably the most significant from the point of view of the work of the Media Standards Trust, and its publication as a discrete volume — at 26 pages it is more a pamphlet than a book, but it does have its own ISBN number — does full justice to its importance as Orwell’s major statement on literary style in political writing.

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