Friday, September 17, 2010

Culture! On a stick!

"The handkerchief industry?! Don't get me started on the handkerchief industry!"

Towards the end of his Orwell: The authorised biography Michael Shelden talks about Orwell’s final days before his death from tuberculosis in January 1950.

He discusses some of Orwell’s last notebooks, in particular where the author remarks – calmly – on his fatal illness. Sheldon says

He was always analysing, always standing to one side and observing, trying to make some sense of this life. Perhaps, before the end, there was time for one last analysis, one brief thought about the final adventure. Whatever it was, it does not matter that it was lost. The voice remains. I can hear it. It begins, ‘Curiously enough…’

That’s some fine writing. What I particularly like is that the author, just once, towards the end of the book, comes out from behind the curtain (so to speak) to talk to us directly.

It was once said of Orwell that “he couldn’t blow his nose without moralising about working conditions in the handkerchief industry”.

The book itself is an absolute cracker of a read about a man who could be, shall we say, a trifle prickly.

Oh and it's also Yom Kippur.

I trust you're all out there, atoning.


wari lasi said...

Now I'm convinced you're Jewish Ramon. Or have very close Jewish connections. Your knowledge of Yiddish, familiarity with Jewish Feast Days, etc.

Come on, out with it, Insertnamehereberg.

Do you know if Orwell and Rand ever got together?


Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Ayn Rand, Wari?

I don't think so.

wari lasi said...

That's the Rand I meant alright. They were both around at the same time and both were vociferous anti communists. Admittedly Orwell's experience was more direct but Animal Farm and The Fountainhead were both out in 1943. Atlas Shrugged followed a lot later and was probably more akin to 1984 in terms of dark satire.

Still, I didn't think it was drawing too long a bow. I don't suppose Orwell dying young in 1950 helped too much.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Yes but Orwell aways described himself as a "democratic socialist" and was a supporter of the Labour Party.

wari lasi said...

I did say Anti Communist. I'm a bit of a socialist myself. Can I be a "conservative socialist"? Labels are such a bother.

I think it's more that they were both anti collectivism and fierce supporters of individual thought. It really is a tragedy that he died so young, exactly my age now. 46.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I don't want to sound like James McPickyman wari, but Orwell wasn't anti-collectivist.

There was a lot about the collective spirit he admired, see Homage to Catalonia.

What he was against was the totalitarianism of Hitler or Stalin.

Mr E Discharge said...

That's the Rand I meant alright. They were both around at the same time and both were vociferous anti communists.

Would that imply that the terms "Orwellian" and "Randy" can be used interchangebly?

wari lasi said...

Have you seen a picture of her Mr E? Orwell most definitely looked "Orwellian". And looking at a picture of Ayn made me anything but Randy. I believe she liked to call herself an "Objectivist".

Ramon, we could probably go all day and night. Such is the nature of political (and literary) discourse. I've not read Homage to Catalonia and if there was a library here I'd go and borrow it.

Please forgive my ignorance, this is definitely your field, but I really did think they played on the same side of the political fence, despite his origins. I thought he became disillusioned with Communism. Wasn't he accused of being a fascist?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

He was accused of being a Trot with big feet, Wari.

wari lasi said...

That certainly explains things. He and Wells were not exactly best mates.

I suppose it remains moot. I've actually read a bit more today as a result of our little exchange. It stands to reason I suppose that both sides would like to claim him as their own.

I think we can agree he was extraordinary. If only he'd lived another 30 or 40 years. Imagine the scurry for interviews on January 1, 1984? It was left to Apple to honour him in their famous SuperBowl ads for the launch of the Macintosh.

Lewd Bob said...

This discussion, if nothing else, shows what a crock the one dimensional left/right political scale is. I posted, at least a year ago, my 3 dimensional version. I'll see if I can find it...

Lewd Bob said...

Here it is.

wari lasi said...

Find it Bob, find it.

And at the risk of sounding like Lara Bingle, where the bloody hell is Perseus?

wari lasi said...

I recall it now. Pure genius.

How did the book sell?

wari lasi said...

And Ramon, if you've achieved nothing else through this discussion, you have me trauling through back issues of The International Socialism Journal.

Fair dinkum.