Remembering George Orwell
1903, June 25. - 1950, January 21.

Why Orwell Matters

by Christopher Hitchens
Published by Basic Books, A Member of the Perseus Books Group
New York, USA. 2002

"I sometimes feel as if George Orwell requires extricating from under a pile of saccharine tablets and moist hankies," writes Christopher Hitchens in this brilliant exhumation of a misunderstood hero. How does one get at a figure like Orwell, who has achieved a totemic status in our age, his very
name entering the modern lexicon and permeating the popular consciousness as a symbol of radical conscience and moral authority? Why has a man who was resolutely of the left throughout his life been coopted and adored by the right and attacked by his ideological peers on the left, and who are these people? Why, ultimately, does Orwell matter?
In this trenchant critical essay, Christopher Hitchens assesses the life, the achievements, and the myth of the great political writer and participant George Orwell. In his emulative and contrarian style, Hitchens is both admiring and aggressive, sympathetic yet critical, taking true measure of his subject as hero and problem. Answering both the detractors and the false claimants, Hitchens tears down the façade of sainthood erected by the hagiographers and rebuts the critics point by point. He examines Orwell and his perspectives on fascism, empire, feminism, and Englishness, as well as his outlook on America, a country and culture towards which he exhibited much ambivalence.
Whether thinking about empires or dictators, race or class, nationalism or popular culture, Orwell's moral outlook remains indispensable in a world which has undergone vast changes in the fifty years since his death. Christopher Hitchens, one of the most incisiveminds of our own age, meets Orwell on the page in a provocative encounter of wit, contention and moral truth.

Christopher Hitchens is Professor of Liberal Studies at the New School in New Vork City, as well as a columnist for Vanity Fair and The Nation. His books include Letters to a Young Contrarian, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere, No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family, The Missionary Position: Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice, and For the Sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports. He lives in Washington, DC.

back  to the Orwell home page