Home»Member»A misplaced George Orwell on writers

I did an online search for George Orwell’s essay “Why I Write” recently and ran across a great quote in it:

“To write in plain vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.”

The only problem is that you can read “Why I Write” from beginning to end and you won’t find that quote: somehow or other it ended up in the “Write” essay on the webpage “Rise of Modern Propaganda.”George-Orwell

Instead, the line comes from his essay “The Prevention of Literature,” a long but interesting piece that focuses in large part on how totalitarian societies don’t create literature.

However, in the true version of “Why I Write” Orwell makes several great points about writers, including,

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane.”

Interestingly enough – given his point about totalitarian societies – this essay is found at a Russian site, a country still struggling with authoritarian rule.

And while I’m on the topic, another great quote:

“Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.”

from  “Capitalism and Communism: Two Paths to Slavery” in the Observer, 9 April 1944, found at the blogsite Being Human.


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