By Patrick Reilly
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Extra info for George Orwell: The Age’s Adversary
How can an age schooled by Freud to regard self-deception as an habitual mode of mental activity resist an invitation to investigate when the subject is himself the scourge of doublethink? Any serious study of Orwell must engage this question of his honesty; a writer who preaches salvation from doublethink as the highest felicity must expect his own words to be scanned the more vigilantly for proof of sincerity. How appropriate is Alceste as model? The one moment in the play when Alceste admits frailty is The Honest Man 37 followed instantly by that in which he is most outrageously Alceste - paradoxically it reinforces our impression of a man convinced that he is always, uniquely, right.
Others, more blindly or blessedly partisan, might insist that all was well, but Orwell believed despite the evidence to the contrary. Socialism was for him a vision, a miraculous fusion of elements rejected by his experience as irreconcilable: power and decency, intelligence and altruism, expertise and humility- in a single traditional image, the good shepherd who loves his sheep and will die for them. The Napoleon of Animal Farm clearly does not qualify, but, then, who does? Orwell rebukes existing socialism to the degree that it betrays this ideal.
Powerful voices from the past will disagree. Entweder Gott oder Abgott, insists Luther- either God or idol; and Dostoevsky tells us that every man must choose finally between Christ and the Grand Inquisitor. Orwell's last book brings no comfort to those who assume that atheism must embody a higher stage of civilisation than Christianity or that the disappearance of traditional religion is a matter for unqualified celebration; it might almost be cited as proof of Luther's fearful option, with Big Brother as terrifying an idol today as Moloch or Baal in former ages.