In Frank Appraisal, Truth
SUCH, SUCH WERE THE JOYS, George Orwell; New York, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 230 pp., $3.50.
"When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, 'I am going to produce a work of art.' I write it because there is some lie I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention.
Devotion to this purpose made George Orwell the best and the most important writer of the last twenty years. he addressed himself to reality, and he took the path of most resistance. He chose lies to expose and facts to emphasize chiefly because they were--and are--the lies most commonly believed and the facts most commonly ignored.
Such, Such Were the Joys, like all of Orwell's writing, opens the shutters of society's dark rooms. The title piece details the author's intensely unhappy childhood in a pretentious English boarding school. It exposes the cruelty and fifth of the students and masters, and Orwell's own confused and exaggerated response with complete justice and no quarter.
In any other writer's hands, no doubt, all this would be cold and lifeless, this painstaking, almost brutal attention to absolute accuracy. But Orwell was a genius, and every character is alive and human, and understood.
Inside the Whale, the other long essay in this volume of previously uncollected articles, is basically a critique of Menry Miller. Its greatest fascination, perhaps, lies in the contrast it reveals between Orwell and Miller. Where Orwell devoted his full attention to the world of reality, Miller's trick was to turn his back on it--not denying, just ignoring it. In the midsection of the essay, Orwell digresses to give a superb pocket survey of twentieth century English literature.
The shorter pieces, such as "Why I Write" (which contains the statement quoted at the head of this review), "Marrakech," and articles on such diverse topics as "nationalism," anti-Semitism, and broadcasting poetry, maintain the same stimulating pace and tone.
Now there are people who don't like Orwell. But it is hard to see how any one who neither fears facts nor considers truth trivial could help but find Such, Such Were the Joys an enriching volume.
It is not his best work, to be sure, but it is head and shoulders above anything else you are going to find at your local book merchant's until Orwell' executors publish a new collection of his essays.