This must seem a peculiar moment to publish a supplement about George Orwell. As we write, the Pan African Liberation Committee and Harvard Afro have just left Massachusetts Hall. There have been calls for strikes and direct action, and the bullhorn speech is the order of the day. For many of us this is a time of commitment, tactical thinking, and leaflet prose.
We think of George Orwell as an individual: a man of subtle and disengaged perception. Raymond Williams, an English critic, has described him as a man in exile from his time. He implies that the purity of Orwell's reputation cannot be separated from his irrelevance to the practical politics of his day, and that this irrelevance is what preserves him clean and intact for us. He is known as an uncompromising man who refused to submit to political logic.
This year's second Dump Truck, a literary-political sketch of George Orwell by Garrett Epps, tries to place the man once again within his time. The author has tried not to abstract Orwell's writings and deliver them to us as pronouncements. Instead, Orwell's works are described in dynamic terms, moving closer to clarity and comprehension as Orwell moved through contemporary events.
For those interested in further reading Garrett recommends George Orwell: Fugitive from the Camp of Victory by Richard Rees, a close friend of Orwell's who has anecdotes and stories to tell. Also good is George Orwell by Raymond Williams, although Williams is sometimes obtuse. A new book. The World of George Orwell, edited by Miriam Gross, is full of pictures and reminiscenses of friends. And for those who want to have all of Orwell the four volumes of Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell published in paper by Harcourt Brace Jovanovach are unsurpassed. Although Orwell asked in his will that he be spared the indignity of a biography, one is one the way. Peter Stansky will publish a full biography in the Fall.
We would like to thank Jean Acko, who did the extraordinary line drawings of Orwell and the Old Mole Collective for unwittingly donating most of the graphics.
Garrett concludes his essay with a revisionist thought in which we concur. The goal of our movement should not be utopian. We want to establish a just human community, not the reign of inhuman perfection. We must accept ourselves. We are far from Angola and Vietnam, and though we share many of the goals of the guerrila fighters, we cannot, by force of will, evaporate that distance in an instant. We ask of ourselves, and of our friends, a beginning; a first commitment to the ideals of socialism. That is what George Orwell made.