THE CRYSTAL SPIRIT by George Woodcock


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George Orwell was the Don Quixote of social consciousness: he had his eye on the future and his heart in the past. Ironically, after years of neglect, this tough libertarian achieved sudden fame with his harrowing blueprint of totalitarianism, 1984, only to die shortly after. The portrait, drawn by his friend and colleague George Woodcock, is of intermittent value; the leisurely anecdotes afford passing glimpses of Orwell's professional struggles, polemical exchanges during the Thirties when he titled the windmills of both Left and Right, and some vaguely intimate details about his inner stress. Orwell was a tricky, distant type: a disillusioned colonial (Burmese Days), an Etonian interloper in the lower depths (Down and Out in Paris and London), a proponent of the classless society whose William Morris dreams were rent by the Spanish Civil War. Woodcock's commentary has some perceptive or startling sketches (plain, seedy Orwell confessing to a penchant for Dorian Gray), and a useful chronological examination of the writer's themes, creeds, and technique (the indifferent stylist coining ""Doublethink,"" ""Newspeak,"" etc.). It's a serious, sympathetic undertaking, but not one comfortably attuned to its subject, and unhappily tinged with the cultivated banalities of a BBC announcer: ""... a good and angry man who sought for truth"" where ""freedom and justice survive."" Hear! Hear!

Publisher: Little, Brown