George Orwell (born Eric Blair on June 25th 1903) is probably one of my favourite twentieth century writers, not just for Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four, but also his political writing, essays, and lesser known novels (Coming up for Air and Keep the Aspidistra Flying are particularly good I think).
In honour of what would have been his 114th birthday, here are some of my favourite Orwell quotes:
On suburban life…
After all, what is a road like Ellesmere Road? Just a prison with the cells all in a row. A line of semi-detached torture chambers… in every one of those little stucco boxes there’s some poor bastard who’s never free except when he’s asleep and dreaming that he’s got the boss down the bottom of a well and is bunging lumps of coal at him.
Coming up for Air 1939
On the prospect of war:
War is coming. 1941, they say…. I’ll tell you: It’s all going to happen. All the things you’ve got at the back of your mind, the things you’re terrified of, the things that you tell yourself are just a nightmare or only happen in foreign countries. The bombs, the food-queues, the rubber truncheons, the barbed-wire, the coloured shirts, the slogans, the enormous faces, the machine-guns squirting out of bedroom windows. It’s all going to happen.
(Coming up for Air, 1939)
More than either it resembles a family, a rather stuffy Victorian family, with not many black sheep in it but with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations who are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. It is a family in which the young are greatly thwarted and most of the power is in the hands of irresponsible uncles and bed ridden aunts. Still, it is a family. It has its private language and its common memories, and at the approach of an enemy it closes its ranks. A family with the wrong members in control – that perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.
The Lion and the Unicorn 1940
The unspeakable depression of lighting the fires every morning with papers of a year ago, and getting glimpses of optimistic headlines as they go up in smoke.
War time diary, 19 October 1940
On the hypocrisy of the ruling classes:
Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brain-workers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink milk and eat those apples.
(Animal Farm 1945)
On how nothing changes. EVER.
There was very little protest against the internment of the wretched German refugees in 1940. The comments I most often overheard at the time were ‘What did they want to come here for?’ and ‘They’re only after our jobs’. The fact is there is strong popular feeling in this country against foreign immigration. It arises from simple xenophobia, partly from fear of undercutting in wages, but above all from the out-of-date notion that Britain is over-populated and that more population means more unemployment.
As I Please, the Tribune 1946
On Alternative Facts
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
(Nineteen Eighty Four – 1949)
On growing older:
At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves.
(handwritten notes, April 1949)
On how to write well:
- Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
- Never use the passive where you can use the active
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or jargon word if you can think of an every day English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Politics and the English Language April 1946
What’s your favourite Orwell quote? Have I missed any out?