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Notes on Nationalism

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In this essay, Orwell discusses the notion of nationalism, and argues that it causes people to disregard common sense and become more ignorant towards factuality. Orwell shows his concern for the social state of Europe, and in a broader sense, the entire world, due to an increasing amount of influence of nationalistic sentiment occurring throughout a large number of countries.

52 pages, Paperback

First published May 23, 2012

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About the author

George Orwell

981 books40.5k followers
Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma from 1922-1927 and fought with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1937. Orwell was severely wounded when he was shot through his throat. Later the organization that he had joined when he joined the Republican cause, The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), was painted by the pro-Soviet Communists as a Trotskyist organization (Trotsky was Joseph Stalin's enemy) and disbanded. Orwell and his wife were accused of "rabid Trotskyism" and tried in absentia in Barcelona, along with other leaders of the POUM, in 1938. However by then they had escaped from Spain and returned to England.

Between 1941 and 1943, Orwell worked on propaganda for the BBC. In 1943, he became literary editor of the Tribune, a weekly left-wing magazine. He was a prolific polemical journalist, article writer, literary critic, reviewer, poet, and writer of fiction, and, considered perhaps the twentieth century's best chronicler of English culture.

Orwell is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) and the satirical novella Animal Farm (1945) — they have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author. His 1938 book Homage to Catalonia, an account of his experiences as a volunteer on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, together with numerous essays on politics, literature, language, and culture, have been widely acclaimed.

Orwell's influence on contemporary culture, popular and political, continues decades after his death. Several of his neologisms, along with the term "Orwellian" — now a byword for any oppressive or manipulative social phenomenon opposed to a free society — have entered the vernacular.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 478 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa.
971 reviews3,330 followers
March 16, 2019
We've not changed much since Orwell wrote his essays on nationalism during the Second World War.

Well now, that is not shocking, but quite depressing. The enemies of specific tribes may have changed, but the lunacy, as Orwell calls it, to see one power unit (the own one, that is, of course) as absolutely, unfailingly good, and all other power units as evil, or at least bad or inferior, still reigns unbeaten on our tiny and overcrowded lunatic asylum planet. Even if Orwell discusses the tribalisms of his time, like political Catholicism, Communism, Trotzskyism and Antisemitism, we could easily find identical group behaviours in our current landscape of opposing thought models - which are at the same time excruciatingly similar, in that they all follow the exact definition Orwell suggests for the psychological profile of nationalist behaviour:

-Obsession: seeing the superiority of the chosen power unit in every single aspect of life, no matter how farfetched it may seem to a non-nationalist

-Instability: passionate support for a power unit is strong, but transferable, as it is the absolutist state of mind that the nationalist stays loyal to, not a specific object of worship (thus a Communist caneasily become a Trotzskist, while remaining a tribally oriented personality)

-Indifference to reality: as there is greater truth in the nationalist idea than in actual evidence, history can be reinterpreted or rewritten according to the need of the moment, without any qualms whatsoever. A "greater" loyalty reigns.

And what can we do about it? Not much, if we just try to identify tribalism in the "others".

We have to start by identifying where our own faultlines are. Do we find ourselves getting frustrated when people criticise our church? Our society? Our gender role? Our political affiliation? Do we argue passionately against rhyme and reason regardless of evidence to prove certain points? If we manage to see how nationalism or tribalism affects our own thought processes and actions, we might gain understanding of the human need to subordinate oneself to a power unit for better or worse, and we might start being able to change patterns of hate. That requires a lot of honesty towards oneself, and a lot of patience towards others. For the power units themselves are effective tools, and they are not likely to support critical and individual thinking outside the tribal menu. It is a lonely job to resist tribalism.

Reading Orwell is a good start, though!
Profile Image for Kyriakos Sorokkou.
Author 6 books190 followers
August 2, 2019
Δεν νομίζω να είμαι και το πιο κατάλληλο άτομο για να γράψει μια κριτική / ή σχολιασμό γι' αυτό το βιβλίο που μιλάει για θέματα τόσο διαχρονικά και τόσο βαθιά ριζωμένα στην ανθρώπινη χρήση.

Το βιβλίο αυτό βασικά είναι 7 δοκίμια και όλα λίγο πολύ περιστρέφονται γύρω από δύο κύριους άξονες τον εθνικισμό και τον πόλεμο.

Έχω να προτείνω μερικά κείμενα σε μερικούς.

Στους πολιτικούς και τους δημοσιογράφους προτείνω να διαβάσουν το τελευταίο δοκίμιο:

Η πολιτική και η αγγλική γλώσσα
Στους πολιτικούς προτείνω να διαβάσουν το εξής:
«[...] ο κομματικός αξιωματούχος που επαναλαμβάνει αδιάκοπα τις ίδιες και τις ίδιες λέξεις δεν απέχει πολύ από μια καλά ρυθμισμένη μηχανή. Μπορεί η φωνή να βγαίνει από τον λάρυγγά του, αλλά το μυαλό του παραμένει ουσιαστικά αμέτοχο, καθώς ακόμα και τις λέξεις που χρησιμοποιεί δεν τις έχει επιλέξει ο ίδιος.»
Βασικά έτσι είναι κάθε κομματικός αξιωματούχος στην Κύπρο, δεν μιλά αυτός αλλά τα γραπτά που έχει στα χέρια του.

Στους δημοσιογράφους προτείνω να διαβάσουν το εξής:
«Προκειμένου να απαλλαγούμε από κάποιες εξεζητημένες και κακοφορμισμένες μεταφορές, θα αρκούσε να πάψουν ορισμένοι δημοσιογράφοι και άλλα δημόσια πρόσωπα να τις χρησιμοποιούν κατά κόρον. [...] μπορούμε, όμως, να αλλάξουμε τουλάχιστον τις συνήθειές μας και [...] να στέλνουμε στον σκουπιδοτενεκέ της Ιστορίας, εκεί που είναι η θέση τους, κάποιες τετριμμένες και άχρηστες φράσεις, κάποια κλισέ («βιβλική καταστροφή», «ας μην κρυβόμαστε πίσω από το δάκτυλό μας») καθώς και άλλα γλωσσικά απορρίματα.»
Ειδικά η φράση «βιβλική καταστροφή» χρησιμοποιείται κατά κόρον από τους δημοσιογράφους όταν γίνουν πλημμύρες είτε η καταστροφή είναι βιβλική είτε lite.

Στα υπόλοιπα δοκίμια ο Όργουελ καταπιάνεται με τον εθνικισμό, εγκληματίες πολέμου, τον 1ο και 2ο παγκόσμιο πόλεμο, τον ισπανικό εμφύλιο, προσωπικότητες όπως τον Χίτλερ, τον Μουσολίνι, τον Γκάντι, συγγραφείς που ασχολήθηκαν με την πολιτική Τζ. Χ. Ουέλς (Πόλεμος των Κόσμων, Η Μηχανή του Χρόνου), Άρθουρ Καίσλερ (Οι Μονομάχοι [Σπάρτακος], Το μηδέν και το άπειρο) και άλλα.

Ένα βιβλίο που αξίζει να διαβαστεί όπως και τα άλλα της σειράς Πολύτιμοι Λίθοι (που λογαριάζω να διαβάζω ειδικά Β. Γουλφ και Ο. Γουάιλντ)
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,382 reviews521 followers
February 12, 2022
The three essays in this volume, Notes on Nationalism, Anti-Semitism in Britain and The Sporting Spirit all concern themselves with the "habit of identifying oneself with large power units and seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige.” Orwell uses the term nationalism as a negative trait which often springs from hate - in which people are put in categories and seen as good or bad to reinforce an individual's narrow view. These essays were written in 1945 but are very relevant today.

Penguin Modern Classics
#1 - Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.
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#3 - The Breakthrough by Daphne Du Maurier
#4 - The Custard Heart by Dorothy Parker
#5 - Three Japanese Short Stories (3 authors)
#6 - The Veiled Woman by Anais Nin
#7 - Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,284 reviews2,155 followers
April 4, 2019
Good essay that grabs ones attention on the subject of nationalism. Orwell approaches the idea with an unbiased opinion, with the concept of nationalism being more loyal to a philosophy to the point you start to ignore its failings and stop using reason to analyse it in comparison to other ideas.
Three key points make up his concept - Positive, Negative and Transferred, and how different types of political ideologies can be nationalistic without representing a nation state. At times he is undone by his criticism of pacifists and sweeping statements of other groups of people, which slightly tarnished what was an otherwise interesting piece of writing.
Profile Image for Diz.
1,510 reviews84 followers
March 26, 2021
This slim volume contains three essays--one on nationalism, one on antisemitism, and one on the connection between sports and nationalism.

The first essay is particularly important as countries all over the world are dealing with growing nationalist movements. First, Orwell draws a clear line between patriotism, love for one's land and culture, and nationalism, an obsession with one's in-group achieving victory over other groups. Interestingly, as Orwell defines it, nationalism isn't limited to nations. It can also apply to other groups such as political party or religious group. The three characteristics of nationalism are obsession (thinking, talking or writing about the superiority of one's in-group to the exclusion of other topics), instability (one may support one's in-group despite it changing drastically or may transfer loyalty to another group), and indifference to reality (facts will not sway one's allegiance to one's in-group). This form of nationalism is rampant now, so this essay is relevant now more than ever.
Profile Image for Arupratan.
110 reviews80 followers
August 20, 2022
জর্জ অরওয়েলের লেখা উপন্যাস পড়লে তাঁকে রূপক কিংবা প্রতীকী-ধাঁচের রচনার একজন ম্যাজিশিয়ান বলে মনে হয়। অ্যানিমেল ফার্মের চরিত্ররা যদি সত্যিকারের মানুষ হতো তাহলে গল্পটা এতটা জমতো না, এটা সব পাঠকই স্বীকার করবেন। অথচ তাঁর প্রবন্ধগুলোতে তিনি একদম উল্টো কায়দা অবলম্বন করেছেন। সেখানে তিনি নিপাট সোজাসাপ্টা। কোনোরকম ধানাইপানাই করেননি। লম্বা কাঠের হাতলওয়ালা একধরণের tool, যার একপ্রান্তে লোহার তৈরি চৌকো চ্যাপ্টা ব্লেড লাগানো থাকে— এরকম ত্যানা না-পেঁচিয়ে সরাসরি যন্ত্রটাকে "কোদাল" নামে ডেকেছেন।

এই ছোট্ট বইটির তিনটি প্রবন্ধেই তিনি "জাতীয়তাবাদ" (nationalism) নামক ধারণাকে অসম্ভব স্পষ্ট ভাষায় বিশ্লেষণ করেছেন। প্রথম প্রবন্ধটি, "Notes on Nationalism", দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধ শেষ হওয়ার ঠিক মাসখানেক পরে প্রকাশিত হয়েছিলো। এর আগে দুবার পড়েছিলাম এই নাতিদীর্ঘ লেখাটি। প্রতিবারই চমৎকৃত হয়েছি অরওয়েলের পর্যবেক্ষণশক্তি এবং সিদ্ধান্তের স্বচ্ছতা দেখে। প্রতিবারই নিজের দেশ-কালের সঙ্গে মেলাতে পেরেছি তাঁর ৭৭ বছর "পুরোনো" চিন্তাকে। যুদ্ধের সময়ে জাতীয়তাবাদ প্রবল থাকবে, সেটাই তো স্বাভাবিক। কিন্তু এই মুহূর্তে আমার দেশে যুদ্ধ কোথায়? তবু প্রায় হুবহু মিলে যায় অরওয়েলের বিশ্লেষণ!

প্রবন্ধের শুরুতেই তিনি পাঠককে সাবধান করে দিয়েছেন যে, অনেকসময় সমার্থক অর্থে ব্যবহৃত হলেও, "জাতীয়তাবাদ" এবং "দেশভক্তি" (patriotism)— দুটো আলাদা বস্তু। দেশভক্তি একটি ব্যক্তিগত বিশ্বাস, যা কেউ কারো ঘাড়ে জোর করে চাপিয়ে দিতে পারেনা। নারী-পুরুষের পারস্পরিক প্রেম-ভালোবাসার মতো। থাকলে থাকবে, না-থাকলে নেই। জাতীয়তাবাদ কিন্তু বেশিরভাগ ক্ষেত্রেই জোর করে (কিংবা চালাকি করে) চাপিয়ে দেওয়া হয়, অথবা চাপিয়ে দেওয়ার চেষ্টা করা হয়। আর, কে না জানে, একমাত্র ভুয়ো মালপত্রই গায়ের জোরে বিক্রি করা হয়। মাল যদি খাঁটি হয়, মানুষ নিজের গরজেই সেটা কিনবে। আমার দেশ যদি সত্যিকারের "মহান" হয়, সেই খবরট�� সরকারি বিজ্ঞাপন দিয়ে জানানোর প্রয়োজন হবে না!

তারপর অসাধারণ বিশ্লেষণের মাধ্যমে অরওয়েল যেন আমার দিব্যদৃষ্টি খুলে দিয়েছেন। একদম চাঁচাছোলা ভঙ্গিতে জাতীয়তাবাদের চরিত্র ও বৈশিষ্ট্যের উপর তাঁর পর্যবেক্ষণের ঝকঝকে আলো ফেলেছেন। তিনি বলেছেন, একজন জাতীয়তাবাদী কখনই নিজের বিশ্বাস ভুল প্রমাণিত হওয়া সহ্য করতে পারেনা। তার বিশ্বাসকে "সর্বশ্রেষ্ঠ" ছাড়া অন্য কিছু ভাবতে পারেনা। এর স্বপক্ষে যদি যথেষ্ট প্রমাণ না-থাকে, তাহলেও কুছ পরোয়া নেহি। এমনকি যদি তার বিশ্বাসের বস্তুটি খেলায় হেরে যায়, তাহলেও সে সেই ফলাফল মেনে নিতে পারেনা। দাঁতে দাঁত চেপে মনে মনে ভাবে : "আচ্ছা বেশ, পরের বার দেখে নেবো তোদের!"

কিন্তু জাতীয়তাবাদের ফলাফল কখনই শুভ হয়না। আজ পর্যন্ত কখনও হয়নি। জাতীয়তাবাদ মানে শুধুই যে একটি দেশের প্রতি বশ্যতা স্বীকার করা, এমনটা নয়। একজন জাতীয়তাবাদী একটি নির্দিষ্ট ধর্মের প্রতি (ধরা যাক হিন্দু ধর্ম) কিংবা একটি রাজনৈতিক বিশ্বাসের প্রতি (ধরা যাক সেকিউলারিজম) কিংবা সামাজিক অবস্থানের প্রতি (ধরা যাক "শহুরে-শিক্ষিত-মধ্যবিত্ত") নিজের চেতনাকে সমর্পণ করতে পারেন। এমনকি তথাকথিত শান্তিবাদী (pacifist) কিংবা নাস্তিক্যবাদীরাও বেশিরভাগ সময়েই খাঁটি জাতীয়তাবাদীদের মতো আচরণ করে। অনেকসময় দেখা যায়, বাংলাভাষাকে "সম্মান" দেখাতে গিয়ে কতিপয় ভাষাপ্রেমিক ইংরিজি ভাষার প্রতি অহেতুক জাতীয়তাবাদ��� মুখ-ভ্যাংচানি প্রদর্শন করে ফেলছেন।

কিন্তু যেহেতু "জাতীয়তাবাদ" সবসময়ই আমাদের নিজেদের বিশ্বাসের দোষত্রুটিকে উপেক্ষা করতে পরামর্শ দ্যায়, এমনকি অস্বীকার করতে, এমনকি চেপে যেতে পরামর্শ দ্যায়, এমনকি প্রতিষ্ঠিত ইতিহাসকে বিকৃত করতে পরামর্শ দ্যায়, মতের অমিল হলে প্রতিপক্ষকে আক্রমণ করার পরামর্শ দ্যায়— তাই একজন জাতীয়তাবাদী সারাক্ষণ নেচে নেচে গাইতে থাকে : "আমরা ভাল লক্ষ্মী সবাই, তোমরা ভারি বিশ্রী/ তোমরা খাবে নিমের পাঁচন, আমরা খাব মিশ্রী। আমরা পাব খেলনা পুতুল, আমরা পাব চম্‌চম্‌/ তোমরা তো তা পাচ্ছ না কেউ, পেলেও পাবে কম কম।"

তিনটি প্রবন্ধই পাঠকের মনোযোগ এবং কিছুটা পূর্ব-ধারণা দাবি করে। দ্বিতীয় প্রবন্ধটি, "Anti-Semitism in Britain"— দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধকালীন ইংল্যান্ডের সামাজিক/ রাজনৈতিক পরিবেশের কথা মাথায় রেখে লেখা হয়েছে, কিন্তু প্রবন্ধটি পড়লেই বোঝা যাবে, ব্রিটেনের জায়গায় আমার নিজের দেশের নাম এবং ইহুদিদের জায়গায় মুসলমান শব্দটি বসিয়ে নিলে পড়তে খুব বেশি অসুবিধে হয় না। পড়তে পড়তে মনে পড়ে যায়, ঠিক অরওয়েল যেমন অনেক "ভদ্রলোক"-এর মুখে গোটা ইহুদিজাতির প্রতি অহেতুক গালমন্দ শুনেছেন, আমিও তো এই কয়েকদিন আগেই বাজার করতে গিয়ে শুনেছি, পরিচিত সহ-বাজারকারী একজন কলেজ প্রফেসর (বিষয় অর্থনীতি), যিনি একজন শখের নাট্যকর্মীও বটে, সালমান রুশদির উপর আক্রমণের প্রতিবাদ জানিয়ে আমাকে অবলীলায় বললেন : "শালার মোল্লার জাত!"

"The Sporting Spirit" নামক তৃতীয় প্রবন্ধটিতে তিনি দেখিয়েছেন খেলার মাঠেও কিভাবে জাতীয়তাবাদ ছড়িয়ে পড়ে। আমরা যারা ভারত-পাকিস্তান ক্রিকেট ম্যাচ কিংবা ইস্টবেঙ্গল-মোহনবাগান ফুটবল ম্যাচের উত্তেজনার আগুনে নিজেদের সেঁকতে সেঁকতে বড় হয়েছি, তাদের কাছে এই বিষয়টি নিয়ে আলাদা করে কথা বলার প্রয়োজন হয় না। প্রতিটি প্রবন্ধেই অরওয়েল পাঠককে ভাবতে বাধ্য করেছেন। নিজেকে প্রশ্ন করতে বাধ্য করেছেন। আমাদের প্রত্যেকের ভেতরেই, অন্ধ এবং অযৌক্তিক জাতীয়তাবাদের কিছু না কিছু বীজ লুকিয়ে আছে। কিংবা লুকোনো নেই, প্রকট হয়ে আছে! এর হাত থেকে নিস্তার নেই। কিন্তু অরওয়েল আমাদের বলেছেন, আমরা যেন নিজেদের কাছেই নিজেরা হার স্বীকার না-করি। নিজের ত্রুটিগুলোকে অন্তত নিজের কাছে যেন ধামাচাপা না-দিই। হাতের ময়লা পুরোপুরি পরিষ্কার করতে না পারলেও, হাতটা যে ময়লা হয়ে আছে, এটুকু দেখতে পারার দৃষ্টি যেন আমাদের থাকে। এই দুঃসময়ে, অন্তত এটুকু যেন থাকে।

It can be argued that no unbiased outlook is possible, that all creeds and causes involve the lies, follies and barbarities.

I do not accept this argument.
Profile Image for Daren.
1,266 reviews4,356 followers
January 27, 2020
A Penguin Modern book containing three essays from George Orwell - taken from his aptly named book Essays.

The titular - Notes on Nationalism, where Orwell defines the difference between nationalism and patriotism before tearing the former to pieces. There are lots of grabable quotes such as:

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

“One prod to the nerve of nationalism and the intellectual decencies can vanish, the past can be altered, and the plainest facts can be denied.”

The second is titled Antisemitism in Britain where Orwell tackles the lack of basis for, and the denial in Britain around antisemitism. He points out the unfortunate situation the antisemite is in where they cannot support Hitlers assertions, and oppose the Jews.

The third essay is titled The Sporting Spirit which revolves around the visit to Britain of the Moscow Dynamos on their 1945 tour, where they played against British club sides - and their media accused Arsenal of being an 'All England' team, but widens into a short essay of the obsession of sport by England and other countries.

“[Football] has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.”

I read this short book this afternoon, when it was hot and I was unmotivated to pick up the Sven Hedin book I am reading - and in hindsight a selection of essays is probably not the lite reading I desired. I am not a great reader of essays with political or sociological discussions. It is all a bit highbrow for my simple reading tastes!

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4****.
Profile Image for Farah Firdaus.
581 reviews204 followers
July 14, 2019
“By nationalism, I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions and tens of millions of people can be confidently labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad.’”

Cutting and classic reflections on nationalism. Orwell eloquently explained the dangerous concept of nationalism, of how it is not to be confused with patriotism. He analysed the principal characteristics of nationalist thought, its various forms and at the same time, advocated for the notion of patriotism, the pure and sincere love of one’s country or idea. Reading Orwell is never a bad idea. Universal; reading his thoughts feels like holding a mirror in front of so many countries, including Malaysia. Thank you, Orwell. You are amazing at showing the beauty and harsh truth of reality all at once.
Profile Image for Fede.
205 reviews
August 21, 2018
Three brilliant essays written in 1945: "Notes on Nationalism", "Antisemitism in Britain" and "The Sporting Spirit".


In case you didn't know, I'm one of those fanatics who want 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' to be added to the New Testament canon (I've already sent a formal request to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Just wait and see). So this short book was a nice surprise: a good introduction to Orwell's prophetic milestone, and kind of a summary of its devastating contents.

"By 'patriotism' I mean devotion to a place and a way of life which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality."
The key words here are 'or other unit'. Orwell makes it clear fron the very beginning: his concerns go far beyond politics. What he calls 'nationalism' is an elusive concept including the churches, any racial and social extremism, intolerant intellectualism, even political pacifism when it starts discerning between 'good' and 'bad', 'enemies' and 'friends', 'us' and 'them'. Such 'nationalism' can be pro as well as against anything; it can take any conceivable direction and relentlessly change the object of its worship: " What remains constant in the nationalist is his own state of mind: the object of his feelings is changeable, and may be imaginary. "
The author points out the dangers inherent in any system of thought that is based on the habit of labelling and classifying other human beings in groups. First of all, the spontaneous giving up of intellectual honesty in order to forward the interest of a faction. The individual is not even lying in such occasions, since the power of the Group - political, religious, cultural... - has blindfolded any manifestation of individual consciousness in his mind. It's the definition of what Orwell will call 'Doublethink' in 'Nineteen Eighty-Four': the deliberate denial of reality. The elephant might be in the room - a whole herd of them - and so what? All one has to do is close the door. Poof! Can't see them anymore.
Elephants? What elephants?
What room?
You must be kidding. There's never been any room here.

"Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered." Sounds familiar? Don't forget this was written in 1945. The forgery of records, reports, photographs described in the novel had been skilfully practiced in the Soviet Union ever since the stalinist wing of the Communist party wiped away all opposition in the early 20s, and was still going on in those years. Orwell took inspiration from history, not from fantasy... that's why his most famous work is still so scary.
The author also reminds us of an unpleasant truth: we all could give up on our rationality, for whatever reason, on account of whatever party/entity/idea/necessity. "There is no crime that cannot be condoned when 'our' side commits it. Loyalty is involved, and so pity ceases to function."


In this essay Orwell deals with the widespread - although hidden - antisemitism he witnessed in his home country during the early 40s. He quotes some ordinary people's statements about the British Jews, as well as the words of some intellectuals, all of them denying their antisemitic prejudices and yet expressing the most hideous despise toward the Jewish community. The effect is astonishing. "Well, no one could call me antisemitic", says a middle-class woman, "but I do think the way these Jews behave is absolutely stinky. How they push their way to the head of queues, and so on. They're so selfish. I think they're responsible for a lot of what happens to them." This is only one of many such quotes.
The war increased the population's wariness, turning it into blatant hostility; even at the end of the war, as Orwell points out, this dangerous substratum is still a threat lurking behind the veil of social and political respectability. "There is widespread awareness of the prevalence of antisemitic feeling, and unwillingness to admit sharing it."
In the most objective way Orwell describes the hypocrisy of a tolerance which is actually a deceiving attempt to conceal a deep-rooted unease toward Jewry.


The Moscow Dynamos' 1945 tour was supposed to be part of the shrewd propaganda of those chaotic days. However, all the football matches on schedule (Dynamos vs Arsenal and other British teams) ended up in a burst of violence and tension that deteriorated the political climate between England and the Soviet Union once and for all.

In this essay- the shortest of the three - Orwell analyses how we have willingly turned sport into a battleground, corrupting it with politics and ideology; the 1936 Olympic Games were indeed the culmination of a common tendency shared by all the countries that took part in them, even those hostile to the Nazi regime.
The point is that "Nearly all the sports practiced today are competitive". Sport is now an industry in which money, prestige and, alas, criminality have wiped away the pleasure of exercising for fun and health - for the sake of exercise.
Once again, Orwell is right. He describes our world better than we do.

All in all, a quick but interesting read. Not only for fans.
Profile Image for Nicola.
Author 5 books496 followers
April 16, 2018
In hindsight I only rated this 3 stars because it didn’t put me to sleep. I find Orwell extremely dull.
Profile Image for Canon.
578 reviews47 followers
January 16, 2022
One of my favorite essays, which I first read while impatiently waiting for a nighttime train back to London a couple years ago. By nationalism, Orwell means "first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly ­– and this is much more important – I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests."

Orwell highlights certain mental habits that, he says, are common to all forms of nationalism — obsession, instability, and indifference to reality — and then discusses leading examples of nationalism in British politics, circa 1945:

(1) Positive Nationalism: Neo-Toryism, Celtic Nationalism, Zionism;
(2) Transferred Nationalism: Communism, Political Catholicism, Color Feeling (i.e., racism), Class Feeling, Pacifism; and
(3) Negative Nationalism: Anglophobia, Anti-Semitism, Trotskyism.

All very interesting. I particularly like Orwell's magnificent smackdown of G.K. Chesterton:

"Chesterton was a writer of considerable talent who chose to suppress both his sensibilities and his intellectual honesty in the cause of Roman Catholic propaganda. During the last twenty years or so of his life, his entire output was in reality an endless repetition of the same thing, under its laboured cleverness as simple and boring as ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians’. Every book that he wrote, every paragraph, every sentence, every incident in every story, every scrap of dialogue, had to demonstrate beyond possibility of mistake the superiority of the Catholic over the Protestant or the pagan. But Chesterton was not content to think of this superiority as merely intellectual or spiritual: it had to be translated into terms of national prestige and military power, which entailed an ignorant idealization of the Latin countries, especially France."

But the best part of the essay is when Orwell claims that nationalist mentalities necessarily exclude the acceptance of certain facts, and proceeds to give specific examples:

"If one harbours anywhere in one’s mind a nationalistic loyalty or hatred, certain facts, although in a sense known to be true, are inadmissible. Here are just a few examples...

British Tory: Britain will come out of this war with reduced power and prestige.
Communist: If she had not been aided by Britain and America, Russia would have been defeated by Germany.
Irish Nationalist: Eire can only remain independent because of British protection.
Trotskyist: The Stalin régime is accepted by the Russian masses.
Pacifist: Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf."

I think the very identification of such key facts is an impressive feat, particularly in relation to ideologies for which one has a personal affinity. Merely pointing out such facts is to show how they make a mockery of the ideology in question, and how it's merely one's naivety or fanaticism or insecurity or will-to-power or what have you that keeps the ideology a going concern. Of course, one of the many troubles about our increasingly polarized information environments is that it is more and more difficult, and something like quasi-miraculous when it does happen, for partisans to even recognize recalcitrant facts. Instead, reality is completely and tidily ironed out to fit the ideology, so that we have alternate "realities" analogous to Bostrom's singleton, which perhaps not just coincidentally sounds like simpleton: "a single decision-making agency... [that has] the ability to prevent any threats (internal or external) to its own existence and supremacy, and... the ability to exert effective control over major features of its domain."

"Ye shall know them by their fruits," as Good Guy Jesus said, and it seems to me that one can reasonably guess which ideologies are most delusional or corrosive to liberal democracy by the outrageousness of the facts they cannot accept. So, make naming a nationalism and identifying a key recalcitrant fact your next party game (Name-A-Nash ©). You will both further your civic duty and be a popular party host...
Profile Image for Zarina.
903 reviews131 followers
March 2, 2018
From the moment I first heard about the new Penguin Modern Classics series on the YouTube channel of Jean Bookishthoughts, I've become a little obsessed with this collection of books. Where I purchased only a handful of the classics from a few years ago, in the days since the launch of the new series I've become the owner of 12 of the 50 titles. #sorrynotsorry

At just £1 a book this is a very affordable series, making it a great entryway to modern literature and voices if you're not yet familiar with an author or the writing, or want to collect a few more gems from existing favourites. The collection comprises a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, both originally published in English and in translation, creating an eclectic mix of writings to pick from and ensuring something of interest for everyone.

The very first I knew I had to pick up (and the first I ended up reading) was Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell. Having only ever read 1984 (one of my all-time favourite books) and Animal Farm (back in school) by this author, I was interested to see how his voice would translate to non-fiction – and it's phenomenal.

Of course his political and social ideologies weren't exactly hidden in his fiction novels, but reading his blunt analysis on nationalism, antisemitism and the behaviour that comes with fanatical sport supporters was enlightening and eerily apt for where our society is (yet again) in 2018.

A must-read for anyone to create a greater understanding of the deep-seethed prejudices that while perhaps not spoken out loud still impact so many today.
Profile Image for Liam O'Leary.
468 reviews112 followers
September 27, 2021
3 essays, 4*, 3*, 3*. Dated, but historically interesting for it.

Good, but I am growing a bit sceptical of Orwell. His writing is hugely impersonal, he never once expresses or questions himself while doing both on the behalf of others. It is hard to impersonate Orwell, to know who he is, and it might be why he has kept his fame.

Perhaps Orwell seems so convincing because he omits himself from his writing, any hypocrisy he holds will not show. When I pay attention to some of the subtle tones in this, Orwell seems to be part of the thing he condemns.
Profile Image for Zoeb.
148 reviews25 followers
October 31, 2018
More than his novels, it is in George Orwell's lucid and far-from-didactic essays on an incredible range of topics of English concern that we find his real strength as one of the foremost chroniclers of the 20th Century. The themes and ideas that feel somewhat ambiguous and hazy in his fiction are fleshed out brilliantly in his writings on themes both major and minor. Even the smallest of his pieces, like ones on both insular and eclectic subjects like English cooking and even Mahatma Gandhi, are full of such discerning detail and insight that you cannot help but find them wise.

'Notes On Nationalism' is a little ensemble of three of his piercing and probing essays in which he dissected his favorite subjects and conundrums: patriotism versus jingoistic nationalism, political fads and the prevalence of prejudice as a part of the national attitude to war and even the sporting spirit of the 1940s. In the titular essay, Orwell divided succinctly patriotism and nationalism; according to him, the former is a sincere and impassioned love for a country, culture or a cause while the latter is a form of chest-thumping jingoism that turns malicious when stretched beyond breaking point in defending blithely a country, culture and cause irrespective of truth.

This is a particularly prescient insight that this sparkling essay delivers, especially in a time when to be 'nationalist' is considered as more fashionable than just old-school and harmless patriotism. Orwell deconstructs two myths about the fad of nationalism; one is that it is transferable, to the extent that a nationalist can transfer his or her obsession with a cause to another quite easily. The other is that a nationalist, in his or her defense of the same belief or entity, can even deny hard evidence of facts and truths.

In the second essay, 'Antisemitism in Britain', Orwell attacks fiercely the carefully concealed presence of a heightened sense of antisemitic paranoia in Britain at the time of the World War II. While this essay might make some skeptical about the validity of his insistence of the Jew stereotype still being used widely in 20th century literature, by the likes of his own peers like Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh and G.K Chesterton, what impresses most are his objective examination of the commonly believed stereotypes that foster the stronger streak of antisemitic feeling and his acknowledgement that it is these stereotypes and their rationale that need to be investigated first before one comes up with a definitive solution to this problem.

The third essay, 'The Sporting Spirit', is shorter than the rest and it gives further room for Orwell to frown upon how the sensationalism of sporting events between countries and cultures can be ripe for the same virulent and malicious form of jingoism. Sport, according to him, especially of the brutal and energetic nature, has become a breeding ground for petty nationalism and hostility and this is a lesson that we have certainly not learned.

There are occasions when Orwell's tirades feel a bit self-indulgent; Chesterton, unfortunately, faces the full brunt of his scathing anger. Wisdom would dictate otherwise, that one should judge a writer less from his political and spiritual inclinations and more from his craft and Orwell disagrees to this. But overall, this concise trilogy comprises much wonderful intelligence and insight about understanding not only the political ignorance that marked a particular era of the previous century but also just how the same ignorance has prevailed in today's different situations. This itself makes this, as with most of the extensive non-fiction of Orwell, wonderfully prescient and prophetic even today.
Profile Image for Shohra.
62 reviews
December 10, 2017
I am quite confused on how to judge this.

George Orwell himself is a socialist who criticizes many political views to claim that socialism is the only ideology/theory that can improve Europe (and should spread universally?). This would completely contradict his final statement on moral effort, speaking on how we should struggle against our political preference to keep unclouded intelligentsia thriving. Orwell may give some pros of nationalism, but he brushes the reasoning off and focuses strongly on negative nationalism, the strong emotional tendencies of nationalists and how in reality - which he gives rather inaccurate examples of - it is all just a lunatic's dream for power. His questioning is smart and he brings back the groundwork of politics, but his answers and statements are often so watered down to these hyperbolic socialist views that I can barely pinpoint what he believes is right in politics, what he views as left-winged or right-winged or what he shares of his experiences is relevant or simply put in this essay to emphasize his own views rather to argument against nationalism.

He encourages the use of socialist ideologies, but where does he explain its practice? Often he speaks of nationalists and their incorrect argumentation/reasoning, but his categorization of Trotskyism in negative nationalism and Zionism in positive nationalism is biased and has no logic whatsoever. Trotskyism is just the same as communism, Orwell claims, after categorizing communism as a transferred form of nationalism. Do we completely ignore the fact that Lev Davidovich Bronstein, the Jewish socialist, is Trotsky's real name? Do we completely ignore his Zionist background? How does this categorizing correspond with the realization of Trotskyism and Zionism? Orwell claims that ''All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts.''. Regarding this statement, he should be able as an unclouded socialist to see the set of facts presented to himon communism, Trotskyism and Zionism. He states, rightfully, that ''the Stalin regime has been accepted by the Russian masses''. As he however compared Trotskyism and communism as being similar ideologies (which they are and he was right to state this), what is the connection? Why did the Russian masses accept Stalin's regime, refused Trotskyism but ended up as a communistic state anyway? Why is Zionism a positive form of nationalism if it is barely present under Gentiles in the Western World?

There are too many flawed arguments for me to say I agree with Orwell, but his observations on the mental habits of nationalists is very interesting.
Profile Image for Paul.
692 reviews62 followers
April 1, 2020
It's a little scary how timeless the title essay of this small collection of Orwell nonfiction is. "Notes on Nationalism" was written 75 years ago, as World War II was drawing to a close, yet Orwell already was prescient enough to see that nationalism would live on past the imminent defeat of its statist forms in Germany and Italy.

Here are a few characteristics of nationalism identified by Orwell that are probably not hard to find as key components of today's modern political climate:

"Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be a genuine doubt about the most enormous events. ... One has no way of verifying the facts, one is not even fully certain that they have happened, and one is always presented with totally different interpretations from different sources. ... The general uncertainty as to what is really happening makes it easier to cling to lunatic beliefs. Since nothing is ever quite proved or disproved, the most unmistakable fact can be impudently denied."

"... we deceive ourselves if we do not realize that we can all resemble them in unguarded moments. Let a certain note be struck, let this or that corn be trodden on – and it may be a corn whose very existence has been unsuspected hitherto — and the most fair-minded and sweet-tempered person may suddenly be transformed into a vicious partisan, anxious only to ‘score’ over his adversary and indifferent as to how many lies he tells or how many logical errors he commits in doing so."

"The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged. And ... the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also. There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when ‘our’ side commits it. Even if one does not deny that the crime has happened, even if one knows that it is exactly the same crime as one has condemned in some other case, even if one admits in an intellectual sense that it is unjustified – still one cannot feel that it is wrong. Loyalty is involved, and so pity ceases to function."
Profile Image for Mark Joyce.
296 reviews48 followers
February 17, 2019
Like so much of Orwell’s oeuvre this collection of essays written in 1945 is still urgently relevant today. Obviously this is partly attributable to the brilliance of the author but also reflects the depressing rut that British politics has been stuck in for close to a century. The focus here is on nationalism, which Orwell defines broadly to include both the chauvinistic, dishonest, self-serving post-imperial nostalgia that has captured the Conservative Party with such disastrous national consequences in recent years and the dogmatic, detached from reality sixth-form Marxism that has made a comeback in the Labour Party, compounding the national calamity. The book also includes a short supplementary essay on anti-semitism in British political and intellectual life, which ten years ago may have read as an artefact from a mercifully bygone era. Again, though, this is a phenomenon with deep historical roots that has made a shameful comeback in the last couple of years. Large sections of both main political parties should read this collection, take a long look in the mirror and then do their constituents the favour of either growing up or fucking off.
Profile Image for Kaila.
721 reviews13 followers
December 1, 2018
4/5 stars

This was surprisingly interesting. This was a collection of three essays focusing on the idea of nationalism. George Orwell analysed how people and groups of people fixate on certain ideas and groups whilst systematically trying to shut down all other ideas. Or well focused on communism, anti-semitism and other political ideas. I found this book really interesting and actually highlighted the crap out of it. The ideas discussed in the book drew many similarities with current times but was also notably different, which is another thing I found interesting. I really don’t know what else to talk about. If you want a short, interesting read full of history and political ideas, read this one.
Profile Image for Jose LZ.
41 reviews5 followers
March 11, 2022
Un breve ensayo muy interesante, en el que el gran George Orwell deja patentes una vez más su lucidez y su mordacidad. Es impresionante comprobar que, a pesar de haber sido escrito en 1945, sus reflexiones siguen siendo aplicables a la época actual y, de hecho, explican muchos de los problemas que siguen sacudiendo al mundo en general. Es triste, pero los humanos seguimos cometiendo los mismos errores.
Profile Image for Ipsa.
181 reviews199 followers
June 21, 2021
instead of Nationalism, could Orwell be talking about...identity politics? *gasps*
Profile Image for Abdul Raheem.
128 reviews81 followers
June 19, 2021
Orwell defines nationalism as follows:

“the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.”

“the desire for power to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”


Nationalism is a rejection of individualism, the view at the heart of (classical) liberalism: that it is human individuals who are the locus of responsibility, duty, moral value, dignity and rights; and who are varied in their specific individuality, despite the similarly important
commonalities which all humans share.
Orwell distinguishes three varieties of nationalism according to the relation between the nationalist and the relevant “unit”, and gives several examples he has in mind:

Positive nationalism (Neo-toryism; Celtic Nationalism; Zionism);

Transferred nationalism (Communism; Political Catholicism; Colour Feeling; Class Feeling; Pacifism);

Negative nationalism (Anglophobia; Anti-Semitism; Trotskyism).

In addition, he also analyses certain psychological tendencies common to nationalistic thinking, which he lists as:



Indifference to reality

I do not think it is much of a leap to say that this is in fact a rather prescient analysis of contemporary Identity Politics, or what is sometimes mockingly called “Social Justice Warfare”.

For under Identity Politics, human beings are “classified like insects” into groups, identities or “units“, as Orwell calls them to which one might identify with strongly, “recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests” and being driven by an aim “to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality”. And likewise one notices amongst the ever louder and louder proponents of Identity Politics the three tendencies Orwell listed: obsession, instability and indifference to reality

Identity Politics is nationalism, much as Orwell understood it in 1945
Profile Image for Lilly   Minasyan.
335 reviews29 followers
February 21, 2019
One of those books that I had the urge to highlight everything!
The one quote that I will share in my review is this one:
“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”
I understand why this book isn’t mandatory in schools, because it challenges you and your way of thinking in such a good way, that I cannot even put it into the words. And in some countries, if you are a blindsided nationalist, it would be easier to control your emotions and make you follow the rules. One good example, Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and so on. You will start to think that YOUR people are so much better than the rest, and the other’s lives aren’t that of importance and you will do anything your government desires you to do.

George Orwell is not just a writer but also a truth teller. Every sentence of this book was so true, so critical.

I HIGHLY recommend. I wish I have read this book when I was in my teens, I’d have been a more conscious person sooner.
Profile Image for Asun.
186 reviews
January 2, 2019
I still like Orwell's writing and his novels but I do wish his anti-Communism wasn't so obvious when analyzing various forms of Nationalism. It is interesting how he mentions that intellectual figures seem to forget to apply the judgment of other nationalist movements to their own tendencies, something that Orwell clearly does as well.

Still, the three essays were quite interesting and, not shockingly, we still haven't properly figured out in 2019 a proper study of Nationalism in its different variants.

I particularly loved the essay on Anti-semitism and curiously enough, when he mentions that the Jews were clearly scapegoats, he could apply it himself to his obvious anti-communist bias. (Not that I defend Stalin's regime at all, but not everything is as black and white as our ideology would like it to be)
Profile Image for Rebecca Crunden.
Author 15 books415 followers
December 28, 2022
The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged. And, as I have pointed out already, the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also.

I can't believe I haven't read this before now, but I'm so glad I found it in the bookshop the other day. Written in 1945, many of the quotes and observations about nationalism and hatred continue - depressingly - to be applicable to today. I thoroughly recommend this to everyone, not just those interested in politics and history.
Profile Image for Lahierbaroja.
522 reviews126 followers
January 27, 2020
Sorprende darse cuenta de que aunque hayan pasado muchos años de este ensayo de Orwell, sigue de actualidad. Sus argumentos, punto por punto, radiografían más de una situación que vemos a diario en los periódicos.

Sorprende también que, a pesar de todo lo vivido, de toda la historia que llevamos a cuestas, no aprendemos.
192 reviews
December 31, 2019
My final book of the year and the decade. As relevant as when it was written in the middle of the last century. "One prod to the nerve of nationalism, and the intellectual decencies can vanish, the past can be altered, and the plainest facts can be denied," Orwell writes. It is an observation that immediately brings to mind the current crop of nationalists and populists - from Washington to Pretoria - with their cartoonish political circus acts and outright denial of plain facts. Orwell reminds us that while this is not the first era to witness a rise in nationalism, its generally baseless claims remain the same.
Profile Image for clem.
519 reviews372 followers
January 9, 2022
storygraph | instagram

the first essay, while insightful focuses too much on examples instead of building the rhetoric beyond its obvious limits. the last two, which directly correlates to the first, we’re quite shallow in comparison and didn’t add anything of substance to his argument.
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