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Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens
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's review
Jan 03, 2012

really liked it
Read from January 03 to 10, 2012

It was all too much for me: the death of Christopher Hitchens, the death of Kim Jong-il. It was suddenly time to finally read Why Orwell Matters. It had always seemed a bit redundant and unnecessary to me. Of course Orwell Matters, he wrote a book called 1984.


But I’m happy to report that having read Hitchens’s Why Orwell Matters, Orwell does in fact matter.

How can we not connect the dots of North Korean death, Hitchens death, Hitchens work on Orwell, and thusly Orwell’s work on North Korea?

Hitchens remarks, having actually visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, that, “It’s the only time in my writing life when I have become tired of the term ‘Orwellian’…The resulting dankness and dinginess and misery would have been almost indescribable without reference to a certain short novel that had been bashed out on an old typewriter, against the clock, by a dying English radical half a century before.”

See, Orwell does clearly matter. If only to provide journalistic ease in framing the horrific magnitude of the shit that is North Korea.

Hitchens continues, “There have never been any reported dissidents in North Korea – a few defectors of course, as even The Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four was quite ready to admit…and we know as yet almost nothing of its secret prisons and remote detention camps. But one prediction I make is that before this book of mine goes on to the remainder shelf we will have found out.”

Have we found out?

Is Why Orwell Matters on the remainder shelf yet?

Hitchens also interestingly captures Orwell’s ability to predict the Occupy Wall Street movement. It turns out that Orwell was buried in the churchyard at Sutton Courtenay in Oxfordshire, the same resting place as a Mrs. Asquith (Lady Oxford) who had once remarked, “Since most London houses are deserted there is little entertaining…in any case, most people have to part with their cooks and live in hotels.”

Hitchens is quick to note that, “Of this splendid piece of aristocratic callousness Orwell commented in his diary that ‘apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99% of the population exist.’”

So while Christopher Hitchens dutifully defends Orwell against Empire, the Right, the Left, Englishness, America, Feminism, and the post-modernists, it is obvious that Orwell matters for 2 primary reasons: 1984 & Animal Farm.

Read ‘em, I say. It’s sexy.

Hitchens concludes, “…’views’ do not really count; that it matters not what you think, but how you think; and that politics are relatively unimportant, while principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.”

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