Tuesday, November 15, 2005

George Orwell: some favourite quotes

Here's a selection of quotes from the works of George Orwell I had lying around and suddenly thought ought to be worth sharing.

Since about 1930 the world has given no reason for optimism whatever. Nothing is in sight except a welter of lies, hatred, cruelty and ignorance, and beyond our present troubles loom vaster ones which are only now entering into the European consciousness. It is quite possible that man's major problems will never be solved. But it is also unthinkable! Who is there who dares to look at the world of today and say to himself, "It will always be like this: even in a million years it cannot get appreciably better"? So you get the quasi-mystical belief that for the present there is no remedy, all political action is useless, but that somewhere in space and time human life will cease to be the miserable brutish thing it now is.in essay "Arthur Koestler", written Sept 1944; CEJL3, p. 281.
This age makes me so sick that sometimes I am almost impelled to stop at a corner and start calling down curses from Heaven like Jeremiah or Ezra or somebody - 'Woe upon thee, O Israel, for thy adulteries with the Egyptians' etc. etc.early Sept (?) 1934; CEJL1, p. 164.
What a decade! A riot of appalling folly that suddenly becomes a nightmare, a scenic railway ending in a torture-chamber.of the 1930s; 25/04/1940; CEJL1, p. 585.
... [W]e have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.01/1939; CEJL1, p. 413.
The mass of the people never get the chance to bring their innate decency into the control of affairs, so that one is almost driven to the cynical thought that men are only decent when they are powerless.16/06/1938; CEJL1, p. 361.
Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion ...01/1939; CEJL1, p. 413.
... [T]hat 'the truth is great and will prevail' is a prayer rather than an axiom.01/1939; CEJL1, p. 414.
I suppose with all these drugs it's rather a case of sinking the ship to get rid of the rats.letter to Julian Symons 20/04/1948, describing effects of streptomycin administered for tuberculosis.
I was too young to fight in the war and therefore my opinion about it is valueless ...24/09/1936; CEJL1, p. 261.
[Of Advertising:] ... the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket ...Keep the Aspidistra Flying; quoted by Shelden, Ch 12, p. 241.
On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.'The Art of Donald McGill', 2/1942.
[Of trashy, humourous postcards:] The corner of the heart they speak for might easily manifest itself in worse forms, and I for one should be sorry to see them vanish.'The Art of Donald McGill', 2/1942.
It's not a good idea to give the chickens names, because then you can't eat them.attrib. David Astor; quoted by Shelden, Ch. 19, p. 393.
As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 262
[Giving a novel a sophisticated title] is done by choosing a title that ought to have a 'the' in it and then leaving out the 'the' ...23/01/1936; CEJL1, p. 184.
Few people have the guts to say outright that art and propaganda are the same thing.31/12/1936; CEJL1, p. 290.
All art is propaganda. ... On the other hand, not all propaganda is art.in "Charles Dickens", 1939; CEJL1, p. 492.
The basic trouble with all orthodox Marxists is that, possessing a system which appears to explain everything, they never bother to discover what is going on inside other people's heads. That is why in every western country, during the last dozen years, they have played straight into the hands of their adversaries.31/12/1936; CEJL1, p. 290.
Galsworthy was a bad writer, and some inner trouble, sharpening his sensitiveness, nearly made him into a good one; his discontent healed itself, and he reverted to type.of John Galsworthy, playwright; 12/03/1938; CEJL1, p. 343.
The very few women who were in or near the line and were get-atable were simply a source of jealousy. There was a certain amount of sodomy among the younger Spaniards.1939 (?); of the militias during the Spanish Civil War; CEJL1, p. 358.
[T]he best soldiers were usually the machine-gunners ... The fetishistic attitude which men in this position develop towards their gun, rather as towards a household god, is interesting and should be studied.1939 (?); of the militias during the Spanish Civil War; CEJL1, p. 361.
... [H]e has an essentially decent intellect, a kind of intellectual chivalry which is far rarer than mere cleverness.of Bertrand Russell; 01/1939; CEJL1, p. 414.
In the last analysis it is doubtful whether any liberal criticism of a totalitarian system is really relevant; it is rather like accusing the Pope of being a bad Protestant.12/01/1939; CEJL1, p. 417.
Mass-suggestion is a science of the last twenty years, and we do not yet know how successful it will be.12/01/1939; CEJL1, p. 419.
... Dickens is obviously a writer whose parts are greater than his wholes. He is all fragments - rotten architecture, but wonderful gargoyles ...in "Charles Dickens", 1939; CEJL1, p. 497.
[T]he 'Communism' of the English intellectual is something explicable enough. It is the patriotism of the deracinated.Inside the Whale, 1939; CEJL1, p. 565.
So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot. The warmongering to which the English intelligentsia gave themselves up in the period 1935-9 was largely based on a sense of personal immunity.Inside the Whale, 1939; CEJL1, p. 566.
Being inside a whale is a very comfortable, cosy, homelike thought... There you are, in the dark, cushioned space ... with yards of blubber between yourself and reality, able to keep up an attitude of the completest indifference, no matter what happens.Inside the Whale, 1939; CEJL1, p. 571.
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. The Kingdom of Earth is forever unattainable. Every attempt to establish liberty leads directly to tyranny. One tyrant takes over from another, the captain of industry from the robber baron, the Nazi gauleiter from the captain of industry, the sword gives way to the cheque book and the cheque book to the machine-gun, the Tower of Babel perpetually rises and falls.25/04/1940; CEJL1, p. 584.
Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.from his essay "Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali"; quoted in Shelden, p. 5.
Contrary to popular belief, the past was not more eventful than the present. If it seems so it is because when you look backward things that happened years apart are telescoped together, and because very few of your memories come to you genuinely virgin.Autumn 1940; CEJL1, p. 587.
The lovers of football are large, boisterous, nobbly boys who are good at knocking down and trampling on slightly smaller boys. That was the pattern of school life - a continuous triumph of the strong over the weak.quoted in Shelden, p. 42.
Britain today has a million and a half less children than in 1914, and a million and a half more dogs.CEJL3, p. 49.
At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.Last words written in his notebook
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.Animal Farm
Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.CEJL
"Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."1984
Serious sport 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.Shooting an Elephant
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face_forever.1984
The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.Shooting an Elephant
I'm fat, but I'm thin inside. Has it ever struck you that there's a thin man inside every fat man, just as they say there's a statue inside every block of stone?Coming up For Air [Cyril Connolly wrote in The Unquiet Grave: "Imprisoned in every fat man a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out."]
In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people - the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me."Shooting an Elephant", 1936
The more one is aware of political bias, the more one can be independent of it, and the more one claims to be impartial, the more one is biased.from letter to Sir Richard Rees, 28/07/1949, Collections and Essays, vol. 4, Secker & Warburg 1968, p. 505.
For instance, I have here a prospectus from another summer school which states its terms per week and then asks me to say ‘whether my diet is ordinary or vegetarian’. They take it for granted, you see, that it is necessary to ask this question. This kind of thing is itself sufficient to alienate plenty of decent people. And their instinct is perfectly sound, for the food-crank is by definition a person willing to cut himself off from human society in hopes of adding five years on to the life of his carcass; that is, a person out of touch with common humanity.The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937