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Critical essays by George Orwell

Somehow I found myself at this trove, and reading some of his essays.
http://orwell.ru/library/books/htm_file/024

"Wells, Hitler and the World State", on Wells being trapped in his own past, unable to see the marriage of 'science' and barbarism as revealed in Hitler's Germany

"Rudyard Kipling", on 'good bad poetry', that says the obvious in a memorable way; Kipling being Conservative in the old sense, looking up to authority, while Orwell says all current Conservatives were really Liberals, Fascists, or Fascist sympathizers; Kipling being racist and imperialist and all but with an idea of responsibility and an attachment to defined action unlike a permanent opposition.

"Raffles and Miss Blandish", on the genteel crime fiction of Raffles, gentleman thief, who had no morals but did have standards, vs. the sadistic brutality of _No Orchids for Miss Blandish_ in the American style.

"Boys' Weeklies": magazines as truer and more specific guides to popular taste than oligopolistic broadcast media or expensive novels; older weeklies full of detailed school fantasies, crap writing, and ensembles of equal boys, vs. news ones with better writing, adventure stories (Wild West! Frozen North! Mars!) and hero or bully worship. Also women's weeklies, more realistic seeming stories -- urban jobs, sex, also short stories instead of long serials -- but with their own fantasy of a higher income. Magazines as Conservative propaganda, inculcating a particular worldview; why no left-wing weeklies, like Spanish ones where "police chasing an anarchist" would be from the POV of an anarchist?

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
heron61
Jul. 15th, 2013 08:14 am (UTC)
"Boys' Weeklies"

Fascinating, and the picture of US storytelling is also interesting, troubling, and likely fairly correct. The only popular works US I've read from the 20s & 30s were SF, but I've read quite a bit of it, and there's no shortage of genocide against aliens, although vastly less of the sort of gritty violence mentioned here as common in US stories.

The idea of left-wing stories for young people is fascinating, in large part because I grew up with a love for stories like that - with the most memorable (at least to me) being Andre Norton's stories where large corporations, would-be human imperialists, corrupt space cops, and anti-science &/or puritanical religious fanatics were all exceedingly common villains - Heinlein also had a bit of that, but also included quite a number of seriously right wing juveniles too. I can definitely say for certain that Norton's work in particular shaped beliefs that I still hold.

"Wells, Hitler and the World State"

It's perhaps worth noting that the idea of rational world government was even more popular shortly after WWII than it may have been before it. It lived on in SF through the 1960s, and until that swift right-turn in US ideology in the early 1950s, it was more widespread from just after the end of WWII to maybe 1952 or so. I also find it interesting that in the previous essay Orwell speculated that many of the common attitudes were shaped by conservative youth media and here he seems to say that the same ideas of nationalism and the cult of violence and bullies is in some way innate - I see rather a serious flaw in this piece in that more than a generation of the right sort of education and social conditions (which in many ways we can see in much of Western Europe today) can do a great deal to kill off popular religiosity, violent nationalism, and similar feelings in anyone but a small number of extremists.
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