Since it first appeared, in the essay “Why I Write” in 1946, this line of Orwell’s has been quoted so often we can easily forget that it is false. Even the truest writing is artificial, as Orwell knew, because writing is unnatural. Some sentences will be more honest than other sentences, it’s true, and they will be well-intentioned or not, to one degree or another, but none of them will be transparent. Head doctors tell us we can’t glance in a mirror without some adjustment of the facial muscles, or walk onto a stage without a change in posture or gait, no matter how infinitesimal or sly. Something similar happens when we take pen in hand or huddle in front of the keyboard. Nobody transfers himself whole and natural and naked to the page to be gazed upon by friends and strangers through the glass.
He saw the surveillance state way ahead of his time. The prescience of “1984” can chill you after pondering how the growth of government combined with the advances in technology create the monster-state Orwell fictionalized. The ubiquitous street cameras, drones, and the NSA shall eventually morph into an oppressive beast if left unchecked.
“Animal Farm” demonstrates how all animals are equal while some are more equal than others just like Obama exempts members of Congress from the onerous Obamacare.
I’m looking at “Burmese Days” and “Homage to Catalonia” on the bookshelf. Which should I open first?