My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Eric Arthur Blair, better preferably known as George Orwell, wrote a series of essays that dealt with the subject matters close to the human life in the manner of a journalist with heart. This book is a definitive anthology of Orwell’s essays contributed to various magazines and newspaper that will invite the readers to the Orwellian world of reality as he saw and he liked.
Orwell was capable of perceiving the absurdities of reality and truths masqueraded by ornamented political euphemism to obfuscate the masses for unscrupulous intentions. Of all his essays, “Why I write” is a paragon of his fineness as a great essayist. In the essay, Orwell provides the readers with sage guidelines for a writer, one of which is a choice of the subject matter that should be determined by the age a writer lives in. Such advice links with Leo Tolstoy’s view on great work of art to be closely related to the ethos of the time it is made. That is, a writer is unavoidably influenced by the ethos of the time he lives against his willful struggle to escape from solid reality.
Orwell asserts that a writer should discipline his temperament lest he should be stuck at immature stage or depressive mood. A writer should think straight so that he can write clearly. This shows Orwell’s belief in writing not as a platform for babbling about his egoistically driven existential dilemma of daily life, for consuming his energy into such self-induced woes and pains will kill the creative spirit in him, the very impulse to express himself as he truly is. To my delight, Orwell further expounds 4 motives for writing as follows:
(1) Sheer egoism: desire to be regarded as clever and much to be talked about. Writers are vain in the fact that they do want to be individuals, not compromising with the social conditions of reality. Writers can be egotistical and vain because of their elitist attitude toward the opinions of others and general opinions of the public, but are less interested in monetary reward.
(2) Aesthetic enthusiasm: desire to beautify arrangements of words in pleasing manner by using a plethora of flowery words and rhythmical rhymes.
(3) Historical impulse : desire to record historical facts of the time to pass the written records for the use of posterity.
(4) Political purpose: desire to direct the world in a specific direction in order to influence people’s views on society in such direction as it should be
The readers may find Orwell’s credo in writing rather anachronistic and dogmatic in consideration of the time the essay was written (1946). However, what rings the bell is the recognition of impulse to write as a sublime human act of expressing himself in connection with the time and society he lives in because as Aristotle put, “Man is a political animal.” This collection of Orwell’s poignant, honest, and witty essays will guide the readers into the mind garden of Orwell where moral obligation and the psychological facts are differentiated as pointed out in “Such, Such Were the Joys” and where there is a pleasant, family-friendly pub called “The Moon Under the Water” with a privilege to appreciate Orwell’s brilliant display of language facility and power of facing unpleasant facts in his own words.