Orwell: A Very English Socialist

Blake Morrison at The Guardian:

The key to his reading of Orwell is what happened to him in Spain. Though married to Eileen only six months before, he was determined to fight for the Republican cause (“Good chaps, the Spaniards, can’t let them down”) and on his return became far more politically engaged: “at last [I] really believe in Socialism, which I never did before”. But he’d seen bullying and infighting too. For the rest of his life and in his two great novels, this was the war he fought, on behalf of a wholesome, English, sweetly C of E brand of socialism, as opposed to Stalinist totalitarianism.

Equally crucial was that sniper’s bullet, which along with damp Catalan trench warfare damaged his already frail health. Born with defective bronchial tubes, he’d had bouts of pneumonia; after Spain he looked gaunt, haggard, primed for death. He hung on for 12 more years, but ill health is Taylor’s refrain throughout. If he resists making Orwell a caricatural bohemian consumptive, doomed to die young, he can’t disguise the stress and exhaustion Orwell endured in completing Nineteen Eighty-Four.

more here.