Orwell Taylor Front


After an email exchange a couple of weeks ago [November 2004] I said I would read D. J. Taylor's Orwell biography entitled ORWELL THE LIFE and that if I changed my original negative opinion of it I would add it to my bookshelf of recommended Orwell biographies.

I have now finished reading the book and I liked it, except for one three-page essay from chapter 15 entitled THE CASE AGAINST, which is written from the perspective of a Communist criticising Orwell. The excerpts that had turned me off Taylor's book a year ago obviously came from this small chapter which is not representative of the rest of the 449 pages of the book. I find it strange that sentiments from this small chapter are also excerpted on the back cover of the book.

Orwell Taylor Back
"...D.J. Taylor's magisterial assessment cuts through George Orwell's iconic status
to reveal a bitter critic who concealed a profound totalitarian streak and
whose progress through the literary world of the 1930s and 1940s
was characterized by the myths he built around himself.
Drawing on previously unseen material, Orwell is a strikingly human portrait of the writer
too often embalmed as a secular saint.
This is the biography we have been wating for
-- as vibrant, powerful, and resonant as its extraordinary subject."

Although I liked ORWELL: THE LIFE, I don't consider it a true biography because it doesn't go through Orwell's life in detail but instead provides what could best be described as "colour commentary" to facts brought out in other biographies. If a person did not already have a solid background of knowledge on Orwell's life, they wouldn't understand much of what Taylor is referring to. But if a person has read previous Orwell biographies and/or Orwell's other books, then Taylor's book is a great addition because it helps put things clearly into space and time and rounds out some rough edges. In other words, it builds on other books and thus enhances a person's understanding of Orwell.

So, aside from the pages 350 to 352, entitled THE CASE AGAINST, and subtitled COMRADE X: A MARXIST GUIDE TO TWENTIETH CENTURY NOVELIST GEORGE ORWELL, I enjoyed Taylor's book and found it well researched and interesting. It contained some information that I had never come across before. Taylor says in the introduction that it took him "most of my twenties to establish the areas in which Orwell was fallible" and sets out to "desanctify" him but in fact he adds to Orwell's sanctification, intentionally or not. No matter how people try to spin Orwell, his words and actions always shine through and his "crystal spirit" emerges for all to see.

All the best,
Jackie Jura, 2004


AMERICAN'S VIETNAM CONFUSION (Stephen sends New Statesman article)

Stephen wonders who Orwell would vote for if he were alive in Britain's 2005 general election

Stephen sends info on BBC Radio program about Orwell & DJ Taylor interview
Jackie responds: ...I listened on-line to the George Orwell segment of the BBC radio program GREAT LIVES and my negative opinion of the biography by D.J. Taylor was reinforced. He seems to be the establishment's chosen Orwell authority but in my opinion he is NOT the be-all and end-all of Orwell biographers. Actually, I haven't read his book ORWELL: THE LIFE and wasn't intending to after reading excerpts of it last year when it came out in time for Orwell's centennial. He struck me as a person who is opposed to Orwell. Some of the things Taylor says about Orwell aren't true and seem to be an attempt to discredit him. In the interview he more or less accuses Orwell of lying about his down and out experiences and he ascribes totalitarian characteristics to Orwell that aren't founded. He goes beyond proof in interpreting Orwell's thoughts, actions, motives and attributes and comes across biased against Orwell. It's like he's trying to convince people that Orwell wasn't as good and honest a man as he has previously been portrayed...

Stephen says colour photos existed when Orwell was alive (autochrome process was invented in 1907)

Stephen sends directions to Eileen's grave (She is buried in St Andrew's and Jesmond Cemetery)

ORWELL'S WIFE'S GRAVE (Stephen describes his visit to Eileen's grave)

BLUE EYED ORWELL (Stephen says Orwell's blue eyes are on cover of latest biography)

Stephen talks about microchips (implanted under people's skin so they can be identified by electronic equipment)

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com