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ISBN 071399584X / 9780713995848 / 0-7139-9584-X
Publisher Allen Lane Penguin Press
› Find signed collectible books: 'Orwell's Victory'
There can be few literary reputations that have become quite so battered in recent years as that of George Orwell, the subject of Christopher Hitchens' short and spiky Orwell's Victory. Feminists, socialists, conservatives, post-modernists and critics of empire have all lined up to take pot-shots at Orwell's "common-sense" style, his sometimes maverick politics, and above all his patrician world-view. Hitchens, a prolific writer and provocative political journalist himself, best known for his downsizing of the reputation of Mother Teresa, Henry Kissinger and Bill Clinton--successfully salvages Orwell from the backlash of posterity.
In a chatty and occasionally tangential account, he recreates the contexts and situations that influenced Orwell's most well-known work: privileged Eton, imperial Burma, the kitchens of Paris and the terraced streets of Lancashire, war-torn Spain, and London in the blitz. Throughout he judges Orwell in the light of the difficult contemporary questions he addressed--what Orwell called the "power of facing" unpleasant facts--rather than the ideological fashions of future generations. Some of Orwell's critics, notably Raymond Williams and Claude Simon, leave this book with the integrity of their own work in tatters. Hitchens is particularly good on Orwell's journalism, and deft at unpicking the deeper meanings of Animal Farm and 1984 . He doesn't really delve into Orwell's personal life, wherein lies the source of some of the posthumous contempt. But overall two reputations emerge intact from this little book: those of Orwell the voice of courageous sanity, and Hitchens, the arch-controversialist. --Miles Taylor [via]