Six years after the heavily over-Orwelled if otherwise unfateful year of 1984, and fully forty years since his death in 1950, one still feels that nothing like a clear picture of the precise quality of George Orwell has yet to emerge. Fame—a great, billowy, international cloud of fame—has got in the way. Ozone-like layers of controversy, chiefly having to do with conservative and left-wing claimants to Orwell’s political legacy, have further obscured the atmosphere. The highly uneven nature of Orwell’s writing has sent up yet more in the way of mist. Q. D. Leavis, for example, who early praised Orwell’s essays and criticism, asked that he write no more fiction. Then there is Orwell’s life, which from one standpoint appears so seamless, an unblemished sheet of uninterrupted goodness, and then from another makes him appear a cold and rather tasteless fish indeed, whose first wife felt that her...


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