George Orwell, whose books have sold a phenomenal forty million copies in more than sixty languages, was the most influential prose stylist of the twentieth century. Kingsley Amis observed that “no modern writer has his air of passionately believing what he has to say and of being passionately determined to say it as forcefully and simply as possible.” Norman Mailer maintained: “I don’t think there’s a man writing English today who can’t learn how to write a little better by reading his essays. Even his maxims and instructions on how to write well are superb.” Like Hobbes and Swift, Orwell saw writing not only as a powerful tool for conveying ideas, but also as a demanding and enthralling art with a moral imperative to search for truth.

In an autobiographical note of April 1940, Orwell said “the modern writer who has influenced me most is Somerset Maugham, whom I admire immensely for his...


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