April 7, 2015

An Age Like This: Orwell and Klein

I recently read An Age Like This, a compilation of Orwell's essays and letters from 1920 to 1940.

I sat down to share some quotations, including one about a "broken-down old wreck" of a goat "worn out by about 20 years of fucking his own sisters, daughters...", but instead I want to draw a line between him and me (him being Orwell, not the goat).

George Orwell, or Eric Blair if we want to use his real name, had no early aspirations to write the anti-authoritarian heavyweight 1984. He liked gardening, raising animals, and carpentry. In an ideal world, he would have lived in his cottage in the country and slowly accumulated a classic oeuvre, at a pace of a book a year.

Instead, the Spanish Civil War made such a lifestyle financially and philosophically impossible. Even after his life-changing experience of joining the war in Spain and writing Homage to Catalonia, he expressed some distaste for writing overtly about politics:

I hate writing that kind of stuff and am much more interested in my own experiences, but unfortunately in this bloody period we are living in one’s only experiences are being mixed up in controversies, intrigues, etc.

"One's only experiences are being mixed up in controversies"–this made me think of this age, and a passage from Naomi Klein's most recent book on climate change vs. the economy, This Changes Everything. She writes:

dropping out and planting vegetables is not an option for this generation. 

the fossil fuels runaway train is coming for us one way or another. 

In an ideal world, maybe I would devote myself to researching Turkic languages. But I do see the runaway train coming.

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