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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 2, 2007 / 12 Adar, 5767

In defense of Orwell

By Paul Greenberg


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The other day I picked up my favorite little magazine, The New Criterion, and was delighted to spot the name of Anthony Daniels, aka Theodore Dalrymple, in the table of contents.


I turned with anticipation to his appraisal of a classic work of George Orwell's, "Homage to Catalonia." Oh, boy, one of my favorite critics of the knee-jerk left was going to re-examine Orwell's classic memoir of the Spanish Civil War — a model of the kind of reportage an honest writer can produce in times that may be anything but.


Though I began reading Anthony Daniels' article eagerly, I had to force myself to finish, the piece turned out to be so wrong-headed, so one-noted, so just plain undiscerning. And so uncharitable. It was like watching an automobile accident unfold in slow motion, going from bad to awful.


Mr. Daniels has mistaken the vaguely Trotskyite notions that Orwell brought to Spain, and which he would eventually outgrow, as the essence of the book. Orwell's ideology at the time was just part of his book, and the least important part of it at that. It's certainly not the part that has endured for 70 years, continuing to shed light on what that struggle was about, and showing how the cause of the Spanish republic was taken over by Stalin's agents.


The reader who comes to Orwell's "Homage of Catalonia" only after he's read Orwell's later, famous "1984" and "Animal Farm" has to marvel at how Eric Blair became George Orwell — by putting away his young, more-leftist-than-thou theories and relying instead on direct, personal experience. That's how he would become the conscience of his generation. And often enough of ours.


No wonder there's an Orwell cult. As a member of it, I can assure Mr. Daniels that those of us who admire Orwell do not mistake him for a saint, any more than he himself did. Quite the opposite. It is Orwell's ability to tell quite ordinary truths that continues to stun.


You don't run across beautifully plain, simple writers very often in an entirely too sophisticated age, as Anthony Daniels almost grudgingly notes. Or plain, simple people, for that matter. When you do, they stick in the mind.


But in this look back at "Homage to Catalonia," the simple purity of Orwell's language is largely dismissed. Instead of seeing a diamond, Anthony Daniels is fascinated by all the flaws in its setting. He's so absorbed in making his own ideological points that he's largely ignored how Orwell rose above his — simply by telling what happened to him in Spain.


Anthony Daniels winds up despising Orwell's book as much as the Communists and their fellow travelers did when it came out, and for much the same reason: It fails to meet an ideological test.


The Spain of 1937 comes alive in "Homage to Catalonia," which reads like a diary written by someone intent on describing just what that time and place was like — in prose clear as a window pane, which was Orwell's goal.


It's as if a member of the Nazi Party, first exulting in its seizure of power in Germany, had come to realize, experience by harrowing experience, what a terrifying society he was helping create. And he rebels. Imagine what a valuable record and revelation so honest a book would be, as "Homage to Catalonia" is.


It was Orwell's esthetic — his love of the beauty and discipline of the English tongue — that would save him from all his left-wing newspeak and that, generations later, still enlightens the rest of us.


The incandescent quality of Orwell's his language, his instinctive honesty and decency, is evident on almost every page of "Homage to Catalonia," and renders his ideology at the time inconsequential. Yet, hard as it is to believe, Anthony Daniels seems almost oblivious to Orwell's window-pane prose.


The roots of Orwell's masterful "Animal Farm" and "1984," and of his disaffection for communist utopias — indeed, with the idea of any utopia at all — can be discerned in the simple decency of "Homage to Catalonia." As was his habit, Orwell was testing his ideological assumptions against actual experience. And because the reader knows what Orwell would become, he can sense those assumptions being undermined as the writer takes on what he would call the "smelly little orthodoxies" of his time.


Orwell would leave Spain still some kind of off-brand Marxist revolutionary, but also nobody's man but his own. He would go on to become a man of neither left nor right but a critic of both, saved by the clarity of his prose and therefore of his thought. He would start to see through his own left-wing illusions with the same clarity he brought to bear on the Communists' lies in 1937. And he would do so with a purity that makes the rest of us, with our ideological certainties, reflexes and tics in general, look sick.


To judge "Homage to Catalonia" without considering what Orwell would write later, or the insights he had acquired before, or the luminous quality of his prose, and to emphasize only the agitprop he parroted at the time, is to miss the larger picture. It's to ignore context, and wind up losing sight of what matters most.


Orwell was regularly attacked from the left for his unorthodox views, and now Anthony Daniels has done him much the same service from the right. It turns out there's a knee-jerk right, too.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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