This provoking short book about aspects of George Orwell – provoking in both senses, as its author might say – sits somewhat uneasily in the territory between polemic, personal memoir, thesis and biography. It is not helped by a mysterious title. What exactly is Orwell's Victory? Christopher Hitchens never tells us in so many words. At times the phrase seems to refer to the prescience of Animal Farm, 1984, and the letters and essays in which he describes how the postwar world might turn out. As the recent publication of his complete oeuvre has shown, Orwell combined the ability to look long and hard at reality with a remarkable talent for inferring accurate conclusions from limited information. He was also an acute critic of other political futurologists and, in so far as his views have outlived theirs, he has certainly conquered them. These are points Hitchens makes eloquently – and often – but they hardly justify the accolade of victory. Orwell wasn't always right and his outlook was coloured, like anyone else's, by temperament and prejudice. There were also other commentators, Churchill among them, who were just as far-sighted in their own ways, although Hitchens’s animus against the Right (of which more below) perhaps prevents him from saying so.
A more likely explanation for the title, given the amount of space devoted to it in this book, is that it refers to Orwell’s trouncing of his critics on the Left. Like many socialist writers, he relished a punch-up with the comrades, and Hitchens is not far behind him in