Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation by Jeffrey Meyers - review by Jeremy Lewis

Jeremy Lewis

Eric Blair: Grocer

Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation


Norton 380pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

Busy researching a biography of Cyril Connolly, I was surprised to come across a note from George Orwell to his old school friend suggesting that they should review each other’s most recent books on the familiar grounds of ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’ Whereas Connolly – idle, greedy, pin-striped, racked with self-pity – seemed to some to embody the corrupt metropolitan literary world, the haggard, austere, tweed-jacketed Orwell, recently returned from fighting fascism in/ Spain with a bullet wound in his throat, was surely the sea-green incorruptible made flesh? In fact, neither man made concessions to friendship when it came to setting down his views in print, but that Orwell should have suggested a trade-off between Homage to Catalonia and Enemies of Promise still came as a shock.

V S Pritchett was responsible for the subtitle of Jeffery Meyers’s lively new life, and in the years since his death from TB in 1950 Orwell’s standing as a paragon of integrity and embattled common sense has been steadily enhanced, as admirable and as inimitable to later generations as to

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