A long long time ago I read George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four and much more recently picked up his equally classic Animal Farm. I instantly loved both (but the former is still my favorite of the two), and when I stumbled upon Christopher Hitchens’ Why Orwell Matters, I knew I had to give it a read.
Why Orwell Matters is not as much a biography of Orwell’s life as it is a sober and concise attempt to show exactly who George Orwell was. It dispels the notion that he should be worshipped as a genius as well as the notion that he was some kind of monster, and presents him as a complex individual, more times than not correct about the battles he fought, and strangely prescient about how the twentieth century would unfold. It also spends a good chunk of time outside of the works we know Orwell best for, which is interesting but requires more than a single reading if you haven’t read the original material involved.
It also turns out that Hitchens is a particularly interesting author for this book, as he was quite involved in the events surrounding discourse on Orwell after his death. This is nice, as Hitchens is able to add material you can’t find elsewhere on many of the authors that either stood for or against Orwell (as Hitchens got to talk to them personally long ago).
The book is pretty readable throughout, and as I really only knew Orwell through his books before this book, and nothing about his life in general, this was a great way to remedy that problem and see the profound influence he has had over the last hundred years. With that, I don’t want to spoil too much about exactly “why Orwell matters”, but hopefully that has piqued your interest, so get reading!