George Orwell’s America

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I am not blaming the Americans for all this. The anti-British press has powerful business forces behind it, besides ancient quarrels in many of which Britain was in the wrong. As for popular anti-British feeling, we partly bring it on ourselves by exporting our worst specimens. But what I do want to emphasise is that these anti-British currents in the USA are very strong, and that the British press has consistently failed to draw attention to them. There has never been in England anything that one could call an antiAmerican press: and since the war there has been a steady refusal to answer criticism and a careful censorship of the radio to cut out anything that the Americans might object to. As a result, many English people don’t realise how they are regarded, and get a shock when they find out.

It is sad to have to admit it, but we have no monthly… magazines in England to come up to the American ones.

3. Soldiers’ Pay.

It is now two years since the first American troops reached this country, and I rarely see American and British soldiers together. Quite obviously the major cause of this is the difference of pay. You can’t have really close and friendly relations with somebody whose income is five times your own. Financially, the whole American army is in the middle class. In the field this might not matter, but in the training period it makes it almost impossible for British and American soldier to fraternise. If you don’t want friendly relations between the British army and the American army, well and good. But if you do, you must either pay the British soldier ten shillings a day or make the American soldier bank the surplus of his pay in America. I don’t profess to know which of these alternatives is the right one.

—December 17, 1943

 

Leisure and Wood-Pulp

ONE CANNOT BUY magazines from abroad nowadays, but I recommend anyone who has a friend in New York to try and cadge a copy of Politics, the new monthly magazine, edited by the Marxist literary critic, Dwight Macdonald. I don’t agree with the policy of this paper, which is anti-war (not from a pacifist angle), but I admire its combination of highbrow political analysis with intelligent literary criticism. It is sad to have to admit it, but we have no monthly or quarterly magazines in England to come up to the American ones—for there are several others of rather the same stamp as Politics. We are still haunted by a half-conscious idea that to have aesthetic sensibilities you must be a Tory. But of course the present superiority of American magazines is partly due to the war. Politically, the paper in this country most nearly corresponding to Politics would be, I suppose, the New Leader. You have only to compare the get-up, the style of writing, the range of subjects and the intellectual level of the two papers, to see what it means to live in a country where there are still leisure and wood-pulp.

—June 1944

The Supreme Example of the ‘Good Bad’ Book

 
Uncle Tom’s Cabin …is an unintentionally ludicrous book, full of preposterous melodramatic incidents: it is also deeply moving.

PERHAPS THE SUPREME example of the “good bad” book is Uncle Tom’s Cabin . It is an unintentionally ludicrous book, full of preposterous melodramatic incidents; it is also deeply moving and essentially true; it is hard to say which quality outweighs the other. But Uncle Tom’s Cabin, after all, is trying to be serious and to deal with the real world. How about the frankly escapist writers, the purveyors of thrills and “light” humour? How about Sherlock Holmes, Vice Versa, Dracula, Helens Babies or King Solomon’s Mines? All of these are definitely absurd books, books which one is more inclined to laugh at than with , and which were hardly taken seriously even by their authors; yet they have survived, and will probably continue to do so. All one can say is that, while civilisation remains such that one needs distraction from time to time, “light” literature has its appointed place; also that there is such a thing as sheer skill, or native grace, which may have more survival value than erudition or intellectual power. There are music-hall songs which are better poems than three-quarters of the stuff that gets into the anthologies: