Why Orwell Matters
Cover of the first edition
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
Why Orwell Matters, released in the UK as Orwell's Victory, is a book-length biographical essay by Christopher Hitchens. In it, the author relates George Orwell's thoughts on and actions in relation to:
- the British Empire;
- the left;
- the right;
- the United States;
- English conventions;
- feminism and women; and
- his controversial list for the British Foreign Office.
At the end of the book, Hitchens critiques Orwell's novels and legacy. An essay sequel to the book, "Why Orwell Still Matters," appears in John Rodden's 2007 compilation The Cambridge Companion to George Orwell (ISBN 978-0-521-85842-7).
Publishers Weekly wrote, "Hitchens brilliantly marshals his deep knowledge of Orwell's work. Fans of Orwell will enjoy Hitchens's learned and convincing defense, while those unfamiliar with Orwell may perhaps be induced to return to the source." George Packer of The Independent gave the book a mixed review, however, remarking, "Why Orwell Matters is presented by its publisher as a case of posthumous affinity between writers across generations, but critic and subject turn out to be mismatched, and it's the critic who suffers as a result."
Despite praising many of Hitchens's analyses of Orwell, Packer added, "For a slender book, Why Orwell Matters is oddly unfocused and hard to get through. What Hitchens has to say is what a sympathetic reader of Orwell would want said. But he never sustains a line of thought long enough or searchingly enough to reach a truly provocative insight. There's no sense of a deepening engagement with the subject; one is never allowed to forget the gesticulating presence of the critic. The valuable reflections on Orwell keep getting interrupted by a series of asides, ripostes and thrusts into tangled little backwaters."
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