George Orwell: a life in quotes

Wit and clarity of thought characterise George Orwell's most memorable observations.

A family with the wrong members in control – that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.

1941, 'The Lion and The Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius’, pt.3, 'The English Revolution’

Probably, the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there. One of the dominant facts in English life during the past three-quarters of a century has been the decay of ability in the ruling class.

1941, 'The Lion and The Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius’, pt.4

Prolonged, indiscriminate reviewing of books involves constantly inventing reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feelings whatever.

1946, 'Confessions of A Book Reviewer’

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.

1946, 'In Front of Your Nose’

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery.

1946, 'Why I Write’

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

1946, 'Politics and the English Language’, collected in 'Shooting an

Elephant’, 1950

The controversy over freedom of speech and of the press is at the bottom a controversy over the desirability, or otherwise, of telling lies. What is really at issue is the right to report events truthfully, or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers.

1946, 'The Prevention of Literature’, in 'Polemic’, January

At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.

1949, notebook entry, April 17

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

1946, 'Politics and the English Language’

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