D. J. Taylor on the writer's attitudes to Jews and Jewishness
Interesting piece and great idea to publish it in the context of this serialisation. Food for thought and reflection.
I am guessing this is a typo. Last para, third sentence '...end up in a gas over.'
Intriguing and nuanced discussion of the complicated view of Orwell and the Jewish community. It was an interesting read to say the very least. But I can’t help pointing out that the view of a biographer is hardly identical to the experience of the individual reader who enters into a dialogic relationship with everything they read. And it seems reasonable that a 21st century reader might well connect some Orwell passages discussed in this essay with contemporary concepts such as tacit prejudice. This in the end is what makes past literature alive and relevant. It’s ability to speak to us not just of a past time but our own.
Intriguing essay. It’s always cringy hearing about some of the typical language of previous generations. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge Orwell fan and reader. And I totally understand the complex feelings and thoughts he had, as was very ‘normal’ for the time. And I think it’s problematic to become overly invested in judging past authors with a contemporary lens, particularly when it comes to racial attitudes, language, politics, etc. Not because what happened in the past (anti-semitism, racism, slavery) was ‘okay’ (it wasn’t) but because fundamentally that’s where society was on many levels at fill-in-the-blank historical time. Surely much of what we all think of as normal in 2022 will seem horrific and absurd in 50, 100 years on both the political right and left alike. (If that long.) This doesn’t alter Orwell’s cognitive genius or authorial stylistic brilliance.
Thanks for this nuanced essay