“The Prevention of Literature” is one such essay, and today I’d like to respond to it from 2018.
Orwell argues that totalitarianism makes literature impossible.
Some of this work is great, and this greatness might seem, at first glance, to undermine Orwell’s point.
But great works of literature are always a miracle, and they are usually dissonant with their environment, which might be what allows them to transcend time and, in translation, space.
“What is new in totalitarianism,” he wrote, “is that its doctrines are not only unchallengeable but also unstable.
They have to be accepted on the pain of damnation, but on the other hand, they are always liable to be altered on a moment’s notice.” Orwell had observed the disfavor and disappearance of prominent Bolsheviks and the resulting adjustments to the official narratives of the Revolution—the endlessly changing and vanishing commissars. Pick Your Brain go into extra detail how the rules work and why you should consider them.Orwell’s essay goes into, obviously, more detail with some other ideas to consider also.In “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Orwell predicted this negotiation, and named it doublethink.You will recall that “even to understand the word doublethink involved the use of doublethink.” Doublethink destroyed the mind and crushed the soul, and yet it was essential for survival.George Orwell’s 5 Rules for Effective Writing – [Pick Your Brain] Politics and the English Language – [Orwell.ru] In this episode, we talk with Dr.Kyler Shumway, Doctor of Clinical Psychology and author of The Friendship Formula: How to Say Goodbye to Loneliness and Discover Deeper Connection. Shumway was a target of bullying; he also found himself plagued with social anxiety, which he still battles today, yet also uses as an empowering guide to help others overcome social anxiety and form solid, lasting friendships within their own lives. Shumway is an advocate for friendship and believes that: “…It is something integral to totalitarianism, something that would still continue even if concentration camps and secret police forces had ceased to be necessary.” The lying entailed constantly rewriting the past to accommodate the present.“This kind of thing happens everywhere,” he wrote, “but is clearly likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment.It would follow that, as with the perpetual lie, this literature-deadening effect can outlast state terror. But Orwell notes that “literature has sometimes flourished under despotic regimes.” It is having to cater to the instability imposed by totalitarianism—having to constantly adjust one’s world view—that is murderous to the writer, or at least to the writing.Orwell’s assessment is based on his own intuition but also on the observation that little literature of note came out of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.