George Orwell is best known for his novels Animal Farm and 1984. Both were written toward the end of a life cut short by tuberculosis. But they came after a long period of reflection, activism, and engagement, through what one writer has called the “dark valley” of the 1920s and 30s and the death and destruction of the Second World War. 1984, we are told, is now at the top of the charts at Amazon.
Orwell’s insights into politics, propaganda, and the uses and abuses of power have never seemed so apt as they are today. He would have had a field day parsing the speeches and performances of the last few days. Were the possible consequences not so serious, one could enjoy a good laugh. But the ugly face of European populism after the First World War did too much irreparable damage for anyone to just walk away from the conceits and exaggerations that dot the landscape of presidential utterances.