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By Patrick Reilly

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Additional info for George Orwell: The Age’s Adversary

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Not to be able to think clearly is a grievous misfortune, not to wish to do so is the final, unforgivable defection. The few cubic centimetres within the skull and their preservation behind a cordon sanitaire from the pestilence of the modern world - these are his fiercest commitment. Nothing will do but truth, however harsh. Confronting their own extinction, Freud and Orwell obey, in the most literal sense, George Eliot's injunction to live without opiates - metaphor becomes ungarnished fact in these heroes of truth.

Any proclaimed substitute for lost immortality, any proposed replacement for discredited Christianity, must prove itself in the fire of everyday experience, not simply as an impressively theoretical formulation, however inspired or imposing - only when a thing is tested can we say it works. Nowhere is Orwell more pragmatically, empirically English, nowhere more loyal to the Royal Society's motto, nullius in verba, than when he challenges Marxist and humanist to prove their claims, and the challenge is the more remarkable because, in an astonishing feat of self-division, he is throwing down the gauntlet to his own predilections.

Even this, however, is sometimes interpreted as a subtler mode of insincerity, an unscrupulous trick for disarming an opponent, a devious debater's stratagem. The 'hero' of Camus's The Fall is the supreme exponent of this honest dishonesty in his perfection of the strategy of the juge-pinitent: self-accusation as a device for incriminating others, the ultimate trick in the repertoire of the malign polemicist. 'I mean no harm by it, believe me', but the politeness makes him an even more dangerous predator, for harm is precisely what he does intend his unwary victim.

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