Churchill and Orwell

Churchill and Orwell

The Fight for Freedom

Large Print - 2017
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From author Thomas E. Ricks, a dual biography of Winston Churchill and George Orwell, with a focus on the pivotal years from the mid-1930s through the 1940s, when their farsighted vision and inspired action in the face of the threat of fascism and communism helped preserve democracy for the world. Both George Orwell and Winston Churchill came close to death in the mid-1930's--Orwell shot in the neck in a trench line in the Spanish Civil War, and Churchill struck by a car in New York City. If they'd died then, history would scarcely remember them. At the time, Churchill was a politician on the outs, his loyalty to his class and party suspect. Orwell was a mildly successful novelist, to put it generously. No one would have predicted that by the end of the 20th century they would be considered two of the most important people in British history for having the vision and courage to campaign tirelessly, in words and in deeds, against the totalitarian threat from both the left and the right. Together, to an extent not sufficiently appreciated, they kept the West's compass set toward freedom as its due north. It's not easy to recall now how lonely a position both men once occupied. By the late 1930's, democracy was discredited in many circles, and authoritarian rulers were everywhere in the ascent. There were some who decried the scourge of communism, but saw in Hitler and Mussolini 'men we could do business with,' if not in fact saviors. And there were others who saw the Nazi and fascist threat as malign, but tended to view communism as the path to salvation. Churchill and Orwell, on the other hand, had the foresight to see clearly that the issue was human freedom--that whatever its coloration, a government that denied its people basic freedoms was a totalitarian menace and had to be resisted. In the end, Churchill and Orwell proved their age's necessary men. The glorious climax of Churchill and Orwell is the work they both did in the decade of the 1940'sto triumph over freedom's enemies. And though Churchill played the larger role in the defeat of Hitler and the Axis, Orwell's reckoning with the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984 would define the stakes of the Cold War for its 50-year course, and continues to give inspiration to fighters for freedom to this day. Taken together, in Thomas E. Ricks's masterful hands, their lives are a beautiful testament to the power of moral conviction, and to the courage it can take to stay true to it, through thick and thin.
Publisher: Waterville, ME : Thorndike Press, 2017
Edition: Large print ed
ISBN: 9781432841171
Characteristics: 589 p. (large print) ; 23 cm


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Nov 24, 2017

Churchill and Orwell; an interesting comparison of two very interesting lives - their times, their vastly different backgrounds, their common fight for freedom, and their foreboding about the future - their future that is our present!
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Ricks is a recognised authority on (American) national security and foreign affairs. I found his writing informative and lucid, valuable traits when dealing with what could have been a very heavy subject.
The book does not shirk from identifying the character weaknesses in the protagonists, but treats them respectfully in balance with their great qualities. With all their human failings, they were passionate in facing totalitarian tyranny (Churchill to the Nazis and Orwell to the Spanish fascists and the Russian communists alike.)
Orwell, a socialist, upset other socialists with his frank portrayal of some of them as “faddish cranks” who pretended to be championing a better life for the poor but didn’t have a clue about what the poor really suffered. Orwell did. He lived among them for lengthy periods to experience for himself the lifestyle of the oppressed, unemployed, underpaid in both Britain and France, and wrote essays about it to inform others (“The Road to Wigan Pier”, “Down and Out in Paris”).
Though Orwell despised the British ruling class - “Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time …”- he admired Churchill as different in some ways from his peers. He even named his hero Winston in his prophetic novel “1984”. A quote from his diary on April 28, 1941: “- with individual exceptions like Churchill, the entire British aristocracy is utterly corrupt and lacking in the most ordinary patriotism”.
Churchill was certainly born “with a silver spoon in his mouth”, but he advocated strongly for the “common” people to be recognised for their great contribution to the war effort when others of his class saw them only as cannon fodder. While Prime Minister, he sometimes slipped away from his minders, such as the time he got “lost” on a naval ship and was found in the engine room having tea and swapping yarns with the men there.
This book is both history and biography - aren’t all biographies histories? - and as such opens a window on British life in the 1930s and 40s in particular. Orwell (1903 - 1950) and Churchill (1874 - 1965) were both influential writers, passionate campaigners for freedom of thought as a necessary prerequisite for any other freedom to which nations and individuals alike might aspire. Their writings and speeches give insight to the minds of these great men and their times
A good read and a good springboard for research and further reading.

winston1 Sep 24, 2017

I found this book to be very informative. It could get a bit tedious at times but was so full of background material about Churchill and Orwell that I never knew about like Orwell intending Animal Farm as primarily a satire on the Russian Revolution. What Orwell and Churchill had in common was the issue of human freedom and moral conviction as evidenced in Churchill's role in the defeat of Hitler and Orwell's through showing the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984.

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