It was fascinating to reread Orwell’s first-hand accounts of his six months fighting against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, not just because he’s an excellent writer, but because you can see how his experiences on the front and behind the lines really flavoured his future classics Animal Farm and 1984. The way that propaganda was used in 1984, as a crude but effective weapon to be turned against anyone who knew the nuances of the complicated mess that war makes of people, was actually right before Orwell’s eyes as the pro-democracy Spanish government turned on its pro-democracy militias as agents of Fascists (which they were not). Orwell and his wife escaped with their lives not days before they might have been arrested at the border for the “crime” of having belonged to an out-of-favour faction. He was lucky to escape Spain with a bullet wound to his neck, though as he says, he couldn’t help feeling that he would have felt a lot luckier not to have been shot at all. Fascinating reading now, too, given the prevalence of online outrage, but lack of physical action from armchair activists, not something you could accuse Orwell of being guilty of.
No. 27 of 100 books I intend to read and review in 2020.
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Patrick Sherriff is an Englishman who survived 13 years working for newspapers in the US, UK and Japan. Between teaching English lessons at his conversation school in Abiko, Japan, with his wife, he writes and illustrates textbooks for non-native speakers of English, releases Hana Walker mystery novels, short stories, essays and a monthly newsletter highlighting good fiction published in English about Japan. Saku’s Random Book Club is his latest project to spend more time with books.