On the road again

It often happens that as I’m thinking a post through in my head, hints and links come to me from all sorts of sources which fit in with what I’ve been considering. Though I’m not sure higher powers read this blog, I’m certainly not ruling out intervention. I’ve been reading George Orwell’s The Road To Wigan Pier of late, and just finishing it I found this piece via Kottke: Amusing Ourselves To Death, by Stuart MacMillen. Then my good friend forwarded me links to several of Orwell’s extended essays, in cute Penguin editions.

It turns out Mr Eric Blair is far more interesting than just 1984 (in fact, read MacMillen’s piece, it looks like Huxley won). Wigan Pier was written in the depressed thirties, when Hitler and the fascists loomed over the Old World, and modernity through mechanisation was everywhere at hand. Yet Orwell hardly celebrates this progress (although it’s one of his hallmarks of socialism) – instead the book focuses on the horrendous unemployment of the day and the vast class differences that caused millions of ordinary English folk to live in absolute destitution and do nothing about it.

It’s fascinating for Orwell’s brutally honest self-examination in terms of his own upbringing and political views, as well as a snapshot of life then – when compared to life now it’s amazing how far some things have come, and some things haven’t. I’d love to read a modern-day update: The Road to Speke, perhaps, or The DLR to Canning Town.


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