In the introduction to a new volume of George Orwell’s diaries, Christopher Hitchens, recently deceased, drew insights from the man whom many consider to be one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. Almost everyone has read at least one of Orwell’s social commentaries, Animal Farm or 1984, for example. The diaries, however, written between 1931 and 1949 give us a glimpse not into his genius but into his character. Hitchens admitted being drawn to that character and the reason, I suspect, is because it was so like his own.
Surface likenesses spring to mind at once. Both men were brilliant and had inquisitive minds. Both were master of English prose. Religion was never a strong suit for either of them– though Orwell never broke from the Anglican Church while Hitchens, who rejected faith, longed for it. Perhaps their ambivalence is the quality that most invites comparison.
Contradictions exist in all of us. Thomas Jefferson declared all men were created equal yet kept slaves. Our brains, as research has revealed, are designed to accommodate self deception. Yet Hitchens and Orwell shared a passionate desire to face their delusions in order to know themselves better. What Hitchens wrote of Orwell could be equally said of himself.
When he contradicts himself, as he very often does, he tries his best to be aware of the fact and to profit from it. (“The Importance of Being Orwell,” by Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, August, 2012, pg. 69)
(George Orwell, Courtesy of valenrumlivro.mtv.uol.com.br)