Quotes

A new book from Penguin Orwell on Truth has just come out (2020), “a collection of George Orwell’s fiction and non-fiction on this elusive subject, bring his much-needed voice of reason to today’s post-truth world”: this is a little selection they have given us (else buy the book!) Some of their choices are repeated below in our choice here…

….You are free to be a drunkard, an idler, a coward, a backbiter, a fornicator; but you are not free to think for yourself….
….Intellectual honesty is a crime in any totalitarian country; but even in England it is not exactly profitable to speak and write the truth….
….In England such concepts as justice, liberty and objective truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions….
….If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear….
….The imagination, like certain wild animals, will not breed in captivity….
….Political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question begging and sheer cloudy vagueness….
….Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to ….Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind….
….No book is genuinely free from political bias….
….Who controls the past, ran the Party slogan, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past….
….Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought….
….Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.

Everyone will have their own selection of quotes from Orwell’s work.  And the selection will change according to context, purpose, mood, attitude.  This selection starts with several from Down and Out in Paris and London, and moves through just a few other mainly better known examples.

From GEORGE ORWELL, Down and Out in Paris and London:

It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level.

The man who really merits pity is the man who has been down from the start, and faces poverty with a blank, resourceless mind.

In all the modern talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except “Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it”? Money has become the grand test of virtue.

The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.

In practice nobody cares if work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modern talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except ” Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it”? Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised.

We know that poverty is unpleasant; in fact, since it is so remote, we rather enjoy harrowing ourselves with the thought of its unpleasantness. But don’t expect us to do anything about it. We are sorry for you lower classes, just as we are sorry for a, cat with the mange, but we will fight like devils against any improvement of your condition. We feel that you are much safer as you are. The present state of affairs suits us, and we are not going to take the risk of setting you free, even by an extra hour a day. So, dear brothers, since evidently you must sweat to pay for our trips to Italy, sweat and be damned to you.

the strange thing is that when a word is well established as a swear word, it seems to lose its original meaning; that is, it loses the thing that made it into a swear word. A word becomes an oath because it means a certain thing, and, because it has become an oath, it ceases to mean that thing.

There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher’s daughter.

From other writings of George Orwell:

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

GEORGE ORWELL, Politics and the English Language

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

GEORGE ORWELL, preface to Animal Farm

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.

GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Most people approve of capital punishment, but most people wouldn’t do the hangman’s job.

GEORGE ORWELL, The Road to Wigan Pier

People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

GEORGE ORWELL, Partisan Review, Winter 1945

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.

GEORGE ORWELL, The Lion and the Unicorn

Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers.

GEORGE ORWELL, The English People

Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings. If one could follow it to its psychological roots, one would, I believe, find that the main motive for “non-attachment” is a desire to escape from the pain of living, and above all from love, which, sexual or non-sexual, is hard work.

GEORGE ORWELL, Reflections on Gandhi

Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache…. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.

GEORGE ORWELL, Why Socialists Don’t Believe in Fun

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket.

GEORGE ORWELL, Keep the Aspidistra Flying

All animals are equal
But some animals are more equal than others.

GEORGE ORWELL, Animal Farm

Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.

GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Sanity is not statistical.

GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eighty-Four

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.

GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eighty-Four

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Prolonged, indiscriminate reviewing of books is a quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job. It not only involves praising trash but constantly inventing reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feeling whatever.

GEORGE ORWELL, Confessions of a Book Reviewer

All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news.

GEORGE ORWELL, Why I Write

Other quotes:

Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.

The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.

I sometimes think that the price of liberty is not so much eternal vigilance as eternal dirt.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.

In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.

Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.

All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

Patriotism is usually stronger than class hatred, and always stronger than internationalism.

It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it; consequently, the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning.

Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

In our time political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.

Liberal — a power worshipper without power.

A famous quote often attributed to Orwell but almost certainly not written or said by him:

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

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