With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts.
Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty.
His essays, covering everything from “English Cooking” to “Literature and Totalitarianism,” are memorable, and his books reviews (Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Mumford’s Herman Melville, Miller’s Black Spring, Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield, to name just a few) are among the most lucid and intelligent ever written.
From 1943 to 1945, he wrote a regular column for the Tribune, a left wing weekly, entitled “As I Please.” His observations about life in Britain during the war embraced everything from anti-American sentiment to the history of domestic appliances.
I did not even know that the British Empire is dying, still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it.
All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.Various Burmans stopped me on the way and told me about the elephant's doings.It was not, of course, a wild elephant, but a tame one which had gone ‘must’.Early one morning the sub-inspector at a police station the other end of the town rang me up on the phone and said that an elephant was ravaging the bazaar. I did not know what I could do, but I wanted to see what was happening and I got on to a pony and started out.I took my rifle, an old .44 Winchester and much too small to kill an elephant, but I thought the noise might be useful in terrorem.I had almost made up my mind that the whole story was a pack of lies, when we heard yells a little distance away.There was a loud, scandalized cry of ‘Go away, child! ’ and an old woman with a switch in her hand came round the corner of a hut, violently shooing away a crowd of naked children.That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes.Some of the people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that he had gone in another, some professed not even to have heard of any elephant.Considering that much of his life was spent in poverty and ill health, it is something of a miracle that in only forty-six years George Orwell managed to publish ten books and two collections of essays.Here, in four fat volumes, is the best selection of his non-fiction available, a trove of letters, essays, reviews, and journalism that is breathtaking in its scope and eclectic passions.