Monday, July 30, 2007

Walking And Chewing Gum

I can not understand how anyone claiming an interest in the politics of the Left could start reading George Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" and not quickly complete reading it.

Yet in this article, Nick Cohen of all people states "....I did start Homage to Catalonia a few years ago, but to my shame I never finished it."

This might help to explain why Nick finds it difficult to oppose both Fascism and Imperialism at one and the same time, even though in his book "What's Left?" he talks of the need to be able to "walk and chew gum at the same time".

A full study of Orwell would put him on this wavelength. Anyone not hooked on Orwell, should start scanning Gauche. And (praise indeed) as good as Orwell himself is Bernard Crick's biography of him.

11 comments:

Danivon said...

That really does beggar belief, as the book really does get better to read as it goes along (and it isn't even that long a book either).

I suppose because it wasn't written by Nick Cohen, it's less important...

Harry Barnes said...

Danivon,
It is the favourite book of my favourite writer. Its short chapters alternate between military activity and political in-fighting in a way which means you can't put it down -unless you are Nick Cohen. Then for Nick to volunteer the information that he couldn't be bothered to finish it, is astonishing. Appropriately Orwell starts his book with a quotation -

"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him,
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit"
Proverbs, XXVI, 5-6.

Harry Barnes said...

Incidently, my wife and I visit Crawley at times - our daughter lives there.

Danivon said...

It's a small world, eh?

Danivon said...

By the way, I think Cohen is not unaware of Gauche - he reviewed Paul Anderson's 'Orwell in Tribune' for Democratiya recently.

Harry Barnes said...

Danivon,
Whilst Nick praises Paul's editing of "Orwell in Tribune", he also condemns the current paper which Paul still contributes to as surviving "only in the sense that a geriatric in a coma survives". I know that its not what it once was, but its the only weekly I still read. Proof I suppose!

Alec Macpherson said...

By the looks of it (and I haven't read What's Left), Nick sees Orwell as a tasty condiment to add to his argument; just as the antiestablishment "Left", or Liberals with Iraq fixations, are wont to.

Both seem to focus on Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four. Admittedly powerful books, but only two which appeared in the last two or three years of his short but varied life. As you say, prosaic tales of scrabbling through mine tunnels or dry political events in HtC just aren't exciting enough.

If you think that anyone who claims to understand the Left must be capable of devouring HtC, I suggest anyone who claims to understand Orwell cannot think it's all about oil.

It's coal.

Harry Barnes said...

I can't understand Nick Cohen telling us that he had started reading HtC but couldn't be bothered to finish it, when he did not need to say anything. Goeff Hoon when Minister of Defence after just sending our forces into Iraq asked me what British Forces had been doing in Iraq when I was there in 1955-6. He should have known beforehand. As he did not, he should at least have had the good grace not to reveal that he did not know. Likewise Cohen, a man who writes about Orwell should have hidden his failures from view.

Alec Macpherson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alec Macpherson said...

Fudge, don't know what I did there!

Was it on your NS?

My guess is that Nick was attempting to engender some sense of humility to counter that of a self-regarding bore. Unfortunately, all he managed to do was appear to be lazy and ill-informed. As the Quakers would say, everyone has something to bring to the conversation: including silence.

So, I can at least understand why he did it. I'm buggered, though, if I can work out Buff Hoon's motives.

Harry Barnes said...

Alec. Hoon initially raised the matter with me in private, but then compounded matters by himself explaining our exchange to a meeting of the Labour MPs' Defence Committee.