👍 Orwell’s Many-Thorned Bomb Shelter: A Conversation with Rebecca Solnit

Liked Los Angeles Review of Books,Orwell’s Many-Thorned Bomb Shelter: A Conversation with Rebecca Solnit (Los Angeles Review of Books)

I first read Speak, Memory when I was young, and that was such a memorable passage for me because it’s such a beautiful illustration of the principle that “you see what you are looking for.” This relates to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which I first read as a teenager, and have reread many times since. It was really extraordinary to go back and read it again with the “new equipment” of having a sense of an Arcadian Orwell, Orwell the passionate gardener, someone who is not nearly as grim and pessimistic as he’s always been made out to be. Rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four and finding that, although the torture is still there, the totalitarianism is still there, the propaganda is still there, the counter he offers is not just resistance to that in the blankest way, but these moments of pleasure Winston Smith seizes that are all so often moments of beauty, moments in the natural world. It was surprising to find out, on this reading, how lush the novel was, how it describes a range of pleasures that mattered to Winston Smith and mattered to Orwell … from the golden country to the coral paperweight, to the birds singing.

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