A Helpful Perspective on "The Political" For Translators and Others
Thread poster: RonPrice

Local time: 07:18
Jun 12, 2006


My poetry is political in the sense that George Orwell used the word. He used the word political in the widest possible sense. By political purpose in writing Orwell meant “the desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples' idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.” “Once again,” Orwell went on, “no book is genuinely free from political bias.”1 Even the opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

Orwell was in his early thirties when his specific political-literary orientation began to take shape. “The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale,” he said, “and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows. And the more one is conscious of one's political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one's aesthetic and intellectual integrity.” -Ron Price with thanks to 1George Orwell, “Why I Write,” 1947 at The Political Writings of George Orwell Internet Site, 2006.

You said it well, George,
after ten years of practice
of your art.1 It took me 40
years on some sinuous line
to make my work into an art.2

My starting point was a very
different partisanship, you
might call it a spiritual view,
some facts to which I want
to draw attention, to expose
some false consciousness,
to get a hearing, to find some
space in the public view.

I, like you, am driven on
by some demon whom I
can not resist or understand.
But political purpose is at
the base of my literary vitality.
Were it not for this energy
my writing would be lifeless,
betrayed into purple passages,
sentences without meaning,
decorative adjectives and humbug.

1 1936/7-1946/7 2 15 to 55: 1959 to 1999 --Ron Price June 12th 2006


Local time: 07:18
After Nine Years Jan 31, 2015

Since no one has responded in the last 9 years, and just to keep this thread alive, I'll add a little more on George Orwell.-Ron Price, Australia

Part 1:

In April 1936, the English author and journalist George Orwell(1903-1950) started to rent a small place which functioned as a village grocery. the location was an old, dark, and pokey cottage—insalubrious and devoid of all basic amenities (no inside toilet, no cooking facilities, no electricity—only oil lamps for lighting). On rainy days the kitchen floor was underwater; blocked drains turned the whole place into a smelly cesspool. Peter Davison, the editor of Orwell’s diaries and letters,1 comments: “One may say without being facetious, it suited Orwell to the ground.” And it especially suited Eileen, his wonderfully Orwellian wife. She moved in the day of their marriage, in 1936, and the way she managed this improbable home testifies both for her heroism and for her eccentric sense of humor.

The income from their grocery shop hardly ever covered the rent of the cottage. The main customers were a small bunch of local children who used to buy a few pennies’ worth of lollipops after school. By the end of the year, the grocery went out of business, but at that time it had already fulfilled its true purpose: Orwell was in Barcelona, volunteering to fight against fascism. When he enlisted into the Anarchist militia in the Spanish Civil War, he could proudly sign “Eric Blair, grocer.”1

Part 2:

In that same year, in fact the following month, in May 1936, Shoghi Effendi the then appointed leader of what claimed to be the latest of the great Abrahamic religions, the Baha’i Faith, began to prepare the American Baha’i community to launch its first systematic teaching campaign in April-May 1937. In a letter on 1 May 1936 he referred to “humanity entering the outer fringes of the most perilous stage of its existence.”2-Ron Price with thanks to 1Simon Leys, “The Intimate Orwell: A Review of Orwell’s Diaries and Letters,” The New York Review of Books, 26 May 2011; and 2Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, p.6.

You had such a short writing life,
George, or should I say Eric----in
those 1930s and 1940s. It was all
over by mid-century. We both had
a horror of politics; we both were
non-partisan. You were much more
bold as a writer than you were as a
person: reserved, reticent, awkward.

I liked your single-minded personality,
George, certainly a single-mindedness
has become more and more true of me
in this the evening of my life; it was true
of the Guardian2-single-minded devotion.

Your diaries were published nearly 50 years
after your death, and mine, George, what will
happen to mine?...All this writing, George……
where will it all go when I go into a hole and
write and speak no more, no more, George!!

1 Simon Leys, “The Intimate Orwell: A Review of Orwell’s Diaries and Letters,” The New York Review of Books, 26 May 2011.
2 Shoghi Effendi, the appointed leader of the Baha’i Faith: 1921-1957.

Ron Price
11/8/'11 to 31/1/'15.


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