Daily Archives: July 24, 2011

The Same Man

I loved this book. It compares and contrasts writers Eric Blair, a.k.a. George Orwell, and Evelyn Waugh.

In The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War the author Deavid Lebedoff presents the childhood experiences that formed each writers’ consciousness. I learned that while Blair’s father was a civil servant and thus the family had less income than Waugh’s the intricate English social system did confer rather high status on the family. Though he needed a scholarship (and was sneered at for this reason) Blair went to Eton, a prestigeous, if not the most prestigeous boarding school in England. This education, though painful at times, left an indelible mark on Blair. In their respective schools Waugh was the bully and Blair the bullied. Lebedoff mentions that someone once said that if you were the bully in school you become a conservative, if you were bullied, a liberal.

Then even more surprising, I learned that Waugh, whose family was more obsessed with social class, who was so enthralled with aristocracy, could not afford Eton or a boarding school of that ilk. He had to settle for school in his town and eventually got into a rather second class version of Eton.

Both writers were born in 1903 and their lives took radically different paths. They subscribed to different belief systems, and their writing achieved success at different points in their lives. Waugh was recognized early on as a writer of great style and wit, whereas Blair started out as a terrible writer and slowly improved to the greatness of his 1984.

The last chapters describe and interpret these authors’ beliefs towards politics, communism, family life, speaking out, and their own writing. It was most engaging. While both men would vote differently, parent differently and pray (or not) differently they shared some common beliefs. They both were skeptical of the modern age and its trust of technology and meritocracy. They believed instinct and character were human’s most important attributes and were leary of a society, like ours, where high SAT scores and such determined our leaders. (Though I doubt they’d be thrilled by Bush.) They saw that intellect without character led to great troubles.

I was inspired to learn that Blair wrote while sirens went off during air raids. What excuse to I have to neglect my writing?

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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in British Lit, non-fiction