Dec 6 2016

Olive Oil and Orwell

Roma, Italia

Olive Oil and Orwell

(1) The New Criterion has re-posted (originally from May 1990) Joseph Epstein’s deep, long meditation on the significance George Orwell and why his relevance remains, including this jewel:

Unfortunately for Danielle Steel and Euclid, it is neither number of books sold nor number of children forced to read a author that confers upon him true literal fame. Instead it is the currency of his ideas that matters. Here Orwell has scored, and scored heavily. “Orwellian” has clearly left“Kafkaesque,” “Chekhovian,” and other literary eponyms far behind.

But read the whole thing.

(2) Coincidentally, I just finished reading Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) for the first time. One particular passage that hung in my mind involved socks with holes. I myself have often polished my scuffed shoes with olive oil, but I’ve never used ink on my ankles:

It was midday before Boris decided to get up. All the clothes he now had left were one suit, with one shirt, collar and tie, a pair of shoes almost worn out, and a pair of socks all holes. He had also an overcoat which was to be pawned in the last extremity. He had a suitcase, a wretched twenty-franc cardboard thing, but very important, because the patron of the hotel believed that it was full of clothes––without that, he would probably have turned Boris out of doors. What it actually contained were the medals and photographs, various odds and ends, and huge bundles of love-letters. In spite of all this Boris managed to keep a fairly smart appearance. He shaved without soap and with a razor-blade two months old, tied his tie so that the holes did not show, and carefully stuffed the soles of his shoes with newspaper. Finally, when he was dressed, he produced an ink-bottle and inked the skin of his ankles where it showed through his socks. You would never have thought, when it was finished, that he had recently been sleeping under the Seine bridges. (Chapter V)