The Duty to Stand Aside: ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort

Eric Laursen. AK, $16 trade paper (186p) ISBN 978-1-84935-318-2
As this thoughtful but overly specialized literary history from journalist Laursen (The People’s Pension) recounts, during WWII George Orwell, public intellectual and future author of the now-classic cautionary tales Animal Farm and 1984, found himself at odds with Alex Comfort, poet, doctor, and eventual bestselling author of The Joy of Sex. Their public dispute revolved around the intellectual and artistic community’s responsibilities in times of war and under an “all-encompassing State.” Orwell, despite private qualms, believed strongly in this community’s duty to back the war effort against Germany and fascism, which he regarded as the lesser of two evils. Comfort, a pacifist, thought that intellectuals had a responsibility to resist both fascism and the U.K.’s controlling, invasive wartime government. Laursen argues, however, that Comfort’s arguments had a lasting effect on Orwell, noting that after WWII he wrote more sympathetically about pacifism. Laursen’s book works best on the macro level, in exploring the moral questions asked of artists and thinkers during times of conflict and repression. On the micro level, linking Orwell’s conception of 1984 to his engagement with Comfort’s ideas proves an intriguing but hazier line of inquiry. This remains a niche-interest study. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-84935-317-5
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