Quotations by Orwell, George


It is not merely that “power corrupts”; so also do the ways of attaining power.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Arnold Koestler” (1946)
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Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali,” opening words (1944)
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All art is propaganda. … On the other hand, not all propaganda is art.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Charles Dickens” (1940)
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A thing is funny when — in some way that is not actually offensive or frightening — it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution. … Whatever destroys dignity and brings down the mighty from their seats, preferably with a bump, is funny.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Funny, But Not Vulgar” (Dec 1944)
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To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“In Front of Your Nose,” Tribune (22 Mar. 1946)
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The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“In Front of Your Nose” Tribune (22 Mar 1946)
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History consists of a series of swindles, in which the masses are first lured into revolt by the promise of Utopia, and then, when they have done their job, enslaved over again by the new masters.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution” (May 1946)

Summarizing Burnham's view of history.
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Power-worship blurs political judgment because it leads almost unavoidably to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem invincible.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution” (May 1946)
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There are families in which the father will say to his child, “You’ll get a thick ear if you do that again,” while the mother, her eyes brimming over with tears, will take the child to her arms and murmur lovingly, “Now, darling, is it kind to Mummy to do that?” And who would maintain that the second method is less tyrannous than the first?

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool” (1947)
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We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don’t take the sword perish by smelly diseases.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Looking Back on the Spanish War” (1943)

Source essay
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Although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to feel that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (1945)
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By “nationalism” I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labeled “good” or “bad.” But secondly … I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. … By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by “our” side. The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” Polemic, (Oct. 1945)

Source essay. Commonly misquoted as "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." This is not found in Orwell's works, but was a paraphrase of this and other Orwell writings by Richard Grenier, "Perils of Passive Sex," Washington Times (6 Apr 1973). See here for more information.
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Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics and the English Language,” Horizon, (Apr. 1946)

Source article
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The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics and the English Language,” Horizon, (Apr. 1946)

Source article
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A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics and the English Language,” Horizon (Apr 1946)
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One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics and the English Language,” Horizon (Apr 1946)
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A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics and the English Language,” Horizon (Apr 1946)
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In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics and the English Language” (Apr 1946)
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Public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels” (Sep-Oct 1946)
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Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Reflections on Gandhi” (Jan 1949)
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He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Shooting an Elephant” (1936)
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The weakness of the child is that it starts with a blank sheet. It neither understands nor questions the society in which it lives, and because of its credulity other people can work upon it, infecting it with the sense of inferiority and the dread of offending against mysterious, terrible laws.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Such, Such Were The Joys…” (1952)
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The moral dilemma that is presented to the weak in a world governed by the strong: Break the rules or perish.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Such, Such Were the Joys” (1947)
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On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“The Art of Donald McGill,” Horizon, London (Sep 1941)
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The high sentiments always win in the end, the leaders who offer blood, toil, tears, and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“The Art of Donald McGill” (Sep 1941)
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On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good and not quite all the time.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“The Art of of Donald McGill” (1941)

http://www.george-orwell.org/The_Art_of_Donald_McGill/0.html
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The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent. Each of them tacitly claims that “the truth” has already been revealed, and that the heretic, if he is not simply a fool, is secretly aware of “the truth” and merely resists it out of selfish motives.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“The Prevention of Literature” (Jan 1946)
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If there is a wrong thing to do, it will be done, infallibly.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“War-time Diary” (18 May 1941)

See Murphy's Law.
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Back in the nineteen-hundreds it was a wonderful experience for a boy to discover H. G. Wells. There you were, in a world of pedants, clergymen and golfers, with your future employers exhorting you to “get on or get out”, your parents systematically warping your sexual life, and your dull-witted schoolmasters sniggering over their Latin tags; and here was this wonderful man who could tell you about the inhabitants of the planets and the bottom of the sea, and who knew that the future was not going to be what respectable people imagined.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Wells, Hitler, and the World State,” Horizon (Aug 1941)
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Power-worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
(1946)
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If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
(Attributed)
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The secret of a successful restaurant is sharp knives.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
(Attributed)
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The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
(Attributed)
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ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE
EQUAL THAN OTHERS

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Animal Farm, ch. 10 (1946)
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Four legs good, two legs bad.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Animal Farm, ch. 3 (1945)
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[T]he behaviour of the cat was somewhat peculiar. It was soon noticed that when there was work to be done the cat could never be found. She would vanish for hours on end, and then reappear at meal-times, or in the evening after work was over, as though nothing had happened. But she always made such excellent excuses, and purred so affectionately, that it was impossible not to believe in her good intentions.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Animal Farm, ch. 3 (1945)
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Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing toward anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Animal Farm, Preface [Ukrainian ed.] (Mar 1947)
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If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Animal Farm, Unpublished Preface (1945)

The original essay was written in 1945 as an introduction to the book, but was left unpublished  It was finally published as "The Freedom of the Press" in New York Times Magazine (8 Oct 1972).

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He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbeleive in God as personally dislike Him).

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Down and Out in Paris and London, ch. 30 (1933)
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Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, I.7 (1949)
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WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part I, ch. 1 (1949)
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Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you insane. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
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He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
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“How can I help it?” he blubbered. “How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
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Big Brother Is Watching You.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1.1 (1949)
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Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthdoxy is unconsciousness.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1.5 (1949)
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The secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one’s infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, 2.9 (1949)
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There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. … Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, 3.3 (1949)
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Power is power over human beings. Over the body — but, above all, over the mind.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, 3.3 (1949)
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Will you understand, Winston, that no one whom we bring to this place ever leaves our hands uncured? We are not interested in those stupid crimes you have committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 3, ch. 4 (1949)
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As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.

orwell-worst-advertisement-for-socialism-wist_info-quote

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
The Road to Wigan Pier, ch. 11 (1937)
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You also ask, if I think the world tendency is towards Fascism, why do I support the war. It is a choice of evils — I fancy nearly every war is that. I know enough of British imperialism not to like it, but I would support it against Nazism or Japanese imperialism, as the lesser evil. Similarly I would support the USSR against Germany because I think the USSR cannot altogether escape its past and retains enough of the original ideas of the Revolution to make it a more hopeful phenomenon than Nazi Germany. I think, and have thought ever since the war began, in 1936 or thereabouts, that our cause is the better, but we have to keep on making it the better, which involves constant criticism.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Letter to Noel Willmett (18 May 1944)
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At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Notebook, last words (17 Apr 1949)
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See Camus.
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Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Review of A Coat of Many Colours: Occasional Essays by Herbert Read, Poetry Quarterly (Winter 1945)
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Most books are propaganda, direct or indirect.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Review of The Civil War in Spain by F. Jellinek (8 Jul 1938)

 

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