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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Jan-18 > The Orwellian eye

The Orwellian eye

The writer whose brutal honesty brought clarity to the 20th century now helps us reckon with the post-truth 21st
DAN MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES

George Orwell died four months before I was born, and yet his impact on my politics has been more profound than that of any other writer or, for that matter, politician. His self-declared intention was “to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.” He certainly succeeded so far as I was concerned. I suspect that few writers have shaped the views of their readers to the extent that Orwell has.

Orwell entered my life in 1964 when I was in the fourth form at Sloane Grammar School in West London. Our new English teacher, Mr Carlen, decided that the whole of Class 4Y should read Animal Farm together, aloud. I was a voracious reader of whatever I could get my hands on but hadn’t heard of Orwell. We boys, tamed by the effortless authority of our teacher, took turns in reading out from the single copy passed between our lidded wooden desks. Animal Farm cast a spell on me that has never been lifted. Though engrossing as a simple story of animals taking control of the farm, I doubt we would have grasped the subtext if Mr Carlen hadn’t explained it. When he did it not only revealed the ingenuity of the book, it gave the class a sense of the adult world we were growing into: a world in which one-third of the population lived under Communism.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s January 2018 issue: Five writers attempt to plot the impending advances in shopping, politics, sex, food and computing through 2018. James Plunkett looks at shopping and explains how personalised prices will hand even more power to the big companies; Theo Bertram outlines why political volatility is here to stay and what it means for us; Kate Devlin argues that sex robots are only a part of the impending sexual revolution; Stephanie Boland outlines why we’ll all end up eating lab grown food; and Jay Elwes explains the next steps in our computing quantum leap. Elsewhere in the issue: Dani Rodrik uncovers the truth behind the great globalisation lie—there were always going to be losers, Iona Craig delves into the war in Yemen—the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, Chris Tilbury explains why Britain urgently needs a plan for its failing prisons
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