The world lost a great writer and great thinker last December when Christopher Hitchens succumbed to the esophageal cancer that had robbed him of much of his energy, though not of his keen wit and ability to spin delicious prose. One of his last, and for him perhaps most satisfying, works was an introduction to a volume of diaries written by George Orwell from 1931 to 1949. That volume is set to be published next month and Vanity Fair has posted Hitch’s entire foreword online. The essay (as it is much more so that than a mere introduction) seeks to give the reader some basic insight into Orwell’s mindset, his motivations and his outlook on the world. Hitch sets the tone wonderfully from the introductory paragraph:
At different times he instanced what he called his “power of facing unpleasant facts”; his love for the natural world, “growing things,” and the annual replenishment of the seasons; and his desire to forward the cause of democratic socialism and oppose the menace of Fascism. Other strong impulses include his near-visceral feeling for the English language and his urge to defend it from the constant encroachments of propaganda and euphemism, and his reverence for objective truth, which he feared was being driven out of the world by the deliberate distortion and even obliteration of recent history.
The entire essay is worth a read for any fan Christopher Hitchens, George Orwell, or mastery of the English language.