Shortly before his death in 1950, the author of 1984 supplied the Foreign Office with a list of public figures whom he suspected to be communist sympathizers and fellow-travellers — “cryptos”, in the language of the time. In his explanatory annotations, an ailing Orwell revealed a quasi-Nietzschean revulsion at the “sentimentalism” of his opponents on the left — a charge so conveniently nebulous it would have been the envy of many a KGB officer. One alleged “crypto” was highlighted for his “tendency towards homosexuality”; Paul Robeson, the black singer and antifascist, friend of the Spanish Republic and the Welsh miners, was preposterously denounced as “very anti-white.”
Eric Arthur Blair died much too soon, aged just 46, at the hands of tuberculosis. It is in some ways a blessing that he did not live to endure some of the leftist writing that has, since the 1960s, been churned out by the acolytes of Jean-Paul Sartre and the discipline of psychoanalysis. From Alain Badiou in France to Judith Butler in the United States, an esteemed coterie of radical thinkers have redefined prolixity with a veritable mint of flaky coinages — tenuous Latinizations, grotesque compound words and hideously self-referential jargon — squalidly ensconced in some of the most constipated dirge that ever passed for syntax. Death, you see, is not all bad.