The great advantage of repudiating one’s past is that it provides a standpoint from which to scourge the past of others. Accordingly we are now being shown by Mr. Lionel Trilling that in Britain, just as in America, the 1930s was an age in which men with the minds of children wreaked havoc with the moral instincts of man. In his introduction to the recently republished edition of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia Mr. Trilling describes Orwell as the original anti-Communist and tells us that the British liberal was a dolt for not listening to him. He celebrates Orwell as a decent sort of fellow who stood out among the riffraff of the time simply because he was decent. In this violation of Orwell’s thought Mr. Trilling delicately avoids the revolutionary thrust of Orwell’s argument and forgets what it was like to be a liberal or a radical—in Britain as well as America—in the thirties.
It is a failure to see the problems of the thirties as ...
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