Orwell’s Ghosts

Laura Beers


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C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd
13 June 2024
ISBN: 9781911723028
224 pages

From the publisher

With Orwell claimed by all sides of the culture wars, returning to his own world and words offers sharp and surprising lessons for today’s crises.

Seventy-five years after 1984 first published, George Orwell is back. Progressives denounce ‘Orwellian’ untruths by Trump, Johnson, Putin et al, while conservatives accuse governments and mainstream media of ‘Orwellian’ censorship. But what does ‘Orwellian’ really mean? What would the man himself say about these crises, and what can we learn from his ideas?

Orwell’s Ghosts reveals Orwell in all his complexity, exploring his commitment to political liberty and economic justice alongside his undeniable chauvinism. This sharp free thinker’s commentaries remain invaluable, whether on political truth, disinformation, class, race and empire, or highlighting the promise of socialism and the dangerous appeal of authoritarianism. Even Orwell’s misogyny offers troubling lessons about gender politics on the left. All of his books show remarkable resonance between the first half of the twentieth century and today’s world.

Revisiting Orwell’s own age of rapid change and urgent crossroads, this book sheds unique light on both our recent past and our current upheavals.

‘Full of fascinating historical detail and keen insights into contemporary politics, this is a gripping, insightful guide to Orwell’s significance in the twenty-first century.’ — Sandra Newman, author of Julia

‘Essential reading for anyone who wants to know why Orwell is the ideal guide to our own age of upheaval.’ — Jason Cowley, Editor-in-Chief, The New Statesman

‘Rescues Orwell from “two-dimensional caricature” to present one of our greatest novelists and essayists, warts and all. Beers reveals how Orwell’s politics, shaped by the tragedies of the first half of the twentieth century, can help to understand our own age of insecurity. An essential read.’ — Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

‘With all and sundry taking Orwell’s name in vain these days, it is timely to have a reminder of who he was and what he believed in, and also how his body of work can help us understand the world we live in now. Just the insight into his writings, beyond the obvious and best-known titles, makes Orwell’s Ghosts well worth reading.’ — Nicola Sturgeon, former First Minister of Scotland

‘Beers convincingly uses Orwell’s work to address current events … Her careful reflections on Orwell’s thought are of value for those familiar with his work and those who only know him from two of his books. A determined attempt to rescue Orwell from the clutches of right-wing pundits and others who misconstrue his messages.’ — Kirkus Reviews

‘A refreshing challenge to half-remembered, lazy assumptions about Orwell’s ideas, pinpointing what he actually meant and why it matters. Rooted in the history essential for truly understanding Orwell, this book helps us think again about why we should read him today.’ — Charlotte Lydia Riley, author of Imperial Island: A History of Empire in Modern Britain

”Orwellian’ is one of the most misused adjectives in the lexicon. In this fascinating and timely study, Laura Beers teases out the real meaning of the word and its implications for the social and political arrangements of the twenty-first century.’ — D. J. Taylor, author of Orwell: The New Life

‘Beyond Orwell’s relevance to our terrifying present of post-truth politics and the shadow of tyranny, Beers shows how his often-forgotten socialist politics ought to matter to his legacy—and how the antiracism and feminism of our present demonstrate Orwell’s limitations. Her wonderful book suggests that the relation between past and present is anything but simple.’ — Samuel Moyn, Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and History, Yale University, and author of Liberalism Against Itself

‘A perfectly timed and desperately needed book.’ — Tristan Snell, author of Taking Down Trump

‘A brilliantly insightful study of George Orwell. All those interested in Orwell and our world today should read this book.’ — Peter Stansky, author of The Unknown Orwell

‘Laura Beers’s reassessment of George Orwell’s legacy seamlessly weaves past and present to offer insightful lessons and cautions for our own time.’ — Allan J. Lichtman, author of Repeal the Second Amendment