A review of "Christopher Hitchens: What He Got Right, How He Went Wrong, and Why He Still Matters" by Ben Burgis
Zero Books, 160 pages, 2022
In an ancient Indian parable, a group of blind men come across an elephant. One takes hold of the trunk and concludes this creature must be like a snake, another puts his hands around a leg and decides it must be like a tree, yet another presses against its side and concludes it must be like a wall, and so on. They get into an argument which doesn’t end, because they are all, in a sense, right.
Writers with diverse interests and lengthy careers in the public spotlight can be like this elephant. Many of George Orwell’s 21st-century fans know him only as the icy satirist of Stalinist Communism in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. His nearly two decades of novels, literary criticism, social commentary, and advocacy of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist causes is surprisingly easy to overlook. But, as Christopher Hitchens observed in Why Orwell Matters, “without an understanding of his other motives and promptings, this legacy [of anti-Stalinism] is decidedly incomplete.”