# 405: BOOK OF THE WEEK — “Why I Write”
Story behind the Book Choice
This book was chosen by a dear friend of mine for me. He sent it to me out of the blue because he supports my writing. I feel very blessed to have people like that around me. The problem is: I think, he never read the book himself. He probably got it because of the title and thought of me. I once wrote a piece under the same title. But that is about it when it comes to the commonalities between Orwell’s work and my work — between Orwell as an author and me as an author. I remember I read Animal Farm in high school. Do we not all read Animal Farm in high school at some point? Maybe I am only talking about the “past” generation here already. Maybe I am getting old and people no longer read Animal Farm in school and elsewhere.
We read Animal Farm because it is one of these leftist political books which people just have to read when they grow politically conscious. Ok, fine. I remember that the book achieved that purpose. I also remember that I did not like the book for whatever reason. And the thing is, I do not like this book either, no matter how attractive the title. The point is: The title has literally zero to do with the content, except for the first passage on page 1. Well, maybe that is wrong. Probably, the entire book is an answer to the question of why Orwell writes — he has a political agenda to spread. This is what he does in the book. This is what he basically did in Animal Farm. So, that is the WHY behind his writing. Fine.
I just do not like his writing.
Either you are a politician.
Or you are a writer.
Usually, I am not that strict when it comes to separating one from the other but in this case I just have to be, I do not even know why I am responding so radically. There is no doubt that Orwell’s political observations are comprehensive, detailed, and to the point. But then — what? Just establishing the Socialist world order in the way he describes it and that is it? There is also no structure in the book. It is just basically a conglomerate of his political thinking and a mourning of British culture. Fine. Got that. What does it have to do with writing in a more far-reaching sense? Is political writing all that drives him? Obviously, it is. But could he not have thought a little more about why he writes beyond his political agenda?
Arrrghhh, I am just not happy about the book…
1. Becoming a writer
That is the first page of the book and it was very promising. But I do not buy that writers KNOW that early what exactly their strengths are. They might enjoy the activity but knowing exactly that one is good with words is already a level of reflection which I think, we do not have at this age. This does not mean that we are not able to reflect. It just means that we do not know where exactly our fascination with some activity, e.g., writing, comes from. Maybe we do not know this as grown ups either. And probably we do not have to know. As long as we enjoy it and keep doing it to a point where it creates value for the people around us, it is ok. Humans want to know everything all the time. That is the whole misery of humanity and its biggest innovation driver at the same time.
2. Books are failures
Here I agree with Orwell. Yes, every book is a failure just like everything is failure because you always know better when you are done with something. But failure gains a positive connotation in the way I use it here. And therefore, our entire life is a series of failures. And that is why it is so beautiful. I think, we constantly overrate the meaning of the word failure. I am too lazy right now to go into epistemology but I am sure one would find some “positive,” i.e., fruitful root in it. Maybe writers like Orwell write such things about books as failure because they do have this selfish gene in them.
I think I have it too.
All writers have.
That is why paper is our best friend.
Someone once told me that I had “Sendungsbedürfnis.” That is probably a different way of saying one is selfish. By now, I do not care that much anymore. It is true that I want to leave something behind and that writing is my way of recording and processing what I do. It is a necessity. If it is “reparative” in the psychological sense, others have to judge. But I know that you can only write, or at least writing flows more easily, if you actually experience life, if you do something and you write about it afterwards. So, the experiencing comes first. At least, this is how I look at the mystery of writing. And that is quite sufficient. I do not want to turn this into the corner stone of a political agenda.
3. Political agenda
Orwell was writing during the Second World War. He spends almost the entire book reflecting on this. It is clear that any political agenda would be overshadowed by such events and he openly declares this. Still, what I find fascinating about his 6-point-political program is that it is so timeless. Look at the points. You could put a current date on it and people would support it, except for the first one, maybe, but I am not even sure of this. I think, with capitalism exploding in a way that we are trading economic aims against the health of the planet, state measures can do the trick. And even though I have never seen myself as a socialist in any way, I can imagine that I will support some radical changes which will bring about more power to the state to control income.
I just hope that contemporary leftist writers are a bit more creative in bringing out their political voice.
But maybe that is the whole point of Orwell.
Maybe writers are always politicians in some way and it does not matter how they write as long as they do it.
1) What do you think — why do writers become writers?
2) Have you read Animal Farm? If not, google it — would you read it? Why?
3) If you were to come up with a 5-point political agenda for your country — what would be on the list?