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Whatever is funny is subversive

George Orwell’s maxims: a list of the best

Simon Willis | January 13th 2015

Our current cover story is about George Orwell, and why, 65 years after his death, he’s bigger than ever. With “Animal Farm” and “1984”, Robert Butler writes in the piece, Orwell “would change the way we think about our lives”. But as well as being one of our most visionary writers, he is also one of our most quotable. Here is a sprinkling of his spikiest, funniest and most relevant maxims.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

“Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie...”

“It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it.”

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.”

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”

“All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.”

“Within certain limits...the less money you have, the less you worry.”

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence...it is war minus the shooting.”

“One defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself.”

“As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.”

“Political thought is a sort of masturbation fantasy...the world of facts hardly matters.”

“In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer...has to face.”

“Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.”

“One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker...pacifist, and feminist in England.”

“Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.”

“One cannot really be Catholic and grown-up.”

“At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.”

Read more Our cover story, "Orwell's world" by Robert Butler

Compiled by James Tozer

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