"Supreme Mediocrity": Will Self Describes George Orwell as "Plain Wrong"

Will Self has delivered a scathing attack on George Orwell, describing the writer - one of the most revered in literary history - as "supreme mediocrity" and slamming the "obvious didacticism" of his most important works, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eight-Four. He went on to describe Orwell's acclaimed essay, Politics and the English Language, as "plain wrong."

Will SelfWill Self has laid into George Orwell's writing [Getty/Chris Jackson]

As the Guardian points out - Orwell and Self are very different writers. The literary icon famously said, "never use a long word where a short one will do," whereas Self is famed for his verbose prose. 

In an essay written for the BBC's A Point of View, Self wrote: "Each generation of talented English mediocrities seizes upon one of their number and elevates her or him to become primus inter pares...never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.The curious thing is that while during the post-war period we've had many political leaders, we've got by with just a single Supreme Mediocrity - George Orwell."

More: Giles Coren bets $1000 on Will Self to win Booker Prize

Self admitted to enjoying Orwell's writing, but only "as much as the next talented medicocrity." He said he had read some of his books "many times over", in particularly The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out In Paris and London.

"Orwell - it's said by [his] disciples - established once and for all in this essay that anything worth saying in English can be set down with perfect clarity such that it's comprehensible to all averagely intelligent English readers," said Self of Politics and the English Language, "The only problem with this is that it's not true - and furthermore, Orwell was plain wrong."

More: So, why isn't Dona Tarrt nominated for the Man Booker Prize?

Self, who was nominated for the Man Booker Prize for his magnum opus Umbrella, has just released his latest book, Shark. The Guardian called it "intellectually dazzling and emotionally frazzling."


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