Reading: George Orwell — Books v. Cigarettes

An unexpected read. Saturday being my last full day in Brussels and wanting desperately for something to take on the train (and having my eyes on one thing in particular), I was thwarted by the country’s national day. Appropriate as it may be that the day of independence saw the city littered with military vehicles and helicopters, nonetheless, complete absence of useful shops being open meant absence also of books.

Hans at dinner more than made up for patriotism-annoyance, presenting me with George Orwell’s Books v. Cigarettes. Just the title was enough, sounding like inspiration for a collaboration of Jan Fabre and Pina Bausch, and barely had the train made it out of Nord Station this morning and I was into an analysis of book buying, gifting, borrowing, purloining, sordid public school tales, the abject horror of running a bookshop, and not a few acerbic — well, at any chance he got, really — paragraphs against communism, totalitarianism, and especially left wing apologists thereof.

He does read as a bit of an old sexist, dogmatic, opinionated pub bore, or perhaps it’s just that actual sexist, opinionated bores (such as the delightfully dead Hitchens) give Orwell’s style of writing a bad name. It does bring about a grotesquely attractive vividness, especially of his boarding school bed-wetting arse breaking the ivory-handled riding crop with which he was thrashed for punishment.

The book is quite thin, with an attractive embossed cover, which means I’ll probably be finished by the end of today. Thanks Hans, you saved me from Köln to Hannover!