According to John Rodden, the end of the twentieth century also marks the end of the Orwell century. No other author, he convincingly argues, has left a more enduring imprint on the last one hundred years.
This assertion is amply supported in Scenes from an Afterlife: The Legacy of George Orwell, Rodden's masterful and wide-ranging account of the impact and appropriation of Orwell and his ideas since his death in 1950. Considered by different groups and at different times as a prophet, secular saint, model leftist, exemplary liberal, proto-neoconservative, or would-be Tory, among many other things, Orwell, "the Zelig of modern intellectuals," was a writer with whom virtually every intellectual movement of the late twentieth century felt it must contend.
Rodden, one of the world's leading Orwell scholars, sorts through the uses to which Orwell has been put in the last few decades, suggesting where, when, and why Orwell's friends and followers have sinned in conscripting him for this or that cause. Rodden ends by arguing that although Orwell's own explicit contention that he was a socialist should not be dismissed, we must understand that he was nevertheless no progressive, but rather a thinker who fits best in the non-Marxist, radical Tory tradition of Morris, Cobbett, and Dickens.
What They're Saying...
"John Rodden has a fact-based rather than faith-based approach to Orwell’s legacy in Scenes from an Afterlife, preferring to let him speak for himself rather than have canonizers and devil’s advocates, secular and spiritual, have their way with him. Rodden’s comprehensive examination has added interest in that, as well as the more usual political claims to and for the writer’s heritage, he also deals with the religious claims to Orwell’s soul, even as he admits that his subject showed no signs of believing he had one."
— Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture
"It...contains a great many insights. In dissecting Orwell's politics Rodden rightly emphasizes his nostalgic populism and his deep debt to William Cobbett and Dickens."
— Atlantic Monthly
"This volume nicely realizes Orwell's lasting appeal to a wide audience."
"In the expanding canon of Orwelliana, Rodden’s book is sure to find a secure and enduring position as a model of clarity and as a tribute to the most important political writer of the twentieth century."
— Harry Strub, Utopian Studies
“[O]ffers a ‘shimmering rainbow of perspectives’ on Orwell’s life and afterlife.”