Ten for Orwell

I don’t usually bother with this sort of thing, but I’ve just stuck an entry into the blogging section of the Orwell Prize. Not that I’m getting my hopes up, but it never hurts to promote your work – and thanks to Madam Miaow for cajoling me into it in the first place. Here’s the blurb for the prize, setting out Orwellian values for political writing:

Entries should show:
Political purpose Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after (Why I Write)

Clarity Good prose is like a windowpane (Why I Write)

Intellectual courage Intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face… If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear (Proposed Preface to Animal Farm)

When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink (Politics and the English Language)

Freedom of the intellect means the freedom to report what one has seen, heard, and felt, and not to be obliged to fabricate imaginary facts and feelings (The Prevention of Literature)

Critical thought To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment (Proposed Preface to Animal Farm)

Artful writing Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed (Why I Write)

Entries should avoid:

staleness of imagery… [and] lack of precision… by using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself (Politics and the English Language)

Above all, entries should share Orwell’s ambition:

to make political writing into an art.

Well, I’m not making any great highfalutin claims for my own writing, but it’s not a bad standard to aspire to. Personally, if I manage to entertain readers, that’s enough; if I sometimes provoke you to thought, that’s even better. And best of all is when you kickstart a really good debate.

The specs for the prize involved submitting ten blog posts from the 2009 calendar year. Sifting it down to ten, from the couple of hundred written in the year, was tough and some randomness inevitably creeps in. Those I’ve selected, exclusively from the second half of the year, are not necessarily the most popular (I’m not convinced there’s a huge audience out there for deconstructions of Sammy Wilson), and some of the selections may surprise regular readers, but they’re posts that I liked as pieces of writing, that I think demonstrated some depth of knowledge, and gave some sort of an idea of the cross-section of issues covered here. You’ll note a strong bias towards the local and historical, but then the local aspect of this blog is very much its USP. It’s not all Irishry though – there are a few others in there – and feel free to give these a look if you missed them the first time around.

The ten I eventually picked were:

Democratic Unionist party reptile
A note on cognitive bias
Aaro’s Voodoo Histories, and a few words on conspiratology
The Lost Revolution: a sketch on republican geography
The Lost Revolution: the Intercontinental
Reggie and his malcontents
The fall of the House of Paisley
Fixed and consequent
That would be an ecumenical matter
No sex please, I’m the commissioning editor for drama

And best of luck to all comrades from the left blogosphere who’ve gone in for this.


  1. Garibaldy said,

    January 21, 2010 at 12:41 am

    Best of luck SS. Although can we now take this as a move to achieve recognition from the decents? 😉

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      January 21, 2010 at 12:43 am

      Given that Oona King is judging… perhaps I should have entered a piece praising Gallows.

  2. Garibaldy said,

    January 21, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I’m sure she would have liked that. I loved her losing her seat almost as much as Portillo losing his.

  3. Seán said,

    January 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

    You deserve to be in the running and should have a fighting chance. Although they did give it to a copper last year. Always an interesting and entertaining read. Good luck.

  4. David Ellis said,

    January 21, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Best of luck and I hope you win.

  5. 21stcenturymanifesto said,

    January 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Is it really appropriate for a blogger in Northern Ireland to contend for a prize named after a former colonial policeman turned state informer?

  6. Madam Miaow said,

    January 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Yay! Glad you did this, Splinty. The titles alone deserve an honourable mench.

  7. ejh said,

    January 21, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    You’ve no chance, surely?

    • Mark P said,

      January 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm

      Given the judges, one would assume not.

    • Garibaldy said,

      January 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm

      Is that a comment on the judges or on the blog EJH? 😉

      • ejh said,

        January 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm

        On the symbiosis

  8. Doug said,

    January 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    A pro-imperialist judge with blood on her hands in the name of someone who ratted Leftists out to the British secret service. Well worth winning then.

    • ejh said,

      January 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm

      He also took a fascist bullet through the throat on Monte Irazo, which is more than many of his critics can claim.

  9. Liam said,

    January 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Damn! If I had noticed Oona King was a judge I would have submitted a couple of my less flattering pieces about her successor.

  10. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Well, I don’t take this sort of thing terribly seriously, but all you need to enter is ten blog posts of a vaguely political nature. And there are enough good left bloggers out there to put in a good lot of entries. Anyway, doesn’t hurt to do a bit of promotion.

  11. Darren said,

    January 21, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Good luck Splinty.

  12. andy newman said,

    January 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I think there are some strong entries from left blogs this year, Salmon Shaheen at Third estate has sublitted an interview with george galloway, to winf Oona up.

    But bear in mind that the most left wing short listed blog last year was by a Lib Dem, don’t spend the prize money yet.

  13. WorldbyStorm said,

    January 21, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Sounds great… good luck with this…

  14. January 21, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Regardless of how you do with the Orwell award (good luck), most of your readers already know what I do; yours is some of the finest writing of any political blog and in the (admittedly small) world of the far left English language blogosphere rarely equaled in grace and wit. You’ve already won as far as I’m concerned.

  15. BenSix said,

    January 22, 2010 at 1:28 am

    I’m entering my ten-part epic, “Why Oona King and Richard Horton Are Great, And I Wuv Them”.

  16. January 22, 2010 at 8:51 am

    good luck!

  17. Gregor said,

    January 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I’m afraid the whole idea of prizes in the name of people who can’t endorse them on account of being dead just seems a bit weird to me. Or more than a bit weird at times, like when Brit journalist Melanie Phillips went to Denmark to get an award named after a dead Aegean Greek poet (who celebrated love) for writing hate-filled factually-challenged screeds about ethnic minorities.

    Still, good luck. Excellent review of Voodoo Histories.

    • ejh said,

      January 22, 2010 at 8:44 pm

      They should have pissed off Melanie by giving an award to everybody.

  18. FlyingRodent said,

    January 22, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I reckon Splintered could improve his chances of winning if he could tell us about a time when he was nasty to an elephant. Orwell hated the buggers – These motherfucking Nellies are on thin ice with me, by God he once said, if I remember correctly.

    Not that Mr. Sunrise would actually have to have killed one, mind. Just pretended he had a biscuit for it when he didn’t really or hit one on the trunk with a rolled-up newspaper, or something like that.

  19. johng said,

    January 22, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Rustbelt radical I think its neccessary to point out that splintered sunrise is not responsible for giving out any prizes at all. As far as I know. Just in case there was any confusion.

    • Lobby Ludd said,

      January 23, 2010 at 1:09 am

      Fuck that. No point in reading it then.

  20. January 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Good luck with it.

  21. harpymarx said,

    January 26, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Late to the party but good luck comrade….

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