dijous, 2 de juliol de 2015

In the Lenin Barracks in Barcelona, the day before I joined the militia,EXCEPTUANDO UM PEQUENO NÚMERO DE ESTRANGEIROS NÃO HAVIA GENTE BEM VESTIDA .....TUDO TINHA SIDO COLETIVIZADO ...CAFÉS CARROS E ATÉ AS CAIXAS DOS ENGRAXADORES ....COLECTIVIZAVA-SE A MISÉRIAI remember his pained surprise when an ignorant recruit addressed him as

'_Señor_'. 'What! _Señor_? Who is that calling me _Señor_? Are we not all
comrades?' I doubt whether it made his job any easier. Meanwhile the raw
recruits were getting no military training that could be of the
slightest use to them. I had been told that foreigners were not obliged
to attend 'instruction' (the Spaniards, I noticed, had a pathetic belief
that all foreigners knew more of military matters than themselves), but
naturally I turned out with the others. I was very anxious to learn how
to use a machine-gun; it was a weapon I had never had a chance to
handle. To my dismay I found that we were taught nothing about the use
of weapons. The so-called instruction was simply parade-ground drill of
the most antiquated, stupid kind; right turn, left turn, about turn,
marching at attention in column of threes and all the rest of that
useless nonsense which I had learned when I was fifteen years old. It
was an extraordinary form for the training of a guerilla army to take.
Obviously if you have only a few days in which to train a soldier, you
must teach him the things he will most need; how to take cover, how to
advance across open ground, how to mount guards and build a
parapet--above all, how to use his weapons. Yet this mob of eager
children, who were going to be thrown into the front line in a few days'
time, were not even taught how to fire a rifle or pull the pin out of a
bomb. At the time I did not grasp that this was because there were no
weapons to be had. In the P.O.U.M. militia the shortage of rifles was so
desperate that fresh troops reaching the front always had to take their
rifles from the troops they relieved in the line. In the whole of the
Lenin Barracks there were, I believe, no rifles except those used by the
sentries.
The train was due to leave at eight, and it was about ten past eight
when the harassed, sweating officers managed to marshal us in the
barrack square. I remember very vividly the torchlit scene--the uproar
and excitement, the red flags flapping in the torchlight, the massed
ranks of militiamen with their knapsacks on their backs and their rolled
blankets worn bandolier-wise across the shoulder; and the shouting and
the clatter of boots and tin pannikins, and then a tremendous and
finally successful hissing for silence; and then some political
commissar standing beneath a huge rolling red banner and making us a
speech in Catalan. Finally they marched us to the station, taking the
longest route, three or four miles, so as to show us to the whole town.
In the Ramblas they halted us while a borrowed band played some
revolutionary tune or other. Once again the conquering-hero
stuff--shouting and enthusiasm, red flags and red and black flags
everywhere, friendly crowds thronging the pavement to have a look at us,
women waving from the windows. How natural it all seemed then; how
remote and improbable now! The train was packed so tight with men that
there was barely room even on the floor, let alone on the seats. At the
last moment Williams's wife came rushing down the platform and gave us a
bottle of wine and a foot of that bright red sausage which tastes of
soap and gives you diarrhoea. The train crawled out of Catalonia and on
to the plateau of Aragón at the normal wartime speed of something under
twenty kilometres an hour.

1 comentari:

  1. Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent, and our language--so the argument runs--must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes. Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written. These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad--I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen--but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative samples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary: (1) I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien (sic) to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate. PROFESSOR HAROLD LASKI (Essay in Freedom of Expression) (2) Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes such egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with or tolerate or put at a loss or bewilder. PROFESSOR LANCELOT HOGBEN (Interglossa) (3) On the one side we have the free personality; by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity? ESSAY ON PSYCHOLOGY in Politics (New York) (4) All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror of the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoisie to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis. COMMUNIST PAMPHLET (5) If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may lee sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream--as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes, or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as "standard English." When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma'am-ish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens. LETTER IN Tribune Each of these passages has faults of its own, but quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose-construction is habitually dodged: Dying metaphors. A newly-invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g., iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgels for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, an axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?),.2 de juliol de 2015 a les 16:54

    This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3), above, for
    instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will
    be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending
    of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the
    middle the concrete illustrations--race, battle, bread--dissolve into the
    vague phrase "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to
    be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing--no one
    capable of using phrases like "objective consideration of contemporary
    phenomena"--would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed
    way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now
    analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains 49
    words but only 60 syllables, and all its words are those of everyday
    life. The second contains 38 words of 90 syllables: 18 of its words are
    from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six
    vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be
    called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase,
    and in spite of its 90 syllables it gives only a shortened version of the
    meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind
    of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to
    exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of
    simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if
    you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human
    fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence
    than to the one from Ecclesiastes.

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