What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art.
My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience…. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.
George Orwell, Why I Write
Orwell was a self-conscious writer: he cared not only about what he wrote, but how he wrote it. His assessment of what makes for good writing – and bad writing – is as relevant to writing and journalism today as it was when he was writing, and as such, should underpin the Prizes awarded in his name.
‘Political’ is defined in the widest sense; as Orwell wrote in ‘Politics and the English Language’:
In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.
Entries should show:
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)
Good prose is like a windowpane (Why I Write)
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)
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)
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.