‘Mediocrities everywhere, I absolve you all,” Salieri declared at the end of Peter Shaffer’s play, Amadeus. Salieri, the darling of the Habsburg court in 18th-century Vienna, could not deceive himself.
He knew he was mediocre. Will Self, poor chap, has yet to acquire the gift of self-knowledge and, if his comments this week about George Orwell offer a reliable guide, he will remain in the dark for a good time yet.
Not so strangely I’ve always wanted to be able to write like Orwell and never even once considered trying to write like Will Self.
One I can’t achieve and the other I wouldn’t want to.
Admittedly, I’ve read very little of Self. Perhaps the odd extract that’s appeared in The Guardian and such places (of his “proper” writing that is, not his journalism) and I’ll admit that I didn’t try to wade through more than a few paragraphs. But the immediate thought was, well, shouldn’t you be trying to communicate rather than obfuscate?