Imaginary Bullets

A soldier sprawls in a muddy trench, with the machine-gun bullets crackling a foot or two overhead, and whiles away his intolerable boredom by reading an American gangster story. And what is it that makes that story so exciting? Precisely the fact that people are shooting at each other with machine-guns! Neither the soldier nor anyone else sees anything curious in this. It is taken for granted that an imaginary bullet is more thrilling than a real one.

— George Orwell, from “Raffles and Miss Blandish” (from A Collection of Essays)

On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.

— George Orwell, from “The Art of Donald McGill” (from A Collection of Essays)

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