Publisher: AK Press
Released: June 11, 2018
The Duty to Stand Aside tells the story of one of the most intriguing yet little-known literary-political feuds—and friendships—in 20th-century English literature. It examines the arguments that divided George Orwell, future author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Alex Comfort, poet, biologist, anarchist-pacifist, and future author of the international bestseller The Joy of Sex—during WWII. Orwell maintained that standing aside, or opposing Britain’s war against fascism, was “objectively pro-fascist." Comfort argued that intellectuals who did not stand aside and denounce their own government’s atrocities—in Britain’s case, saturation bombing of civilian population centers—had “sacrificed their responsible attitude to humanity.”
"As this thoughtful but overly specialized literary history from journalist Laursen (The People’s Pension) recounts, during WWII George Orwell, public intellectual and future author of the now-classic cautionary tales Animal Farm and 1984, found himself at odds with Alex Comfort, poet, doctor, and eventual bestselling author of The Joy of Sex... Laursen’s book works best on the macro level, in exploring the moral questions asked of artists and thinkers during times of conflict and repression."
"A fascinating study of two remarkable twentieth century figures confronting perennial questions about war and the state. With great insight, Laursen examines the complex interactions of Alex Comfort and George Orwell, their milieus, the agonizing issues that consumed their generation and that cast a grim shadow over what has ensued.”
"In this revealing, well-written study, Eric Laursen demonstrates convincingly that two of Britain's most prominent intellectuals of the 20th century, George Orwell and Alex Comfort, despite their political differences, shared the fear that even democratic nations could degenerate into totalitarian barbarism."
—Lawrence S. Wittner, author of The Struggle against the Bomb
Eric Laursen is an independent journalist, activist, and commentator. He is the author of The Operating System: An Anarchist Theory of the Modern State; The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan, a BookList Editor's Choice selection; and co-author of Understanding the Crash, which tells the story of the 2008 economic meltdown in text-and-graphics format. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The Nation, The Village Voice, In These Times, Z Magazine, The Indypendent, HuffPost, and The Arkansas Review. A graduate of Columbia University, he lives in Buckland, Massachusetts.