Barnes names three necessary qualities for 'treasuredom' and it is the second that raises the most questions;
An element of malleability and interpretability. The malleability allows the writer to be given a more appealing, if not entirely untruthful, image; the interpretability means that we can find in him or her more or less whatever we require.Can his writing really be described as malleable? One of the things that surprises me is the number of unlikely people who claim Orwell as an intellectual hero. He has, of course, become an icon of Eustonians because of his anti-totalitarianism, though some of them might be uncomfortable with the fact that the reason he went to fight in Spain was not to uphold the right to free speech but to "kill fascists". The most curious admirers though are libertarian conservatives.
I think that Orwell's appeal to them rests on two features drawn from his later novels. Just as anti-Americans borrow his description in 1984 of Britain as Airstrip One, libertarians see the novel as a working out of Hayek's view of the evolution of totalitarianism from war-time planning. Neither interpretation would have appealed to Orwell who was a firm supporter of the post-war Labour Government and certainly knew whose side he was on in the Cold War. However, it is probably his anti-Communism that appeals most to the right. I am not sure that they should be quite so admiring.
I have always thought that Animal Farm was his finest novel. It is a bitter satire on Stalinism certainly, but what is less frequently noted is that the book is also implicitly anti-capitalist. The only time the animals are happy is during the immediate period of the liberation when they have seized the farm from Mr Jones. The one threat that could bring the animals back into line is "you don't want Jones back". The novel is pro-revolution and its pathos and bitterness comes from its betrayal. The ultimate is the end of the book when the animals cannot distinguish the pigs from the humans. They had become the same - not worse - the same.
Even Orwell's evocation of a patriotic Englishness is not a wholly sympathetic one. If there is one thing that permeates his writing it is a sense of disgust. And here Englishness is a failing that disgusts as much as it is a quality that charms. It blinds us to crisis, hides us from truth and smothers us with complacency.
And then England--southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world. It is difficult when you pass that way, especially when you are peacefully recovering from sea-sickness with the plush cushions of a boat-train carriage under your bum, to believe that anything is really happening anywhere. Earthquakes in Japan, famines in China, revolutions in Mexico? Don't worry, the milk will be on the doorstep tomorrow morning, the New Statesman will come out on Friday. The industrial towns were far away, a smudge of smoke and misery hidden by the curve of the earth's surface. Down here it was still the England I had known in my childhood: the railway-cuttings smothered in wild flowers, the deep meadows where the great shining horses browse and meditate, the slow-moving streams bordered by willows, the green bosoms of the elms, the larkspurs in the cottage gardens; and then the huge peaceful wilderness of outer London, the barges on the miry river, the familiar streets, the posters telling of cricket matches and Royal weddings, the men in bowler hats, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, the red buses, the blue policemen--all sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs.Orwell is a savage writer; angry, discontented and bitter. His plainness of style is not a folksy anti-intellectualism, it is a method of critical thinking. He is not a comfortable English nationalist, nor is he a liberal anti-Communist. To understand him properly is to take him at his word, and not about whether or not he shot an elephant.
Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it."As I understand it", this is the key. His understanding was underpinned by a tetchy discontent and a discomfort with orthodoxy. He is disconcerting and that is why he is still worth reading and why he should never be romanticised. He was a serious and, at times, uncomfortable writer, not a prophet, even less a guru.