Re: RARA-AVIS: No Orchids

From: Steven Harbin (
Date: 02 Jan 2005

I took the liberty of reposting the link as it seemed to have a break on my email: and my reading of the essay years ago and recent rereading fail to back up that Orwell "liked" the novel. He appears to have detested what it and it's popularity stood for, while realizing that it was still well written. His comparing it to Facism would seem to be a dead give away that he didn't "like it" but what do I know, I voted for Bush, so obviously I'm a simplistic manichean who only sees the world as a dichotomy between opposing moral forces. Steven H. Al Guthrie <> wrote:

----- Original Message ----- From: "E.Borgers"
> Now, you perhaps know that Chase re-wrote No Orchids…, his first book,
> this revision being published in 1961. The excuse was to "modernize" it,
> but in fact I think that he was a little annoyed by the writing poorness
> of one of his best sellers, certainly his best known, and tried to
> improve it. In fact he also softened a bit the more brutal scenes. Do
> not forget that during the sixties he was in full glory and considered
> as a master of thriller noir, his fame being also high among the general
> public… So… softening could have been somewhat forced.
> But I read only a translation of the new version, never the original.

I suspect Chase rewrote it to make it more his work and less Graham Greene's. The quality of Chase's writing (by which I mean the way he puts words together, not story constructs or characters) deteriorates as his career progresses. Which strikes me as very odd. But I suspect it might have happened due to less and less input from Greene. I confess I have a soft spot for "No Orchids", probably because it's so over-the-top (the revised version removes everything that made the original fresh and compelling).
"Sanctuary", on the other hand, I struggled with. I'm sure there are a million reasons why "Sanctuary" is a much better book than "No Orchids", but I'm afraid I found the former ponderous.

Jay mentioned that Orwell liked "No Orchids".

"...[No Orchids] is not, as one might expect, the product of an illiterate hack, but a brilliant piece of writing, with hardly a wasted word or a jarring note anywhere."

"In Mr. Chase's books there are no gentlemen and no taboos. Emancipation is complete. Freud and Machiavelli have reached the outer suburbs."

The entire essay, "Raffles And Miss Blandish", 1944, can be found here: lEssays/rafflesblandish.html


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