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Escaping the aerodrome

Totalitarianism is on the run but liberalism's future is not assured. Chris Patten rediscovers the relevance of Rex Warner's wartime novel for Robert Skidelsky's World after Communism

By Chris Patten   November 1995

Unpacking books on a hot August afternoon, I turned up a long-cherished and long-unread political classic about whose virtues I have bored friends ever since I discovered it.

Rex Warner’s The Aerodrome (Lane, 1941), written during the early years of the second world war, almost a decade before Orwell’s 1984, is a brilliantly original contribution to the ominously titled genre, “novels of ideas.” Like Orwell in 1984 and Animal Farm, Warner uses allegory to attack totalitarianism and collectivism and to assert liberal values.

In Warner’s novel, the brave new world is offered by the air force, encamped in its aerodrome…

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