Sunday, September 13, 2009

George Owell's Diaries

Since several of my classes just read and discussed Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language," thought it fitting to introduce The Orwell Diaries, which blogs George Orwell's diaries from 1938 to 1942 in real time. The blog's first post was August 9, 1938...the final post will be in 2012. What is so remarkable about this project is the insight it offers into the daily life of Eric Arthur Blair. The diaries hop-scotch from his straightforward observations and opinions as Europe descends into total war to his careful documentation of the minutiae of life on his small farm: discussions of tomatoes and broccoli, how to best to pick out-of-the-way fruit, and the numbers of eggs his chickens laid.

From the blog description:

‘When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page’, wrote George Orwell, in his 1939 essay on Charles Dickens.

Since 9th August 2008, The Orwell Prize has been blogging George Orwell’s diaries, allowing you to gather your own impression of Orwell’s face – behind the screen, rather than the page. Each diary entry is published on the blog exactly seventy years after it was originally written by Orwell...

What impression of Orwell will emerge? From his domestic diaries (which started on 9th August 2008), it may be a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and – above all – how many eggs have been laid. From his political diaries (from 7th September 2008), it may be the Orwell whose political observations and critical thinking have enthralled and inspired generations since his death in 1950. Whether writing about the Spanish Civil War or sloe gin, geraniums or Germany, Orwell’s perceptive eye and rebellion against the ‘gramophone mind’ he so despised are obvious.

Orwell wrote of what he saw in Dickens: ‘He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.’

What will you see in the Orwell diaries?

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