SEVENTY years ago to the day, the tall, gangly figure of Eric Arthur Blair – retired colonial cop, one-time down-and-out, Paris plongeur, Spanish Civil War veteran and the author and journalist known as George Orwell – was loping around the gardens of the sanatorium in Kent where he was recovering from a near-fatal lung haemorrhage.
How do I know this? Well, the Orwell Trust, which administers the writer’s estate, had the clever idea of publishing Orwell’s diary for the period from August 1938 to October 1942 as a blog in real-time, seven decades after it was written.
Although Orwell wrote another much more overtly political diary (which starts going online next month) in this pre-war period, he’d been shot in the throat in Tarragona a year before and was probably not at his best, what with the lung problems and all. Most of the entries posted so far have found him musing on the weather, blackberries and killing snakes. But then, Orwell had a deep and abiding love of the English countryside – just read Coming Up For Air.
For an Orwell nerd like myself, it’s absolutely fascinating stuff and I look forward to reading more. But besides the spare, concise elegance of his writing, his astounding political and social insight and his willingness to get stuck in, to get involved rather than just talking about it, one of the things that I like most about Orwell is that he was a bit of a word-whore, endlessly rewriting and recycling his stuff for different audiences.
But when Eric wrote these diaries, he never intended that they be published. What would he think of the comments on the blog, I wonder.
If the past is another country, it’s one we visit more and more.
Laden down by an ever-expanding knapsack full of maps, phrase books, audio-guides and boutique hotel recommendations, eager to explore every single dusty nook and cranny, we also leave no stone unturned in our quest to get a real feel for the place, away from the tourist trail, off the beaten track. ‘Undiscovered’ territory.
Of course, there’s a lot of stuff about old records and times past on Expletive Undeleted. Is there any difference between what I’m doing and what some numpty punk traitor does on 100 Greatest Punk Rock Sell-Outs? It’s probably not for me to say, but I hope so ..
Read the rest of this piece at the new home of Expletive Undeleted here.