Hadrian's Reviews > Diaries

Diaries by George Orwell
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bookshelves: british, biography-memoir, nonfiction

Collection of Orwell's diaries, taken down over a period of almost 20 years: 1931-1950.

The first two substantial sections are written in the 1930s. The first describes his time spent as a migrant farm laborer, and the second describes his visits to industrial towns which would eventually contribute to The Road to Wigan Pier. In both of these, we see scrupulous attention to detail.

The third and longest portion of the diaries deals with the Second World War, covering the months before the war up to before the Battle of Stalingrad. This coincided with Orwell's own volunteering in the Home Guard, a sort of popular militia, and the BBC, writing propaganda broadcasts. Here, he demonstrates his lucid perceptions of propaganda, language and politics. Most of this would later find its way into 1984. He offers dicta on what to trust and what not to trust. He predicts that the word 'blitz' would become a verb. He notes how ordinary citizens tend to ignore political events and go about their lives in the Blitz - an act of foolhardiness or bravery. He also notes how political ideology can make one selectively blind and deaf to certain atrocities, and outraged over others. He picks apart both British and enemy propaganda. All of this is Orwell doing what he is most famous for doing.

Between all of these long trenchant segments, however, are 'domestic diaries' - Orwell's daily or near-daily observations about his local life. These revolve around his gardening, his livestock, or occasionally local wildlife or his crafts projects. Lots of entries about how many eggs his hens lay. Occasionally there is a break in between these, like a trip to Morocco before his voyage to Catalonia.

It's easy enough to discard the whole lot of them as tedious. Perhaps they are. But they do reveal a more human side to Orwell as well. He is far from being a drum-beating mindless nationalist, but he is a sort of patriot. He loved nature, his farm and neighborhood, his friends. He dreamed of owning a house in the Hebrides. Considering the dark political worlds he lived in and imagined, this sort of natural wonder and honest handiwork is necessary to keep him sane.

Recommended to devoted Orwell fans. There is no shortage of those, thankfully.
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Reading Progress

August 24, 2012 – Shelved
Started Reading
December 23, 2012 – Shelved as: nonfiction
December 23, 2012 – Shelved as: british
December 23, 2012 – Shelved as: biography-memoir
December 23, 2012 – Finished Reading

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