How many newspaper columnists will be worth disinterring in 60 years’ time? How many will have anything of contemporary relevance to say? How many will even throw light on the way we live in 2006? Continue reading
Books of the year feature
The year’s work in Orwell studies produced two terrific books: Peter Davison’s The Lost Orwell (Timewell Press), which brings together all the material discovered since his monumental 20-volume George Orwell: The Complete Works (1998), and Orwell in Tribune (Politico’s), edited by the magazine’s former editor Paul Anderson. My favourite homegrown novel was Will Self’s The Book of Dave (Viking), a London dystopia whose roots curl all the way back to Richard Jeffferies.
Fifty years ago, the use of the word hack to describe anyone who made a living as a journalist was practically actionable: Winston Churchill’s son Randolph once took damages from a Sunday newspaper on exactly these grounds. But some of the greatest writers in the English language have been harassed penny-a-liners, goaded to the desk by the rap of a creditor’s boots on the cheerless stair. Thackeray was a hack. Evelyn Waugh was a hack. Dickens began his career as a parliamentary reporter. Continue reading
The wheels of the George Orwell industry never stop turning. It is like witnessing a kind of literary perpetual motion. Whether it is another critical assessment, a new biography or just a stray newspaper article – usually a guess at what Orwell’s view of this or that would have been – there’s always something being published about him. Continue reading
Books of the year feature
Since Tribune may be reticent in blowing its own trumpet and since the Observer has strangely suggested that George Orwell was adept at blowing his own, all such contradictions may be swept away for ever by the new comprehensive volume, Orwell in Tribune: “As I Please”and Other Writings, 1943-47 (Politico’s £19.99). It is compiled and edited by Paul Anderson, a former Tribune editor whose special insights into Orwell’s genius make this particular volume the very best on the subject.
This volume of George Orwell’s writings for Tribune marks the seventieth anniversary of the left-wing weekly. Orwell left the BBC (describing it as “halfway between a girls’ school and a lunatic asylum”) in 1943, becoming Tribune’s literary editor and beginning his “As I Please” column that would run until 1947. In an introduction that renders the nuances of political rivalries on the Left positively pellucid, Paul Anderson, himself an erstwhile Tribune editor, explains that Stafford Cripps launched the paper in 1937 to support his popular front campaign: by Orwell’s time, the nominal editorship had passed to Aneurin Bevan. Continue reading
Leaving the BBC to join the left-wing Tribune as literary editor in 1943 was a turning point for George Orwell. At the BBC, he was employed as Eric Blair; at Tribune as the pseudonymous Orwell. In his famous “As I Please” column, his subjects ranged from the Warsaw uprising and doodlebugs to Basic English and the solar topi, allowing readers to tap into a brilliant if occasionally rambling mind. These and other essays, now collected together by Paul Anderson, show how from 1943 he was accumulating the ideas that underlie Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Continue reading
As an utterly unworthy subsequent tenant (albeit on a time-share basis) of George Orwell’s old Tribune column “As I Please”, I read his second lead for March 3 1944 with some interest. It’s typical of the tone of most of his articles, now gathered together for the first time in Orwell in Tribune: wide-ranging, often conversational, frequently not directly political and always rather strangely playful. Continue reading
George Orwell’s schoolfriend, Cyril Connolly, wrote that the duty of a writer was to produce a masterpiece. He famously identified one of the main obstacles as “the pram in the hall”. TS Eliot said the worst job for a creative writer was journalism, especially literary journalism. At the end of the 1930s, Orwell had been planning a masterpiece, an “epic saga” to be called “The Quick and the Dead”. Continue reading
Now that the book blog has arrived, it’s time to take a longer view. Whom, for instance, might we call upon as contributors, from the English canon?
Not Shakespeare (too busy), not Milton (too grand), probably not Pope (too classical). But Daniel Defoe was a great journalist as well as a pioneering novelist – and he’d be blogging for certain. Dr Johnson, I think, would not, though he’d be a natural (he’d want to get paid for it). Continue reading