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Orwell Diaries (ed. Peter Davison, Harvil Secker, London 2009)

November 17th, 2009 · No Comments · Books, Diary, PEOPLE, quotations, Reviews

Orwell Diaries 1931- 1949

Edited by Peter Davison, Publ: Harvil Secker

ISBN 9781846553295

(sourced from ten original diary notebooks)

Orwell Diaries, London 2009

Orwell Diaries, London 2009

I bought Orwell’s Diaries thinking that I could glean more information about his philosophical conversion from Spanish Republicanism to what had become later a lucid critic of left-wing dictatorship. It appears, sadly, that two notebooks of diaries covering the Spanish Civil War have made their way into the archives of the NKVD (The Soviet Secret police) and are under lock and key to this day. Clearly even after his demise Orwell’s writings are considered by some still seditious.

I came across the works of Orwell, oddly enough, behind the Iron Courtain, in Romania, as a teenager enduring the harsh neo-stalinist dictatorship of Gheorghiu-Dej, the national-communist predecessor of Nicolae Ceausescu. This was no mean feat and a curious one at that: the classic ‘”1984″ novel was translated in French and serialised in the popular French weekly “Paris Match”, which at the time was embargoed in Romania, under severe censorship restrictions. However, by a miracle, my private French teacher in Bucharest had a former servant who was a cleaner/maid at the French Embassy in Bucharest and without doubt a secret service agent, because only politically ‘reliable’ natives were granted such jobs. This simple Romanian woman, who was barely literate spoke no French and brought home these magazines merely because she found the illustrations attractive. My French teacher, a cultivated lady from the former Romanian aristocracy, who was educated in Switzerland before WWII and under Communism fell on hard times being completely destitute, managed to borrow these magazines and transcribed by hand over several months the whole of Orwell’s 1984 novel.

I had the privilege of being lent these manuscripts and found the reading fascinating, more so as I identified myself perfectly with the character in this book and the whole atmosphere described by the author as one which we were experiencing on a daily basis in Romania under the communist dictatorship. My father upon discovering my illicit reading begged of me to return the manuscript forthwith because if we were denounced and found out, or if for any reason our house was searched we would be put in prison for reading Orwell.

In retrospect I still think that hardly any Western author and more so after the WWII had had the clear vision comparable to that of George Orwell, especially when one would think of those fellow-travelers and assorted “useful idiots” who were eulogising the Soviet dictatorship, in spite of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

This edition of the diaries sheds a fresh light on George Orwell , on his private life as much as on his national and international political observations. They are replete with useful details for the historian, political analyst or academic, but not only – as it offers a fresh angle on the troubled history of Europe for nearly two decades of the 1930s and 1940s. There real nuggets of information which explain better the rationale behind our fathers and grandfathers political options, than what we were conditioned to believe from school books or politically correct textbooks. Al in all a riveting read which I recommend.

QUOTATIONS relevant to Romanian History:

* 6 June 1939:

Britain to grant arms credit of £100 million to Poland, Turkey and Romania (Daily Telegraph)

* 10 July 1939:
Germany said to be demanding entire Romanian wheat crop, also part of what is left over from 1938 crop (Daily Telegraph)
* 24 August 1939:
Russo-German pact signed. official statement from Moscow that ‘enemies of both countries’ have tried to drive Russia and Germany into enmity. jaqpanese opinion evidently very angered by what amounts to German desertion of anti-Comintern pact and Spanish (Franco) opinion evidently similarly afected. Romania said to have declared neutrality.
Moscow airport decorated with swastikas for Ribbentrop’s arrival.
*30 August 1939:
Romania is fortifying its Russian frontier: 2-300,000 Russian troops said to be movingto Western frontier.
* 28 June 1940:
The Russians entered Bessarabia today. Practically no interest aroused and the few remarks I could overhear were mildly approving or at least not hostile. (Compare with) the intense popular anger over the invasion of Finland. I do not think the difference is due to a perception that Finland and Romania are different propositions. It is probably because our own desperate straits and the notion that this move may embarrass Hitler – as I believe it must, though evidently sanctioned by him.
* 8 December 1940:
During the bad period of the bombing when everyone was semi-insane (…) I found that scarps of nonsense poetry were constantly coming to my mind. They never got beyond a line or two and the tendency slacked off, but examples are:
An old Romanian peasant
Who lived in Mornington Crescent
and
The key does not fit and the bell does not ring
but we all stand for God Save the King.
*22 April 1941:
British troops entered Irak a couple of days ago, People on all sides saying, ‘Mosul will be no good to Hitler even if he gets there. The British will blow up the wells long before.’ Will they, I wonder? did they blow up the Romanian wells when the opportunity existed? The most depressing thing in this war is not the disasters we are found to suffer at this stage, but the knowledge that we are being led by weaklings… It is as though your life depended on a game of chess and you had to sit watching it, seeing that the most idiotic moves being made and being powerless to prevent them.

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