orwell: From strawberry-picking in Hertfordshire to rat-fixations in Jura


Diaries brings together the eleven individual journals that George Orwell compiled between 1931 and 1949. The final entry, written in September 1949, describes the daily routines of University College Hospital, where he was to die of advanced tuberculosis early in 1950. All were published in the monumental twenty-volume Complete Works (1998), but now appear consecutively for the first time. There is certainly a twelfth diary, and possibly even a thirteenth, among the items taken from a Barcelona hotel room in June 1937 by Soviet agents and now gathering dust somewhere in the NKVD archive in Moscow. In his introduction, Peter Davison reveals that he once met a man – Miklos Kun, grandson of the Hungarian Communist leader Béla Kun – who had tracked down Orwell’s NKVD file, but was unable to fillet it before the archive shut its doors to the public. Handsomely produced, illustrated with Orwell’s own pencil sketches and footnoted with Davison’s customary élan, this latest wave in the repackager’s tide invites two questions. Why did Orwell write diaries? And what do they tell us about him?

more from DJ Taylor at The Times here.