Monday, August 18, 2008

Cool site of the day

Orwell Diaries

The Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent prize for political writing, is publishing George Orwell’s diaries as a blog. From 9th August 2008, Orwell’s domestic and political diaries (from 9th August 1938 until October 1942) will be posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written.

Orwell’s ‘domestic’ diaries begin on 9th August 1938/2008; his ‘political’ diaries (which are further categorised as ‘Morocco’, ‘Pre-war’ and ‘Wartime’) begin on 7th September 1938/2008.

The diaries are exactly as Orwell wrote them. Where there are original spelling errors, they are indicated by a ° following the offending word.
George Orwell is one of the 20th century's most acute critics of totalitarianism. I have a friend who previously had ridiculed me over my concerns regarding the Patriot Act and the treatment of individuals such as Padilla and Hamdan. A while ago he finished reading 1984 for the first time and he e-mailed me to let me know he had begun questioning and re-thinking such things.

In Orwell's political diaries - written as the world descended into hellish world war - we get to see the personal insights that allowed Orwell to write such powerful anti-totalitarian allegory.

Update: Jean Seaton of The Orwell Prize talked to NPR about the release of these previously unreleased diaries.

As it so happens, I've been reading Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens provides another example of the lasting anti-totalitarian power of Orwell's writing that I had not been aware of: that the people of Zimbabwe considered their dictator Robert Mugabe to be the equivalent of Napoleon from Animal Farm.

THE exploits of Napoleon, Snowball and Squealer in Animal Farm have been gripping readers of Zimbabwe's most popular newspaper as they revel in its striking parallels with the autocratic President Robert Mugabe.

The Daily News, the biggest selling independent newspaper, has criticised Mr Mugabe and suffered two bomb attacks and numerous violent demonstrations.

Yet its serialisation of Animal Farm, in which George Orwell sought to parody the communism which swept Russia and was spreading to Europe, has marked its most effective attack on his government.

Kingston's bookshop, the largest in Harare, sold out of copies of Orwell's book within days of the serialisation beginning last month.

In the daily instalments Napoleon, the greedy and brutal pig who leads the revolution, is depicted in the black thick-rimmed spectacles favoured by Mr Mugabe.

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