Meaning Creeps In

I’ve been reading George Orwell’s blog for almost a year now. Oh sure, he was a blogger. Actually not even close. To be sure, he kept journals, and the Orwell blog reposts his journal entries with each entry occurring sixty years to the day after we wrote them. It’s an interesting twist on reading published journals; usually you have access to the whole body of writing at once, and you can skim, read as fast as you like, check the index and such.

But reading the Orwell journals rationed out at the same rate that he wrote them is a rewarding exercise in patience. The journals start August 1938: “Drizzly. Dense mist in evening. Yellow moon.”

They went on that way for months upon months, goats having kids, weather observations, lots and lots of gardening. Those observations continue. Today: “Sharp shower in the morning, otherwise fairly warm. The white hen has turned up, evidently having slept out somewhere.” However, as the months crept on parallel entries appear with new observations.

“Gov.t advising all householders to lay in supply of non-perishable food. Leaflet on the subject to be issued shortly.”

“Large demonstration against British Embassy in Tokio.”

“More reports of fighting on the Manchukuo border, sufficient to indicate that fighting (prob. inconclusive) has actually taken place.”

“Chamberlain’s speech reiterates that we shall support the Poles in case of Danzig coup, but seems to leave initiative to the Poles.”

And even better are the ones that include fear-mongering news clippings that could be torn from our own sensationalistic rags. “CAN BRITAIN BE INVADED?” This is the state of things, the crucible that led up to one of the most perfect and insightful works of political fiction yet written. But what captivates me are the journals. Diaries, rather. They were written for himself, and you can see him starting to sort things out. No all-too-earnest rantings. No musings. Merely gathering, waiting to see how the pieces fit together. To look at one entry is to look at nothing, but to see the pattern over an extended period is to perceive a world imploding with a complexity that simply cannot be captured by history books.

And then the 1984/Amazon Kindle debacle. Or the recovery of pirated copies. Either way, I’m glad it happened. I hope it happens again, not so the Kindle fails, but so more people become aware of what they’re signing on to. But please, enough with the memory hole jokes. Orwell was already rolling in his grave.