This forum is inspired by the sad deterioration of the ungrammatically named "Radio Three," one of a number of stations operated under the authority of the British Broadcasting Corporation. For many years, attempts at rescue by the "Friends of Radio Three" and others have been frustrated. We now recognize that the moment has come for the birth of an entirely new entity of high quality.
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At 21:15 (BST) on the evening of Tuesday 9 June 2009, to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's novel 1984, there was a Night Waves discussion about how the word 'Orwellian' has taken on a life of its own as a useful political adjective.
In the winter of 2004, kleines c sailed out of the Thames Estuary and up the Suffolk coast to Southwold. George Orwell is closely associated with this charming coastal resort, as this is where his parents retired. His real name, of course, was Eric Arthur Blair.
Peter C, who had lived in East Anglia all his life and knew the real Eric Blair as a young man, was once in a pub with him, and Eric gave him a lecture saying, "The thing is, Peter, you will never be accepted by the working classes if you speak in that way and wear that tie."
I guess that the old Etonian had much to live down. His accent betrayed his class. He was a tall, gaunt figure who used to walk around town with his hands in his pockets and a cigarette in his mouth, at least until he wanted to kiss someone. Then he would stub it out and do his stuff. The manager at The Swan immediately referred to Eric Blair as Sir and called Peter C, Peter:
"He was a toff and there was no way he could get away from it."
Eric was also a bit of a ladies' man, or rather, "a pursuer of Southwold girlhood". I once met an old lady who had been handed a poem by Orwell when she was sixteen. I did not think that much of it, but it was sweet enough. A certain George Summers actually came to blows with Eric over his girl friend on Southwold Common in the 1931. Eric simply would not leave her alone.
The 'c' take would be that one of the most penetrating political writers of the twentieth century struggled to fit into such a conservative place. Yet his social failures with the locals probably made him excel all the more in his novels. Eric last visited Southwold in 1939. It was a marvellous Orwellian moment. His father died that year, but they were reconciled before the end as his father had just read a favourable Sunday Times review of his book Coming Up For Air. In the fashion of the time, they put a couple of copper pennies on his father's eyelids. After the funeral it didn't seem right just to put the coins in his pocket, so Eric walked down to the front at Southwold and just chucked them into the sea. I cannot say I found any Orwellian coppers on the beach, but I understand why he did it. So I did a little rain dance on the beach instead, ran into the crashing waves and turned back the tide. King Cnut, eat your heart out! In the spirit of Dylan Thomas, who was living on the west rather than the east coast of Britain at the time, do not go gentle into that good night:
" ... Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Eric himself was as sharp an observer of the English as Dylan was of the Welsh. He saw the English as a mild-mannered if slightly insular people, characterised by an aversion to extremism and a general faith in 'common sense' over abstract philosophical ideas, which tend to be associated more with thinkers from the continental mainland. He was critical, however, of any romantic notion of England as a nation that was in some way united, as was often said of the British people, especially during periods of national crisis such as wartime:
"England is the most class-ridden country under the sun... It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and silly."
Eric was therefore an intriguing, rather paradoxical individual; an upper-middle-class 'man of the people' who tried, through the course of his life, to overcome the prejudices that his upbringing had educated him into. Although traces of Orwell's England can still be seen today in places like Southwold, the best part of a century later, England appears to be a more open, multicultural society, and it would be fair to say that the passing of the more old-fashioned notion of 'Englishness' is largely unmourned. He is perhaps best studied today from a historical perspective, as someone who was on the scene with his own idiosyncratic insights to offer on many of the key turning points in twentieth century history. Yet in his repudiation of totalitarianism in his great novels, Animal Farm and 1984, he arguably did more than any other writer to advance the cause of freedom. As children of the great ideological battles of the twentieth century, which he fought so passionately on an intellectual level, we owe him much. I suspect that were he to reappear right now, I would like him very much indeed. Despite his obvious difficulties with class, he was always something of a romantic.
For two years, between 1941 and 1943, George Orwell - real name Eric Arthur Blair - was BBC staff member 9889, hired as a Talks Producer for the Eastern Service to write what was essentially propaganda for broadcast to India. From recruitment to resignation, this collection of documents reveals the high regard in which Orwell was held by his colleagues and superiors and his own uncompromising integrity and honesty. Internal memos explore working relationships with literary contributors, while letters written from the Hebridean island of Jura colour the background to the creation of 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' (1984).
How is the C Pro-gramme going, George Orwell asked? Is it really going to be nothing barred? He was about to write 1984.
2013 - 1948 = 65
George Orwell "encapsulate[d] the thesis at the heart of his unforgiving novel" in 1944, and three years later wrote most of it on the Scottish island of Jura, from 1947 to 1948, despite being seriously ill with tuberculosis. On 4 December 1948, he sent the final manuscript to the publisher Secker and Warburg and 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' was published on 8 June 1949. By 1989, it had been translated into sixty-five languages, more than any other novel in English at the time. The title of the novel, its themes, the Newspeak language, and the author's surname are often invoked against control and intrusion by the state, while the adjective Orwellian describes a totalitarian dystopia characterised by government control and subjugation of the people. Orwell's invented language, Newspeak, satirizes hypocrisy and evasion by the state: for example, the Ministry of Love (Miniluv) oversees torture and brainwashing, the Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty) oversees shortage and famine, the Ministry of Peace (Minipax) oversees war and atrocity, and the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) oversees propaganda and historical revisionism.
'The Last Man in Europe' was one of the original titles for the novel, but in a letter dated 22 October 1948 to his publisher Fredric Warburg, eight months before publication, Orwell wrote about hesitating between 'The Last Man in Europe' and 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'. Warburg suggested changing the Man title to one more commercial. The rejected title may allude to the poem "End of the Century, 1984" (1934) by Orwell's first and then wife Eileen O'Shaughnessy (1905–1945), to G. K. Chesterton's novel also set in a future London of 1984, 'The Napoleon of Notting Hill' (1904), and to the Jack London novel 'The Iron Heel' (1908).
In the novel '1985' (1978), Anthony Burgess suggests that Orwell, disillusioned by the onset of the Cold War (1945–91), intended to call the book 1948. The introduction to the Penguin Books Modern Classics edition of 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' reports that Orwell originally set the novel in 1980, but he later shifted the date first to 1982, then to 1984. The final title may also be an inversion of 1948, the year of composition. Throughout its publication history, 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' has been either banned or legally challenged as subversive or ideologically corrupting, like Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' (1932).