"If I had understood the situation a bit better I should
probably have joined the anarchists". (Extract letter, October 1937 written
by George Orwell to his friend Jack Common).
"Spanish anarchism shaded off into Utopianism at one end and sheer banditry
at the other". (Observer 10th Nov 1946).
George Orwell (nee Eric Blair) is best known for his seminal works, Animal Farm
. It's impossible to read these works
and not come away with the impression that Orwell was familiar with anarchist
ideas and views.
Anybody who is familiar with Orwell's work and has read Homage to Catalonia
will know that Orwell
was not only familiar with anarchist ideas, he saw anarchists in action and
witnessed the Spanish anarchists attempts to make their ideas a reality when
he was fighting in Spain in 1937.
Interestingly the first edition of 1500 copies of Homage to Catalonia still
hadn't sold out when he died 12 years later in 1949.
George Orwell at Home is a beautifully produced 78 page book that is basically
a photographic essay of George Orwell at Home. Throughout WWII he kept in
contact with Vernon Richards and Marie Louise Berneri, two leading anarchist
activists in London. Just after the war Vernon Richards and Louise Berneri
took the photographs of George Orwell at Home that make up the photographic
component of this mini coffee table book.
The photographs show George Orwell in his rented third storey flat with
his three year old adopted son, Eric Blair. Orwell married Eileen O'shaughnessy
in June 1936, they adopted Eric in 1944, tragically she died in 1945 after
a routine operation. George Orwell, although sick himself, continued to look
after his adopted son, Eric, after her sudden death. The photographs in the
book concentrate both on Eric and George and how they interacted.
The difference between this coffee table book and most other coffee table
books is that this book has something to say. In three separate articles Vernon
Richards, Colin Ward and Nicholas Walter examine George Orwell's understanding,
support and commitment to anarchist ideas. Although in the later part of his
relatively short life (he died in 1949 at the age of 46) he was openly hostile
to anarchist ideas and although he never considered he was an anarchist, reading
Richards, Ward's and Walter's essays on George Orwell, it's obvious his life
and work was influenced by the anarchists.
GEORGE ORWELL AT HOME - (and among the Anarchists)
Essays and Photographs
Vernon Richards, Colin Ward, Nicolas Walter
Freedom Press 1998