Orwell Diaries

‘When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page’, wrote George Orwell, in his 1939 essay on Charles Dickens.


From 9th August 2008, you will be able to gather your own impression of Orwell’s face from reading his most strongly individual piece of writing: his diaries. The Orwell Prize is delighted to announce that, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diaries, each diary entry will be published on this blog exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing you to follow Orwell’s recuperation in Morocco, his return to the UK, and his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time. The diaries end in 1942, three years into the conflict.


What impression of Orwell will emerge? From his domestic diaries (which start on 9th August), it may be a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and – above all – how many eggs his chickens have laid. From his political diaries (from 7th September), it may be the Orwell whose political observations and critical thinking have enthralled and inspired generations since his death in 1950. Whether writing about the Spanish Civil War or sloe gin, geraniums or Germany, Orwell’s perceptive eye and rebellion against the ‘gramophone mind’ he so despised are obvious.


Orwell wrote of what he saw in Dickens: ‘He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.’


What will you see in the Orwell diaries?


Media Standards Trust

Political Quarterly

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47 Responses to Orwell Diaries

  1. Dave says:

    Great idea. I look forward to seeing what Eric Arthur Blair has to say, outside of his books.

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  4. Julian says:

    Thank you very much. I look forward to being regularly reminded how to write.

  5. John H says:

    Can’t wait for this to start. But as an NB: you need to set the “title” field in your WordPress settings. Otherwise RSS subscribers get it listed as “(no title)”.

  6. Thank you for deciding to host this project. It’s a great idea and am looking forward to the daily posts. I’ve told my readers about it, and hopefully they will get as excited as I am.

  7. Loquacity says:

    Oooh … I’ve just been forwarded this link from a friend. Can’t wait!


  8. mgking says:

    As welcome today as when written and, perhaps, needed even more.

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  10. moodr says:

    A great idea. I hope it will be a perfect execution too. I’ll be a frequent reader. Let’s introduce Orwell with RSS :)

  11. Justin Anthony Knapp says:

    Dear sir or madam,

    I have the collected Orwell and have read most things he’s written, but I will not be reading this blog because it appears that you are reproducing his private diary. Isn’t there an ethical obligation to respect the fidelity of someone’s confidential journal?

    I sincerely hope that the journals you are reproducing are, in fact, not private writings. If I am mistaken, please correct me.


  12. Thanks for the comments everyone – glad you’re looking forward to it!

    @John H: Thanks for bringing that to our attention – we’re still finalising a few things design-wise, but the title should be sorted by the 9th.

    @JAK: thanks for your concern, but I should stress: these diaries are contained in Peter Davison’s magisterial Complete Works (although they’ve never been made widely publicly available in this way before). Although they are partially the ‘domestic’ diaries, there are no compromising or confidential personal details, and we have the blessing (and involvement) of Orwell’s literary executor and Orwell’s son.

  13. moodr says:

    @JAK: of course there is always room for ethical discussion but if I were George Orwell (in fact it is not necessary, I can also just think as myself) I would not be disturbed when somebody publishes my diary after my death. No, I am really not kidding. Let me explain a little further.

    George Orwell is a special person. He is very unique in many aspects. Publishing his diaries has an educational value as well as an excitement for humanity. Even if there will be very private information, this will not be regarded as trying to disturb someone’s privacy. Instead, this is a valuable peace of history.

    I hope I could make my argument clear.

  14. Pingback: JAMES FREY » Blog Archive » 1984 Is Almost Here

  15. Jayjay says:

    This is fantastic, and I have one request: Would it also be possible for the diaries to be pushed as emails? Don’t want to have to check all the time if Orwell had anything to say that day but I’m not a fan of the rss – and wouldn’t it be more fun to get notes from Orwell in the mail anyway?

  16. Justin Anthony Knapp says:

    Moodr and Orwelldiaries,

    I appreciate your thoughtful responses. The argument that these have already been published does not justify further publication in my mind. If I was to claim in a court of law that everybody else was looting or I was stealing stolen goods, those arguments would fall flat as well. It is good that these contents are not compromising or confidential, but I do not feel like anyone else has the moral authority to give away the contents of someone else’s journals.

    Moodr, if I knew that Orwell felt fine with someone publishing his diary after death, then I would be fine with reading it. Unless I have some source to indicate that this was his desire, I still feel it is inappropriate. And while there probably is a lot of worthwhile material to be gleaned from his writings, that’s irrelevant to the moral issue at hand: I would not (for instance) steal Barack Obama’s prayers to publish in a newspaper regardless of how special a person he is; what he wrote was written in confidence and even if its contents are not notably compromising, they were not intended for a general audience.

    Clearly, you have met the ethical criteria of your field and I respect that, but personally, I cannot partake. Again, thank you kindly for responding and for the work that you do in spreading Orwell’s (other) writing and thought. If there is any indication that Orwell himself was indifferent to this publication or even intended it, I would be the first person to subscribe to this online journal. As such, from what I understand of the writing of these journals, I cannot read them ethically.


  17. Fabrice Dautref says:

    Good morning Ms Jean Seaton, Ms Barbara Hardy, Ms Polly Toynbee, Ms Marina Warner, Sir Bernard Crick, Mr Blair Richard, Mr D. J. Taylor, Mr Bill Hamilton, Mr Eric Hobsbawm, Mr Blake Morrison, Mr Andrew O’Hagan, Mr Alan Plater,

    may you please translate the Orwell’s diary then French people could read this one as whoever ? I suppose English is not the Novlang during this globalization time so French language cannot be ignored. Thanks a lot.

    French modest Orwell’s reader, I began to read this great author, 1984 more exactly, when I was 12 years old.
    Mr Fabrice Dautref from Grenoble.

  18. felicitari says:

    Since Mr. Fabrice Dautref thinks that French Language cannot be ignored (quel sacrilège…), I dare to suggest that the diary should be translated as well in German, Spanish, Chinese, and why not… in my own language Russian. I started to read Orwell’s “1984” in 1984 when I was 11 years old, so hopefully this makes my argument sound enough that you’ll consider my request.

  19. moh3n says:

    A great idea,Thank you.

  20. ZaD MoFo says:

    C’est une idée fascinante que de publier sa journalisation et je pense que des traductions spontanées multilangues s’ensuivront. Et pourquoi pas en Novlang!

    @Justin Anthony Knapp Says:
    […] If there is any indication that Orwell himself was indifferent to this publication or even intended it, I would […]

    It is perhaps precisely what Orwell will tell us through his diaries.

  21. khaled says:

    What a fantastic concept. Thanks.

  22. amzolt says:

    Shivering with anticipation !

    ~ Alex

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  24. Aspetto con ansia di leggere gli scritti di Orwell e confrontarli con l’idea che mi sono fatto di lui.
    Complimenti, W.M.

  25. makarone says:

    It would be interesting, if G.Orwell himself can write his diary on this blog!
    Let me be in SF domain for a moment! Excuse me for my English, if it’s no good, I hope you’ll understand

  26. sander says:

    This is neat! It was published in the newspaper today, and I’ll be recommending it to friends – starting by posting the link on my blog. Neat!

  27. Once again, thanks for all the kind comments everyone – only a few days to go now!

    @Jayjay – at the moment, we’re unable to send a daily email, but if you sign up for the Orwell Prize newsletter (at http://www.theorwellprize.co.uk/register.aspx), which is sent out every Wednesday, we’ll let you know when Orwell will be blogging each week.

    @Fabrice, felicitari, ZaD MoFo – we’re going to be publishing in English only for the time being – sorry! If anyone’s offering to translate, however…

  28. Altergalette says:

    Thank you so much ! Merci mille fois !

  29. hortensia says:


    Ich bin mal gespannt !

    Let’s see !

    J’ai hâte de découvrir ce blog !


  30. ctoileblog says:

    What a good idea !
    ..et puis surtout quelle mise en abîme saisissante, l’auteur de 1984 rédigeant son journal sur l’internet big brother ;)

  31. Muy interesante la inciativa de abrir un blog ‘’posthume’’, sobre todo si su diario está publicado ya. Antes pensé ya en esta posibilidad: postear en un blog los textos de una escritora que murió sin poderlos publicar, es una manera de dar a conocer a posibles lectores su creación literaria.
    En cuanto a George Orwell + Big Brother(is watching you) + web 2.0 = monitores + cámaras + ubicuidad. El Big brother nos vigila, la prole: prosumidores, también vigila, filma, observa, sube la información a youtube, a los portales de periódicos on -line, ahora todos nos vigilamos, todos nos denunciamos incluso a nosotros mismos al expresarnos en nuestros blog, al subir nuestros videos a youtube y colgar nuestros propios podcasts.

  32. Heather says:

    This is wonderful – thank you!

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  34. CptnSpldng says:

    I heard about this on National Public Radio this afternoon – Favorited this space so I’ll heve something intelligent to read at work each day.

    My first exposure to Orwell was in the mid 1970s with “Politics & the English Language.” I’m looking forward to this.

  35. Pingback: George Orwell Diaries Published As A Blog 70 Years Later | Laughing Squid

  36. I notice that The Orwell Diaries is not available in my native language, Martian, either. This is not acceptable.

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  38. Rob Graham says:

    What I’m hoping to find n the Orwell Diaries is a little wisdom.

    We could use some these days. The ‘gramaphone minds’ are back in the saddle and we’re being ridden hard.

  39. tall penguin says:

    Wow, this is very exciting. Can’t wait to see how this unfolds.

  40. Pingback: Orwell’s Diary Goes Blog | Splinters | The Book Review Blog at SpikeMagazine.com

  41. J.R.Riley says:

    I rediscovered (that time in high school didn’t seem to count) Orwell in Down and Out, and now I’m reading his work in the sequence he wrote it. I’m reading slowly, so I don’t run out of books, and this publication of the diaries gives me a measured supply of his writing. What a treat! Thanks.

  42. dbdonovan says:

    Go to NetFlix and check out the movie version of Orwell’s “1984”. It’s there, but you can’t check it out – and they wouldn’t answer me when I asked why. Very Strange!

  43. To the many of you who were hoping for translations into other languages… we’re signed up at Der Mundo, an online collaborative translation project, which you can find at http://orwelldiaries.dermundo.com/.

  44. Excellent idea.

    I was waiting for something like this, thank you for starting this project.

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  46. asal ketik says:

    diary daily…

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