The Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year since 1994, it has rewarded the book and to the journalism which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. A Blog Prize was awarded for the first time in 2009, launched following the success of this blog.
Since 9th August 2008, we have been blogging George Orwell’s diaries from 1938 in real time, 70 years to the day since each entry was originally written. The diaries start as Orwell heads to Morocco (with his wife Eileen) to recuperate from injury and illness, and end in 1942 (or 2012) as the Second World War rages. We have since post-blogged Orwell’s diary from his journey to Wigan Pier, and his hop-picking diary from 1931.
In addition to the diary entries, there are images and documents complementing the diaries available here, and a Google Map of Orwell’s travels here. For more on Orwell, visit the George Orwell section of the main Orwell Prize website for works by and about Orwell.
For further information, please contact the deputy director of the Orwell Prize, Gavin Freeguard. You can also follow us on Twitter. Our original introduction to the project is below.
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‘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.
Since 9th August 2008, The Orwell Prize has been blogging George Orwell’s diaries, allowing you to gather your own impression of Orwell’s face – behind the screen, rather than the page. Each diary entry is published on the blog exactly seventy years after it was originally written by Orwell, beginning in 1938 and 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 started on 9th August 2008), it may be a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and – above all – how many eggs have been laid. From his political diaries (from 7th September 2008), 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?