Shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, George Orwell volunteered to fight for the Republicans against Franco’s fascist Nationalist rebellion. He joined the far-left POUM ( Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification), in which he fought as an infantryman. In his classic work, Homage to Catalonia (probably the greatest political travel book ever written), Orwell depicted the betrayal of the workers’ revolution by the Soviets and the Spanish Communist Party. After being shot in the neck in May of 1937, Orwell narrowly escaped arrest by he Stalinists after being labeled a Trotskyite. In June, he and his wife Eileen were forced to leave Spain for good and travel to Morocco to recuperate.
Since 9th August 2008, we’ve be able to gather our own impression of Orwell’s experience in Spain and disillusion with State Communism from reading his most strongly individual piece of writing: his diaries. The Orwell Prize marked the 70th anniversary of the diaries, by blogging each diary entry exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing readers to follow Orwell’s recovery 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.
From his domestic diaries, a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and – above all – how many eggs his chickens have laid is revealed. From his political diaries (from 7th September 1938), 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.
For Orwell fans, the Orwell Diaries Blog ( winner of the prestigious Orwell Prize) provides a very personal and intimate glimpse of the author’s world.