One usually doesn’t think of George Orwell as somebody with a Romantic inner life; this is mainly because of how we’re taught to read him in high school and college, as the cold-eyed, despondent observer of the mid-twentieth century’s horrors. And he is that. But he was also a human being (hence given to sentiments and wanderings and frustration and hunger, like the rest of us), one equipped with an artist’s tools for expressing his humanity, and we get a good look at all this in the new omnibus edition of his Diaries, which has just come out in England and which D.J. Taylor reviews in the latest Times Literary Supplement. Taylor considers these a major part of Orwell’s oeuvre and important matter for any new biographers, writing that they are
Handsomely produced, illustrated with Orwell’s own pencil sketches and footnoted with [Peter] Davison’s customary élan, this latest wave in the repackager’s tide invites two questions. Why did Orwell write diaries? And what do they tell us about him? . . .
Well, for starters,
there is [many] a sudden glimpse of all kinds of things not often associated with Orwell – frustrated yearnings, sequestered retreats, the deepest of romantic chasms.
Long live Eric Blair, in all his versions. Happy MLK Day!