We have recently reissued an updated edition of George Orwell by Gordon Bowker which includes discussion of newly-discovered letters from Orwell's first wife Eileen, and some new revelations about Jacintha Buddicom. It's a must for any fan of Orwell and his work. Read on to see what the author thought about the importance of these new papers.
One of the most frustrating things that can happen following publication of a biography is the sudden and unexpected discovery of new material which alters the way the subject can be regarded. Since my book appeared there have been several such new disclosures – it is high time they are included in a revised edition.
For example, a letter found by the cousin of Jacintha Buddicom, Orwell’s childhood sweetheart, seems to reveal that, before leaving for Burma in 1922 he had attempted to rape Jacintha on a country walk. The rural seduction features in several Orwell novels, usually rendered idyllic, as in Nineteen Eighty-Four. But the ‘rape’ story also confirms reports of Orwell’s sexual technique – the sudden ‘pounce’, which he thought the appropriate way to approach a woman.
Comparatively little is known about Orwell’s first wife, Eileen, but her newly-discovered letters to a friend reveal just how shaky the marriage was at the outset, how she regarded Eric’s family, that she had had an affair with George Kopp, his commander in Spain, and that she helped him with his work more than previously thought, especially his last two great novels, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four.
Orwell often told friends that he was being spied on, but they thought he was paranoid. However, the National Archives released files showing that he had been shadowed by the police and MI5 ever since he was ‘down and out in Paris’ in 1928, He gave that experience, of course, to Winston Smith, under the interminable gaze of Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-four.
I have been able to include these fresh revelations and other new material in the new edition of the book. They contribute significantly, I believe, to the portrait painted in the book of the ‘real’ and gritty Orwell, a man with a far more human face than those which project him as kind of secular saint.
Gordon Bowker, February 2011
For more information on Gordon Bowker's biography of George Orwell, please see www.littlebrown.co.uk.
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