George Orwell: A Life with My Father
– Orwell takes Coffee in Huesca
Tuesday 27 March 2018 at 10:30
Venue: The Danish Club, Mijas
Lecturer: Richard Blair
Members: 8 Euros Pay at Door
Non-Members: 10 Euro Pay at Door
The lecture will work through his life and the salient points from childhood, school, Burma, tramping in London and Paris, his visit to Wigan and his time in the Spanish Civil War, his writings (novels and travelogues) illness, BBC, his huge output of essays and articles, writing his last 2 novels, his son’s life with him in London and on the Island of Jura and finally his death. It will be interspersed with random readings from some of his more significant essays and poems.
The subtitle is the title of the exhibition that was showing in Huesca earlier this year and is a quotation taken from Orwell’s book Homage To Catalonia.
About the Lecturer
Richard Blair (George Orwell’s adopted son).
“The last years of Orwell’s life are generally thought to have been heroically grim: the privations of World War II in London, his wife Eileen’s early death on the operating table, the shortages of the postwar years, his self-exile from London to the cold isolation of a primitive farmhouse on the Isle of Jura off the Scottish coast, the dogged composition of his nightmare masterpiece “1984,” much of it while he was bedridden with T.B., the final agony of his illness in a series of sanitoria, death in 1950 at forty-six years old. No wonder he acquired the posthumous title of St. George.
Most Orwell readers know that he and Eileen adopted a son, Richard. And that’s about all they know of Richard Blair (George Orwell was the pseudonym of Eric Blair), who has kept his silence throughout his life—until now.
So who is Orwell’s son? A retired engineer, who lives in a picturesque village in Warwickshire, and who has entirely happy memories of having spent his first six years in the company of the author of “Homage to Catalonia” and “Animal Farm.”
Orwell, by his son’s account, was a wonderful father. He gave Richard his devoted if rather rugged attention, and a degree of freedom that readers of contemporary parenting books would consider actionable. A small boy’s life with the great and dying writer was an endless adventure in the wonders and rigors of the natural world around their country house, even if most of the shared experiences Richard still remembers were of near-disasters. One fishing expedition to a shepherd’s hut on the remote part of Jura ended in a storm, with Orwell, Richard, and his three cousins nearly drowning in the Gulf of Corryvreckan. Orwell, struggling in the whirlpool that had capsized their boat, noticed a seal watching them and remarked, “Curious thing about seals, very inquisitive creatures.”
That’s the voice that described crawling through a coal mine in northern England and taking a bullet in the throat in Spain: detached, a bit austere, but alert and alive to the world. No one ever accused Orwell of being sentimental. In fact, he has a reputation for personal reserve, even coldness, and one feminist critic based a whole book on the premise that Orwell’s pessimistic vision was a product of misogyny and male dominance.
Quote George Packer for The New Yorker 2009