Thursday December 15, 2016

The Orwell Tapes, Part 3

Steve Wadhams reveals the changes that Orwell made while editing 1984. 4:26

Listen to Full Episode 53:59

He was a brilliant, eccentric, complicated man; a colonial policeman, a critic and journalist, a dishwasher, a fighter in the Spanish civil war, a teacher and a shopkeeper - and one of the most influential writers of our time. His name was Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell. Who was the man who gave us 'big brother', 'thoughtcrime', 'doublethink', whose name looms so large in this era of mass surveillance?  **This episode originally aired April 18, 2016.


Orwell Tapes - Steve Wadhams

Producer Steve Wadhams (right) with associate producer Edward Trapunski (left). They worked together on "George Orwell: A Radio Biography". The series aired on January 1st, 1984. (CBC)

In the summer of 1983 – in the run up to Orwell's famous year -- CBC producer Steve Wadhams travelled through England, Scotland and Spain interviewing over 70 people who knew Orwell – his friends, his family and his critics.   Some of this remarkable archive of oral history was broadcast in a radio special which aired on January 1st 1984 - but much it is being heard now for the first time.

Part 3 of The Orwell Tapes begins in 1939 with the outbreak of the World War II. We see Orwell as the "loyal rebel", the "patriotic revolutionary" who dreamed of a Socialist post-war Britain.  

Orwell was rejected for military service because of poor health -- but eventually he found war related work as a producer at the BBC – chafing under heavy wartime censorship but learning from it – in fact using it to write his two most famous books; Animal Farm and 1984.   

The effort of writing 1984 broke Orwell's fragile health and he died of tuberculosis at the age of 46. 

Animal Farm has never been out of print. 1984 has sold millions of copies. Orwell's name is almost certain to be invoked in any discussion of propaganda, misinformation or computer based surveillance  -- the new "Big Brother" which can track our every move.  

But it's not just for his dark warnings that Orwell has lodged himself into our collective imagination.

His legacy is much more than that. He reminds us there is a connection between clarity of language and truth, to use our language not just with clarity but with beauty. He implores us to be vigilant -- on guard for freedom -- and to keep the faith: the triple faiths of decency, tolerance and humanity.

Guests in this episode:

  • David Astor, friend who helped Orwell find house in Jura and arranged his funeral.
  • Richard Blair, Orwell's adopted son.
  • ​Jacintha Buddicom, childhood friend of Orwell.
  • ​Lettice Cooper, friend of Eileen (Orwell's first wife)
  • Katie Darroch, Orwell's nearest neighbour on Isle of Jura.
  • Patricia Donahue, friend.
  • Bill Dunn, Orwell's brother-in-law.
  • Rev. Gordon Dunstan, Church minister for Orwell's funeral.
  • Mary Fyvel, friend of Orwell.
  • Tosco Fyvel, worked with Orwell on wartime books.
  • Celia Goodman, Orwell proposed to her after his first wife died.
  • Desmond Hawkins, worked with Orwell at the BBC.
  • David Holbrook, boyfriend of Orwell's housekeeper after his first wife died.
  • Michael Meyer, friend of Orwell.
  • Malcolm Muggeridge, friend.
  • Margaret  Nelson, owner of house on Island of Jura that Orwell rented.
  • Anne Popham, Orwell proposed to her after his first wife died.
  • Paul Potts, Canadian born poet. Knew Orwell in London.
  • Stephen Spender, friend.
  • Henry Swanzy, knew Orwell at the BBC.
  • Julian Symons, friend. Reviewed 1984.
  • Susan Watson. Orwell's housekeeper after his first wife died.
  • James Williamson, doctor who treated Orwell.
  • Sunday Wilshin, knew Orwell at the BBC.
  • Diana Witherby, friend of Orwell's second wife, Sonia Brownell.