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Dear Diary

Orwell's deposition before the British consul, Marrakesh 11 Sept 1938  UCL Orwell Archive

He was the author of Animal Farm, 1984 and some of the most memorable political writing of the 20th Century.

But, as his diaries show, George Orwell was also interested in travel, food - and even slugs.

The diaries, written from 1938, cover the descent of Europe into war, as well as Orwell's travels in Morocco, following his sojourn in Catalonia, fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

They cover the insightful and the mundane - he even includes newspaper clippings of sloe gin recipes.
Orwell's diary  UCL Orwell Archive
Orwell divided his diaries - one for political writing, one domestic

Now those diaries will be made available online, by the Orwell Prize - a prize for political writing set up in his name.

Orwell and his wife Eileen lived in Morocco for six months. Among a collection of papers and diaries at London's UCL are their travel papers for Morocco, photographs of their time in the country and even the menus from the ship they travelled on.

Orwell wrote his political observations in a separate diary - begun on 7 September 1938.

But exactly 70 years after the date of the first diary entry, on 9 August 1938, until 70 years after the last entry in 2012, the Orwell prize website will publish diary entries online daily - in blog form.

And Orwell's son, Richard Blair, has read some of those diary extracts for the Today programme.

SOUTHWOLD 1938

August 22: Warmish day, with showers. Nights are getting colder & more like autumn. A few oaks beginning to yellow very slightly. After the rain enormous slugs crawling about, one measuring about 3" long.

Large holes, presumably ear-holes, some distance behind head. They were of two distinct colours, some light fawn & others white, but both have a band of bright orange round the edge of the belly, which makes one think they are of the same species & vary individually in colour. On the tip of their tails they had blobs of gelatinous stuff like the casing of water-snail's eggs.

A large beetle, about the size of a female stag-beetle but not the same, extruding from her hindquarters a yellow tube about the length of herself. Possibly some sort of tube through which eggs are laid?

GIBRALTAR 1938

Population of town about 20,000, largely Italian origin but nearly all bilingual English-Spanish.

Many Spaniards work here and return into Spain every night. At least 3,000 refugees from Franco territory. Authorities now trying to get rid of these on pretext of overcrowding. Impossible to discover wages and food prices.

Standard of living apparently not very low, no barefooted adults and few children. Fruit and vegetables cheap, wine and tobacco evidently untaxed or taxed very little (English cigarettes 3/- a hundred, Spanish 10d. a hundred), silk very cheap. No English sugar or matches, all Belgian. Cows' milk 6d. a pint. Some of the shopkeepers are Indians and Parsees.

Spanish destroyer Jose Luis Diez lying in harbour. A huge shell-hole, probably four or five feet across, in her side, just above water-level, on port side about fifteen to twenty feet behind bow. Flying Spanish Republican flag. The men were at first apparently prevented from going ashore, now allowed at certain hours to naval recreational ground (i.e. not to mix with local population). No attempt being made to mend the ship.

Overheard local English resident: "It's coming right enough. Hitler's going to have Czecho-Slovakia all right. If he doesn't get it now he'll go on and on till he does. Better let him have it at once. We shall be ready by 1941."

MARRAKECH 1938

Day before yesterday still unbearably hot, yesterday cooler but night very stuffy. Very hot today at midday, in the afternoon a violent dust-storm, much thunder & then fairly heavy rain for about an hour. Fearful mud in the bazaar in consequence. Air much fresher after the rain.
Drawing of Arab drill   UCL Orwell Archive
The diaries include cuttings and drawings

Primitive drill used by Arabs - not certain whether merely drill for wood or used for stone & earthenware - constructed as follows. The drill is attached to an upright which passes through a heavy round stone of 5-10 lb.

Above this is a cross-piece which fits round the upright but is movable. From the ends of the cross-piece strings go to the top of the upright. These are twisted round the upright & the cross-piece worked up & down, causing the upright & therefore the drill to rotate. The stone serves merely as a weight.

MARRAKECH 1938

Summer Time observed in Spanish Morocco, not in French. Franco soldiers at the stations dressed almost exactly like those of the Spanish Government.

Luggage searched on train, but very carelessly, by typical Spanish official. Another official entered and impounded all French newspapers, even those favourable to Franco. French travellers very much amused by this and ditto the official, who evidently realized the absurdity of it.

VILLA SIMONT 1939

Have just returned after spending a week at Taddert in the Atlas, about 95 km. from Marrakech.
George Orwell
Eric Blair - or George Orwell - was a journalist, essayist and novelist

The Chleuh seem to be rather remarkable people. The men are not greatly different in appearance from the Arabs, but the women are exceedingly striking. In general they are rather fair, sometimes fair enough to have red in their cheeks, with black hair and remarkable eyes. None are veiled, and all wear a cloth around their heads tied with blue or black cords, the dominant colours of their dress being red and blue. All the women have tattooing on their chins and sometime down each cheek.

Their manner is much less timid than that of most Arab women. Virtually the whole population is ragged and there is no evidence of any being richer than the others. The children for the most part have nothing on but a ragged blanket. Begging is almost universal, and the women have discovered that their jewellery (amber and rough silver, some of it exceedingly well worked) is liked by Europeans and will sell it for prices that cannot be much above the value of the silver.

The children beg as soon as they can walk and will follow for miles over mountain tracks in hopes of a sou. Tobacco is greatly appreciated by those who do smoke, but I notice that a great many do not, and none of the women.




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