Record of Achievement
By George Orwell.
Edited by Peter Davison.
Liveright. 597 pp. $39.95
George Orwell (1903–50), the moral compass of the 20th century, had his own true north: farming and fishing in peace. He spent the last years of his life on the rural island of Jura, off Scotland, fighting tuberculosis and writing his sixth and final novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)—one of the great books of our time.
In his diaries, Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair) does not discuss his novels directly, but the terse, factual entries recording weather and the number of eggs given by the hens each day do offer a sense of his ideal working conditions. It is hard to say whether he craved distraction or merely kept his priorities straight when one reads entries like this: “Diary not kept up for several days owing to pen being mislaid.”
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Michael O'Donnel is a lawyer in Chicago. His writing has appeared in The Nation, The Washington Monthly, and The Los Angeles Times.more from this author >>