Principles and Propaganda: the BBC Orwell Archive

I made a mighty find today – and it was completely by accident, I might add. It’s an online archive of George Orwell’s communications from 1941-1943, curated by the BBC. That period marks his time as a BBC staffer, where he was assigned to write broadcasts to India – essentially propaganda, as the BBC now admits. Here’s a letter from Orwell to T.S. Eliot (!).

orwell to eliot

Here are the details from the BBC:

For two years, between 1941 and 1943, George Orwell – real name Eric Blair – was BBC staff member 9889, hired as a Talks Producer for the Eastern Service to write what was essentially propaganda for broadcast to India.

From recruitment to resignation, this collection of documents reveals the high regard in which Orwell was held by his colleagues and superiors and his own uncompromising integrity and honesty. Internal memos explore working relationships with literary contributors, while letters written from the Hebridean island of Jura colour the background to the creation of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’.


Rarities and eccentricities: Grasping the Monkey’s Paw

The Monkey’s Paw is the kind of place you always wished for when you were a kid. Dusty old typewriters, jars of stuff you’d never want to touch, and every kind of fascinating-yet-useless book you could ever imagine. Located at 1229 Dundas St. West, The Monkey’s Paw lays claim to being Toronto’s most idiosyncratic secondhand bookshop. Accordingly, they specialize in “uncommon scholarly and out-of-print books; ephemera & images; manual typewriters; biological specimens.”

Take, for example, some of this week’s new arrivals. Roaring Guns (1938) is a violent Western written and illustrated by an 8-year-old, with original misspellings intact.

monkey's paw 1

Or, if gruesome kids’ drawings aren’t your thing, then try Heads and Faces and how to Study them: A Manual of Phrenology and Physiognomy (1897). Alternatively, take a look at Clip and Groom your own Poodle (1972). The cover is self-explanatory.

monkey's paw 2
What more could you ever wish for?

The Monkey’s Paw
1229 Dundas St. West
Toronto, Ontario M6J1X6

tel: 416.531.2123

Books to read this summer

The summer is here! Which means it’s about time I start figuring out all the unrealistic expectations I have for myself. Let’s start with books.

  • The Sun Also Rises, Earnest Hemingway
  • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  • Zeno’s Conscience, Italo Svevo
  • Nadja, André Breton
  • The Time of Indifference, Alberto Moravia
  • The Castle, Franz Kafka

That’s all I’ve got so far… Any other recommendations?