George Orwell was an inveterate keeper of diaries. Eleven diaries are presented here, and we know there may be two more from his time in Spain hidden away in the NKVD Archives in Moscow. Covering the period 1931-1949, this volume follows Orwell from his early years as a writer up to his last literary notebook.

His Hop-Picking Diary covers some of Orwell's time spent down and out; a wonderful entry from 1931 tells of a communal shave in the Trafalgar Square fountains. The notes from his travels through industrial England, which formed the basis of The Road to Wigan Pier, show the development of the gifted young novelist and impassioned social commentator. 'Frightful landscape of slag-heaps and belching chimneys.[...] Beards of ice on lock gates.' This same acute power of observation is evident in his diaries from Morocco, where he also encountered extreme poverty. We catch a glimpse of a different Orwell at home. His domestic diaries chart the progress of his garden and animals with a keen eye, from the succinct, 'Pig active again.' to the more poetic, 'One of the plants that carries the snow most beautifully is lavender.'

The wartime diaries make fascinating reading, from descriptions of events overseas, to the daily violence closer to home and his astute perspective on the politics of both. Orwell offers a different take on the typical view of the home front. 'War is simply a reversal of civilised life, its motto is "Evil be thou my good", and so much of the good of modern life is actually evil that it is questionable whether on balance war does harm.'

The diaries provide a new and entirely refreshing insight into Orwell's character and help towards an understanding of his great works.


  • All the diaries of Orwell that are still extant were first published in 1998 by Peter Davison and included in his monumental edition of The Complete Works of George Orwell. They are now conveniently regrouped here in one volume, excellently presented and annotated by Davision
    Simon Leys, New York Review

About the author

George Orwell

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known by his pen-name, George Orwell, was born in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. An author and journalist, Orwell was one of the most prominent and influential figures in twentieth-century literature. His unique political allegory Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with the dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame. His novels and non-fiction include Burmese Days, Down and Out in Paris and London, The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.
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