Fun Orwell facts!

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“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”
― George Orwell, 1984


14 bits? That’s 16,383 interesting facts!


Tuberculosis really claimed its share of authors.

In a period when the need for exercise wasn’t recognised so much and people tended to gather in poorly ventilated bars, or work in poorly ventilated rooms often lit by candles or gas, it isn’t really surprising.


Orwell was a smoker too, which is not the best companion to TB.

Missing from the list, and most depressing: Orwell wrote a list of his friends
whom he considered to be secret Stalinists and turned it over to a UK
domestic surveillance unit so they could be placed under watch

From the linked Wikipedia article, that’s not entirely fair. There’s no indication that the list was particularly of his friends, and the government department he passed it to conducted anti-Communist propaganda, not surveillance; the names were people Orwell did not consider suitable for writing such propaganda.

On the other hand, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that said department might pass the list to, say, MI5.



They didn’t mention the “rough quadrilateral,” for which the superstates are fighting to control. Or this: “A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labor that would build several hundred cargo ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labors another Floating Fortress is built.” Usually when someone (e.g. relatives, or old high school chums, on Facebook) warn about something or other being Orwellian, it’s never about these things. It’s always Big Brother, the telescreens etc.


Here’s an interesting essay from Orwell: Antisemitism in Britain.

“The point is that something, some psychological vitamin, is lacking in modern civilisation, and as a result we are all more or less subject to this lunacy of believing that whole races or nations are mysteriously good or mysteriously evil.”


Probably because those people want the Orwell who warned about Communist dictatorships, not the Orwell who was a member of the Independent Labour Party and was sympathetic to the Catalonian anarcho-syndicalists.

The Floating Fortress is similar to modern day capitalism if they look too closely, so they don’t refer to it.


Also worth noting: the party in Oceania is called INGSOC—English Socialists—and Orwell was a socialist and proud of his English identity.

Poor guy couldn’t catch a break. First the commissars were after him for not being commie enough, and then the Brit government for being too commie.

I also like “A Nice Cup of Tea.”

I remember starting, but not finishing, 1984 during the summer before 9th grade (which, come to think of it, was 1984). I didn’t read it again until college. In the meantime, I read Animal Farm but also “Marrakech”, “Shooting an Elephant” and “A Hanging.”

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1984 and Animal Farm were required reading in California public schools when I was in elementary school. Yet Homage to Catalonia, about when he joined the POUM, a revolutionary Marxist militia, and fought in the front lines against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, was not required, nor even mentioned. You don’t really get Orwell’s perspective on Stalinism if you don’t know that he saw a revolutionary movement crushed by its erstwhile ally, the Communist Party’s International Brigades.

Homage to Catalonia is a good read. Alternately, you could watch the Ken Loach film, Land and Freedom, a fictionalized account that covers much of the same ground.

Also worth pointing out: the reason the Stalinists back-stabbed the POUM and the anarcho-syndicalists was to prove to the powerful Western nations that they were willing to stop revolutionary movements in order to get their support in the struggle against fascism. One of the great ironies of the Cold War – if it can be called an irony – is that part of the reason for Stalinist repression was that the USSR kept trying to shut down revolutionary movements to prove it would be a good ally to and supporter of “progressive” nations, particularly the UK and US. By itself, Spain should have been a lesson: the US, UK, and France did not intervene, the fascists won the Civil War, and Franco remained in power until he died of old age in 1975.


"During World War II, Orwell served as a television producer…creating and supervising programming that the nation would feed to Indian networks "

I can confidently say that isn’t true.

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exercise? ventilation? candles? miasm theory revival?


He did work for the BBC’s Empire Service. Why anyone would confuse a shortwave radio service with television, though…

You don’t need miasm theory to know that being fat, sedentary and unhealthy makes you prone to disease… Also that breathing smoke screws up and damages your lungs making them a prime target for a bacterial infection that specializes on eating your lungs.


No. Candle and gas fumes cause lung irritation, making it easier for tuberculosis bacteria to gain a foothold. In poorly ventilated rooms, the density of airborne bacteria is higher. Lack of exercise (and a culture of drinking among the intelligentsia) -> reduced resistance to infection.

Tuberculosis was a common disease in the Highlands of Scotland because of the factors of cramped, poorly ventilated living conditions and smoke pollution.


Another part of the reason, not I think so well appreciated in the West, is that even after WW2 Stalin believed that the US planned an attack on Russia through Germany. This belief persisted for a long time. Hence the desire to turn all of Eastern Europe into a buffer zone, and the desire, which persists today, to prevent too much independence in parts of Eastern Europe close to the USSRRussia. The more the US tries to support countries like Ukraine, the more the Russians see a plot. And really it is not that surprising. Russia doesn’t want revolutions in its satellites in case they are taken over by the US - which is what they think happened with the Orange movement in Ukraine.