Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Reading Orwell in (north)eastern Europe.

I don’t know why but I decided to read George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier. Besides a few of his shorter essays, I guess I haven’t read any of his books since school. Anyway the following paragraph jumped out.
I am not a manual labourer and please God I never shall be one, but there are some kinds of manual work that I could do if I had to. At pitch I could be a tolerable road-sweeper or an inefficient gardener or even a tenth-rate farm hand. But by no conceivable amount of effort training could I become a coal-miner, the work would kill me in a few weeks.
He clearly holds the miners in awe but is also perhaps being somewhat modest. An odd thought struck me about how lucky Orwell was to be born British considering when he was born. Perhaps because I have read some excellent books this year that deal with the terror of Stalin’s rule (most notably “Bloodlands” by Timothy Snyder and, in fiction, Sofi Okasanen’s “Purge”) it crossed my mind that had Orwell been born in what became the Soviet Union, or indeed in many other places between Berlin and Moscow, he may well have had an opportunity to find out how correct his premonition was.