Liveright: Norton. Aug. 2012. c.608p. ed. by Peter Davison. illus. index. ISBN 9780871404107. $39.95. LIT
Orwell's extensive diaries, published in Britain in 2009, are finally available in print form in the United States (daily postings from the diaries have been appearing online at This volume contains 11 diaries, beginning in August 1931 and ending in December 1948, 11 months before Orwell's death. Two missing diaries, from the Spanish civil war, are thought to be housed in the former KGB archives in Moscow. The diaries reveal intimate details of Orwell's life—the death of his first wife, raising his son, his financial struggles, and his travels. Many entries served as primary material for later works, e.g., a 1936 diary used to write The Road to Wigan Pier. While there are many mundane entries, e.g., on chores and the weather, there are also lengthy ruminations about political and world events, as in the "Diary of Events Leading Up to the War" (titles probably by the editor) and his detailed and compelling notes during World War II. Davison, who has edited Orwell's complete works, provides helpful explanations and many notes. Christopher Hitchens's introductory essay is one of his last literary efforts.
VERDICT The diaries will appeal to all—literary scholars, historians, and students of 20th-century literature—seeking the inner life of this profoundly influential writer. Strongly recommended.
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