Saturday, January 2, 2010

George Orwell is Getting a Museum

George Orwell, the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, is getting a museum.

Orwell, one of the 20th Century’s great authors, essayists, and literary critics, but most significantly, perhaps the century’s greatest political commentator, is getting a museum.

Orwell currently has no museum, building, library, institute, fellowship, chair, encomium, named for him. No statue has been raised in Trafalgar Square, or anywhere else.

His grave has this simple marker on it “here lies Eric Arthur Blair, born 25 June 2003, died 21 January 1950” - nothing to indicate that this grave in Oxfordshire is the burial site of the great George Orwell.

The actual person became a non-person.

Russia celebrates its great literary figures. The United States does something for most of ours. England has interred many of its greatest poets, writers, scientists, and public figures in Westminster Abbey, but not Orwell.

Kipling’s there, but not Orwell.

Robert Burns, the Scot, is there, but not Orwell.

Gerald Manley Hopkins, S.J., a Jesuit is there, but not Orwell.

John Milton of Paradise Lost is there, but not Orwell.

Ayn Rand has an institute, but not George Orwell.

Tolstoy has an estate, but not Orwell.

Mark Twain has a house, but not George Orwell.

Even the fictional Sherlock Holmes has a pub named for him, and Admiral Benbow Inns spam America.

Maybe’s there an Orwellian bar somewhere.

My generation read both Animal House and 1984 in high school. Orwell’s still major reading in England. Even if you haven’t read him, or seen the movie 1984, which was on cable tonight, you know Orwell.

Think of these phrases: Big Brother, Newspeak, Thought Police, and Double Think, and that great line from Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Think about it: Big Brother and the Nanny State, Newspeak and political double talk, Thought Police and political correctness, and Double Think and Bill Clinton. “All animals are equal ….” is a simple proposition recognizing that in any democracy, aristocracy, theocracy, plutocracy, monarchy, dictatorship, including that of the proletariat, some will always be more equal. The Bolsheviks simply appropriated to themselves the dachas of the capitalists.

1984 had such a ring that when Congress enacted the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the Clean Air Act, it imposed many deadlines in the two statutes, but never 1984.

Orwell lead quite a life – born in India during the Raj, raised in England, joined the Indian Imperial Police and posted in Burma, fought for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and became disillusioned with Communism, but died before England became socialist.

Yes, he’s finally getting a museum.

But it's not in England.

The Indian state of Bihar will restore Blair's colonial birthplace home in Motihari, India and open it as a museum.

Feel free to pay a visit on your way to Nepal.

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