Jelena Sofronijevic reviews

Life With My Father, George Orwell

Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell, was an inimitable story writer. And following his father’s footsteps, Richard Blair, is a compelling storyteller.

In a mere sixty minutes, Blair takes the audience on a whistle-stop tour of his father’s life. For the Orwell novice, none of the important, overarching details are spared. From the author’s birth in 1903, to his public school education, and service in Burma; from his ‘tramping’ days as a ‘down and out’ in Paris and London, to his service for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and his time writing on the Scottish island of Jura in the 1940s.

Between breaths, Blair reveals some more personal anecdotes, including tales of Orwell’s biting wit and sarcasm. His story is visualised through a collection of photographs. The most insightful is that of Orwell’s original manuscript of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the facisimile of which you can now purchase online. Consisting of little more than a few sentences, Orwell still rigorously drafted and redrafted the now-infamous opening paragraph. On the surface, the image depicts nothing more than a series of scribbles and crossings-out. However, it represents the author’s concise and meticulous style – which has always drawn, and continues to draw, me to his wide variety of works.

However, its concision was perhaps my disappointment of this event. Already familiar with Orwell’s general timeline, I craved more of these intimate stories and details. Blair himself was only five years old at the time of Orwell’s death, and his insights were generally drawn from secondary sources. Though compellingly told, I found the stories and images little personal compensation for the fact that no recordings of Orwell’s voice from his BBC days have been found. Afterwards, Blair informed me that the magnetic strip tapes aged poorly, and so these recordings will likely never be recovered.

Thus, we’re left only with Orwell’s written word. And fortunately, whether essays or poems, articles or novels, they themselves are deeply saturated with his own style and stories.

Part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2019 (18 October - 31 October).

Run ended.