|December 29, 1954 - Dinner before the Opening of Animal Farm |
Left to Right: John Halas, Joy Batchelor, Borden Mace and Sonia Orwell
"It's ironic that George Orwell, whose books, Animal Farm and 1984, made him a world figure, never got to enjoy any of the monetary rewards of his major efforts. I first encountered his writing with Homage to Catalonia; the Spanish Wars against dictator Franco were always confusing until I read his book. When George Orwell and his wife, Eileen were in the trenches together and in pain, I felt as if I were fighting alongside them. And when Orwell, whose given name was Eric Blair, discovered that the Russian communists fighting in the trenches with them did not share the same democratic views that he did, I went along with Orwell.
"Years later, after Orwell's death, when I was helping bring Animal Farm to the world's screens, I met Mrs. George Orwell, Sonia Blair. She was charming and very bright. I thought she was delightful as well as beautiful! I must admit I had difficulty picturing her in the trenches with mud on her face, carrying her own rifle. It took me about three days to discover that she had not been in the trenches and that Eileen, his first wife, had since died. Sonia had been George's nurse in a hospital and married him three months before his death. He never got out of the hospital.
"Orwell had gone to Eaton but never went on to Oxford or Cambridge, yet his ability to use the English language is unsurpassed. He certainly experienced 'the hard life' growing up but never complained, instead he wrote about it. Down and Out in Paris and London, Shooting An Elephant in Burma as a British police guardian or The Road to Wigan Pier supply more than enough detail of making ends meet.
"Despite the rumors that Sonia was a money-grubbing playgirl, the evidence is that Orwell was very lonely and had been pursuing her for some time. In my experience, living until 94, I'm appreciative that she finally accepted his offer of marriage. Hindsight has also brought me to the conclusion that she was a wonderful protector of his literary legacy, and that includes allowing the CIA to use his works as propaganda. MORE...