T. R Fyvel’s personal memoir of George Orwell is pretty sloppy and unimaginative. Nor is it very well written. He’s a contemporary of Orwell’s, born in 1907, and when you compare his prose to Orwell’s you notice the huge gap in quality. Plus the way the book is set out is pretty hackneyed. The first 100 pages is a straight forward bio of Orwell up until Fyvel met him in the mid thirties. Then it moves to part two, which is the personal memoir bit. This section is pretty slim, and you get the impression he didn’t really spend that much time with Orwell, although his letters do pop up quite a bit in It Is What I Think. The final section is a summing up of Orwell’s writings, which is interesting in parts. He finds a major flaw in Orwell’s thinking – or not thinking enough – about the rise of Hitler and the fate of the Jews. This was a subject very close to Fyvel’s heart – he is of Jewish descent.
The most melancholy part of the book is when Fyvel quotes Orwell as saying, ‘Is it possible to die when you have another book inside you?’ I know from It Is What I Think that he had another idea for a book, having completed Nineteen Eighty-Four. He also wanted to write a non-political novel, about human relationships. I would speculate fiction along the lines of George Gissing, of whom he was a huge admirer.
Another thing I found out from this book that I didn’t realise was that his son Richard was adopted. Eileen, his first wife, and Orwell adopted him as a baby. Then Eileen died undergoing some type of operation – lumps in the womb, it seems. Although this is not made clear. There are some nice descriptions of Orwell bathing Richard and generally looking after him.
Orwell didn’t want a biography to be written of him. It seems he had the typical writers knack of portraying his experiences of life in a particular way, only to have these experiences contradicted by others who were there at the time. For example, his portrayal of his family as a bunch of middle class dullards, only to have his brother in law say this was nonsense.
Not a terrific book, I look forward to reading a proper Orwell bio.