For Orwell, Life Imitated Art
It turns out that George Orwell, famed author of “1984” and originator of the term “Big Brother,” was spied on by his government for more than 10 years. Members of Britain’s MI5 suspected the writer of being a communist, until they bothered to read him, and were apparently baffled by his “bohemian” clothes.
A Sergeant Ewing of Special Branch, monitoring Orwell’s attempt to recruit Indians to work for the BBC’s India service in January 1942, noted: “This man has advanced communist views. … He dresses in a bohemian fashion both at his office and in his leisure hours.”
A Home Office official named W Ogilvie — whose pencil was probably responsible for a question mark against Ewing’s statement — responded a few days later: “I spoke to Inspector Gill of Special Branch asking whether his sergeant could elaborate on the question of Blair’s ‘advanced communist views’. Mr Gill rang me up this morning to say that Sergeant Ewing described Blair as being ‘an unorthodox communist’ apparently holding many of the views but by no means subscribing fully to the party’s policy.
“I gathered that the good sergeant was rather at a loss as to how he could describe this rather individual line, hence the expression. … This fits in with the picture we have of Blair@Orwell [sic]. It is evident from his recent writings … that he does not hold with the Communist party, nor they with him.”