Mist, Fog and Funder

Evelyn Waugh, in a tongue-in-cheek article entitled ‘Careers for Our Sons: Literature’, advised budding authors to start by writing a biography and said, “If you want to make a success of it, choose as a subject someone very famous who has had plenty of books written about him quite recently.”  George Orwell has had plenty of books written about him, and his first wife Eileen Blair had a biography written of her recently enough by Sylvia Topp in 2020.  So although Anna Funder did not start her literary career by following Waugh’s advice, she has followed it belatedly with her third full-length book, Wifedom (Hamish Hamilton, Australia, 2023), which is about Orwell and Eileen and their marriage – among other things.

Despite its ostensible focus being on Eileen Blair, Wifedom is largely a personal attack on Orwell himself.  If Anna Funder wishes to attack George Orwell, that is, of course, her right.  I would have preferred to see that attack take the form, if any, of self-published pamphlets sold from a table at the Prahran Market, and it’s a pity to see a major international publishing house lending the weight of its authority to such twaddle.  Because although Funder seems happy to drag in anything she can to degrade Orwell’s memory and diminish him – regardless of its relevance to her theme of wifedom, including for example the injuries he caused by accident while serving in the Home Guard (258-259) and his inadequacy as a motorcycle mechanic (370) – she is not content in attacking him always to stick to the facts.

Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four suspected that all the official facts and figures he heard and read were lies, but couldn’t (with one exception) ever prove it: “It might very well be that literally every word in the history books, even the things that one accepted without question, was pure fantasy.  […]  Everything faded into mist.”  (part 1, ch vii)  I wouldn’t say that Funder’s every word was pure fantasy, but in Wifedom she takes us into a similar mist – a mist so thick at times that I’d call it fog.  Many of her assertions are not referenced at all, and one often finds oneself wondering whether this or that is true, how Funder knows it, or whether she’s just making it up.  (Some passages of the book are openly fictionalised.)

She certainly gets things wrong.  Funder says (without citation) that Brenda Salkeld “lived to be a hundred and one”.  (257)  According to Peter Davison in the Penguin ebook edition of Orwell’s Collected Non-Fiction, p 10283, “Brenda Salkeld lived from 1900-99”.  Funder claims she “scanned through the electronic text of” Homage to Catalonia and found thereby that the phrase “my wife” appears in that book “thirty-seven times”.  (181)  I have consulted Project Gutenberg’s online text of Homage to Catalonia and can report it’s a matter of a single ctrl-F command in the Firefox browser to learn that the phrase “my wife” appears there exactly 40 times.  (Even so, I checked this with a copy of the current Penguin edition; it is 40 times, not 37.)  These examples are relatively minor, but they are cause for concern – and that concern turns out to be well founded, as Funder also gets big things wrong.

Orwell spent an unfair amount of his short life in hospitals and on one such occasion while he was married to Eileen, a woman he was not married to, Lydia Jackson, visited him in a sanatorium, whereupon he hugged and kissed her for “a few minutes”.  (197-8; A Russian’s England by Elisaveta Fen, the name that Jackson wrote under, p 419)  Bad as this objectively was, in one respect Funder paints it worse.  She writes, “This is where it [earlier flirting] has led – to a tubercular tongue kiss.”  (198)  But Funder’s cited source (A Russian’s England, pp 418-9) says nothing about tongue kissing, and there is other evidence to suggest that none occurred.  Sylvia Topp says that Jackson later wrote in her personal diary that “[Orwell’s] kissing was good and “clean”” (Eileen: The Making of George Orwell, p 222; Topp’s parenthesis).  Allowing for a degree of delicacy on Jackson’s part, I take that to be her saying Orwell was not a tongue kisser; but certainly this further information again provides no support for Funder’s lurid detail.

Funder writes about a letter that Orwell wrote in 1946 to a different woman he was pursuing after Eileen’s death, Anne Popham (who was in Germany at the time), and, after quoting the letter at some length, Funder adds, “Then he offers to send her some novels which have been banned for sexual obscenity, but which he has managed to get illegally.”  (358)  When the letter is looked up, the novels turn out to be books by Henry Miller.  (Peter Davison ed., George Orwell: A Life in Letters, p 294)  I will admit that I have not read Henry Miller myself, but he was a serious writer and Orwell had a serious and longstanding interest in him, as anyone who has read Orwell attentively at all would know.  Funder doesn’t appear to have heard of him and makes Orwell here sound like some sort of sleaze merchant.  But let’s put all that to one side, because (as so often with this book) there is a further factual point to note.  And that is that Orwell did not offer to send Anne Popham the books by Miller at all.  He asks her if there are any books or papers she wants, offers to send her one magazine, offers to send her a different magazine, and in the middle of all this he shares the personal good news that he’s “been able to get some of Henry Miller’s books again”.  Funder is simply wrong about an offer to send them.

Of Orwell’s first trip to Europe as a war correspondent in 1945, Funder writes (without citation), “Probably he’s back in the brothels of Paris.”  (322)  It’s hard to tell whether this is Funder’s own opinion or she is sliding, unannounced, into historical fiction and/or free indirect discourse; whatever it is, I have looked for confirmation of it in the major biographies and found none.  It’s possible that Funder is basing this on two words (“amusing himself”) that she uses as her chapter heading here and later quotes (with citation) from Gordon Bowker’s Orwell biography.   Bowker quoted two words about Orwell from a letter Ernest Hemingway apparently wrote in 1952, and this is Funder quoting Bowker quoting Hemingway:

They report that he ‘was quite safe and “amusing himself” in Paris’.  (323)

Even that as a basis for the claim would be patently inadequate, and so another of Funder’s slurs collapses for lack of evidence.

Funder claims she has read Homage to Catalonia “backwards and forwards” (136), but writes (with no citation) of a certain letter that features prominently in that book, “Orwell doesn’t manage to retrieve Kopp’s letter from the police.” (179)  Orwell himself wrote in Catalonia that he did retrieve it.  “At last, however, the officer emerged, flushed, but carrying a large official envelope.  It was Kopp’s letter.  We had won a tiny victory […]  The letter was duly delivered”.  (Penguin Books, 2020, pp 185-6)  A mistake that big renders the entire book suspect; if she can get that wrong, she can get anything wrong.

A reasonably famous Orwell anecdote concerns marmalade on the table during his and Eileen’s honeymoon, and the story is so short that it’s best reprinted in full.  Here is the original from Funder’s cited source (Lettice Cooper as quoted in Audrey Coppard and Bernard Crick’s Orwell Remembered, p 162):

The only story I heard about their honeymoon was that somebody had given them a special pot of marmalade, and Eileen put the pot on the table.  George objected solemnly that the marmalade should have been decanted into a jam dish.  Eileen said that they hadn’t got one.  George said that they must get one, jam and marmalade should always go in a jam dish.  This amused Eileen very much as George had warned her that they were going to live like the working class, but she discovered that there were a lot of gentilities that George set great store by.

Here is Funder’s version:

As a wedding present someone in the village gave them a jar of marmalade, solid and golden. That first morning when she put it on the table he was aghast – he wanted it decanted into a pot.  She laughed, but she did it.  (46)

The pot becomes a jar, and the jam dish becomes a pot, into which Eileen puts the marmalade – which in fact she didn’t do, because they didn’t have the jam dish at all.  Some allowance can perhaps be made for this being part of one of Funder’s fictionalised scenes, but even historical fiction should be true to the facts where they’re known – and not all facts are equal.  Funder changes basic facts (possibly because she doesn’t know what a jam dish or its purpose is) and incidentally paints Orwell again in a worse light.  She makes him sound like a complete nut who wants marmalade taken out of one container and put into a different container for no reason, instead of what he was, for the time and place, which was a fastidious Englishman.  Because the real point of the story, which even Funder should have been able to grasp simply by reading her own source, is that it’s not about marmalade or even jam dishes, but about the English class system and Orwell’s place in it, a point she completely erases in her retelling.

If you can’t get such a story right, or you don’t think its details and nuances are worth getting right, you shouldn’t be writing about George Orwell and Eileen Blair at all, as you will be badly out of your depth.  In attempting to write about other people in another country in another time, in this book Funder is in over her head.

Among the bigger claims of Wifedom are that Eileen Blair came up with the idea for Animal Farm and (although Funder insinuates this rather than stating it directly) was practically its co-author.  Large as these claims are, they are very poorly argued, as Funder doesn’t seem here to understand that evidence needs to be assessed, not simply grabbed wherever you can find it to support your argument, swallowed whole and then regurgitated, nor does she seem here to know how to present a case to the reader.  Readers should be able to see what you are basing your argument on and how you are drawing your conclusions so as to be able to assess the argument for themselves.  Funder instead in a short chapter dealing with Animal Farm (290-4) makes claim after claim, peppering us with them so fast it’s hard to see what basis there is for many of them.

Orwell decides to write an essay calling Stalin to account for betraying the Russian Revolution and imposing a new autocracy.  Eileen thinks it’s a terrible idea.  Russia is helping them fight Germany, and no one wants to undermine that right now.  In their gelid bedroom they talk over what to do.  ‘Despite the incredibly strenuous life which both of them were leading,’ Lydia reports, ‘it was at the Kilburn flat that the idea of Animal Farm was born.’  Eileen suggests it be a novel, an animal fable of the kind she loves, and once wanted to write herself.  […]  It is also, like the fairytales and fables Eileen had studied under Tolkien, a perfect story in its own right.  (290)

Funder in her endnotes cites two sources that support some of that but not all of it (and have difficulties of their own that I’ll come to soon enough).

Two pages later Funder quotes Tosco Fyvel as seeing Eileen’s influence on Animal Farm (an uncontroversial claim which Lydia Jackson put into print as early as 1960), but she quotes this partly to slap it down, doubling down on her prior claims and largely repeating them with a further burst of the machine-gun:

But it was not just ‘conversational influence’.  The form of the book itself – as fable, novel, satire – was Eileen’s idea.  She steered him away from writing a critical essay on Stalin and totalitarianism, and then, in bed to stay warm while the bombs fell, they worked on it together.  (292)

It’s all a bit much to expect the reader to take on trust; at the same time, there isn’t one reader in a thousand who will go into the library and look up Funder’s sources and research the subject for themselves (as one effectively has to) to find out how much of this is actually known to be true.  I have made a reasonable effort at doing that, and the short answer is “not much”.

The evidence for the claim that Orwell intended to write an essay criticising Stalin until Eileen told him to write it as an animal fable amounts to third-hand oral testimony, which Funder postpones to an endnote thus:

Topp, p. 368.  Topp relates that Quentin Kopp’s mother Doreen told him that Eileen had suggested rewriting the work as an allegory when the issue of Stalin made it difficult for his publisher in the original format.  (432)

That one of the sources (Topp in fact mentions two) for this family story is Quentin Kopp, currently the chairman of the Orwell Society in England, lends it greater weight, but it’s still third-hand oral testimony, which obviously needs to be treated with caution.

If Orwell had written such an essay and tried to get it published (as the story has it), one might have expected that that would leave a paper trail – that there would be surviving correspondence about getting it published, for example, which there doesn’t seem to be.  Funder in her body text actually changes the story to Eileen steering Orwell away from an essay that she implies was never written, which is slightly more plausible for that reason, but a departure from the evidence – which is possibly a defensible departure, given that we’re talking about a family story that perhaps shouldn’t be read over-narrowly in its printed version.  But that’s part of the problem with it.  Without knowing exactly what Eileen is supposed to have said, it’s hard to assess such a story at all.

In support of this origin story Funder also quotes Lydia Jackson, but it’s worth looking at that in context.  In 1960 (in an article ‘George Orwell’s First Wife’ under her pen-name Elisaveta Fen for The Twentieth Century) Jackson wrote:

Despite the incredibly strenuous life which both of them were leading, it was at the Kilburn [north-west London] flat that the idea of Animal Farm was born.  They talked it over between them as they lay in bed in the icy-cold first floor bedroom.  I knew of this because George said to me with his characteristic smile: ‘I’ll ask you to translate it into Russian’, and Eileen laughed at the joke.

I have to admit I don’t quite follow Jackson/Fen’s reasoning there as to how she “knew of this” (or even what “this” was), and it’s at least possible that she was mistaken as to where “the idea of Animal Farm was born.”  The way Funder quotes the first sentence of this passage in isolation makes it look a little more solid, and interposing the words “Lydia reports” (so typical of this book) has the same effect, whereas in its original context Lydia’s “report” looks more like a bare assertion and one made by somebody who would not have been there when Orwell and Eileen were lying in bed talking.

Funder incidentally embellishes the family-history story with details it did not include.  There is no evidence that Eileen thought anything in this context was “a terrible idea”, for example.  In an interview on the ABC television program 7.30the transcript is available online – Funder went further, suddenly able to quote Eileen’s direct speech, which her own source for the story doesn’t do: “She says to him because she is very politically savvy, no-one will publish that, that’s a really bad idea.  Let’s do a novel instead.”

Funder also bolsters the family-history story with her own unsubtle emphasis on Eileen’s supposed expertise on fable and fairytales, and this is an example of her propensity for talking up things that suit her case.  Funder’s claim that Eileen “studied under Tolkien” at Oxford makes it sound as though Eileen did postgraduate work with Tollers one-on-one, when the fact is that as an undergraduate she may have attended lectures he gave.  (Topp says, at her p 49, “Eileen must have attended his lectures”, but as Martin Tyrrell noted in his review of Topp’s book [‘The Unknown Eileen’, Dublin Review of Books, July 2020] “there is no firm evidence” for this.)  If Funder were in the witness box, one might ask her what some of those “fairytales and fables Eileen had studied under Tolkien” were that the perfection of Animal Farm as a story resembles; could she name any of them?  Whether she could is open to question, but certainly she doesn’t in Wifedom, nor does she provide any evidence that that’s what Tolkien lectured on at the relevant time, when he was a professor of Anglo-Saxon (Michael White, Tolkien: A Biography, Abacus, London, 2002, p 110).  That’s no way to argue.

For that matter, what evidence is there that Eileen loved animal fables?  It’s hardly a controversial point, but Funder provides no citation and leaves us fogbound.  Her claim that Eileen herself had wanted to write them lacks a citation equally, but two hundred pages earlier (I had forgotten this and owe a debt here to Padraig Reidy’s online review of Wifedom) she made mention of Eileen talking “about writing a children’s book with a cast of hens in leading roles.” (82)  Funder referenced that to Stansky and Abrahams’s Orwell: The Transformation, (416n) but when one looks up that book (Constable, London, 1979, p 165), it turns out those authors do not state their source for the story, so it’s unclear what weight should be put on it.  I’ll admit to being deep in the fog here, but if this story is the basis for Funder’s claim about Animal Farm being the kind of thing Eileen had wanted to write (as it appears to be – Sylvia Topp says nothing about Eileen loving animal fables or wanting to write them), then Funder has turned a “children’s book” about hens into a full-blown “animal fable” for grown-ups.  (And if that story isn’t the basis for the claim, then what is?)

Something else that Funder talks up, ironically, is Animal Farm itself.  She claims it “is an outlier in all of Orwell’s works,” (291) which is surely an overstatement, and I’m not sure it would prove much even if it were true.

Funder talks other things down and leaves out a lot, too, of course, including Orwell’s actual and documented interest in fairytales and the like (as discussed by Peter Davison in his George Orwell: A Literary Life, pp 125-6).  There is direct testimony from Orwell’s one-time friend Jacintha Buddicom (in her memoir Eric and Us, p 39) that she and Orwell “adored” Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Pigling Bland in their youth together.  Orwell wrote adaptations for radio of The Emperor’s New Clothes and Little Red Riding Hood in the 1940s – I owe these and Pigling Bland and their relationship to Animal Farm to Davison (op. cit.) – and Gulliver’s Travels was one of his lifelong favourite books (see his essay ‘Politics vs Literature’).  All of this is potentially relevant to the genesis of Animal Farm, but runs counter to the Funder line that such stories were Eileen’s particular domain, and none of it gets a mention in Wifedom.

So there are problems with Funder’s argument from the outset, and one of the other problems with the oral-history “Eileen” theory of Animal Farm’s origin is that it conflicts with better evidence in the form of contemporary documents.

In his introduction to the 1947 Ukrainian-language edition of Animal Farm (written in March of that year: The Complete Works of George Orwell, vol 19, p 85) Orwell said

On my return from Spain I thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be easily understood by almost anyone and which could be easily translated into other languages.  […]  Thus the main outlines of the story were in my mind over a period of six years before it was actually written.

(I should note that this was translated back into English from Ukrainian; Orwell’s original English text has been lost:  Davison [ed.], The Complete Works of George Orwell, vol 8, p 109.)  About two years earlier in a different introduction intended for an English edition but not used, itself lost for many years and published in The Times Literary Supplement in 1972 as ‘The Freedom of the Press’, he wrote “This book was first thought of, so far as the central idea goes, in 1937, but was not written down until about the end of 1943.”[1]  The first of these quotations directly contradicts the “Eileen” theory, but both are at odds with the timeline that it implies and Funder follows.  The fact that Orwell states and implies the same origin date in two different accounts written about two years apart suggests he was telling the truth about the timing at least; so perhaps he was telling the truth about all of it.

Also in the Ukrainian introduction Orwell wrote, “the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day (I was then living in a small village) I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge cart-horse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn.”  He lived in an English village in 1937 (Topp, Eileen, chapter 9), so that detail tallies as well.  It would need strong evidence to rebut these two consistent and internally consistent contemporary written accounts, and I don’t see that presented by Funder or anyone else.

As for the second strand of Funder’s thesis, that Orwell and Eileen worked on Animal Farm together in bed, it depends in part on what you mean by work.  Just earlier Funder wrote, “Each evening Orwell reads to her what he’s done that day, and they discuss it,” (290) so she gives us two different accounts of the same process within two pages.  This earlier one is at least supported by evidence (of a sort), which seems to come mostly from Lettice Cooper, a workmate of Eileen’s at the relevant time.  One of Orwell’s earliest biographers, Bernard Crick, who interviewed Cooper in 1977, wrote (in his George Orwell: A Life, p 310) that Orwell “read his day’s work to [Eileen] in bed, the warmest place in their desperately cold flat, discussed the next stage and actually welcomed criticisms and suggestions, both of which she gave.”  Crick’s source for all of that is apparently his Cooper interview, and, although one wonders how Cooper would have known some of it, Orwell and Eileen discussing the book in bed (or out of it) accords with the “conversational influence” theory that Funder quoted from Tosco Fyvel.  That Orwell read the book to Eileen sequentially is supported by Cooper’s notes on Eileen reprinted in Coppard and Crick’s Orwell Remembered in which she says Eileen shared the story day by day with her colleagues at work.

But when Funder goes beyond accounts of discussion to claim that Orwell and Eileen “worked on [Animal Farm] together” in bed, she is again talking things up.  She makes it sound as though they were directly writing and/or editing the book in the closest of circumstances together in bed – a vivid picture based on supposition, not evidence.  But Funder pours out her entire account of the creation of Animal Farm with such confidence (especially on 7.30) that you could be forgiven for thinking it was all established fact, when it isn’t.

Having decided that Animal Farm was Eileen’s idea and that Eileen and Orwell “worked on it together”, Funder then uses those conclusions as a basis for interpreting and explaining away counter-evidence, which is the exact opposite of how an historian should argue.  Sherlock Holmes warned Dr Watson of the danger that one will unconsciously “twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts,” and that describes what Funder does here.  Where Funder sees Orwell himself contradicting her thesis, she doesn’t question her thesis, but instead calls him a liar:

The strenuous way Orwell tries to bury her involvement is perhaps the most powerful testament to it.  Eileen, he tells a friend much later, even helped in the planning of the book.  This is a theft-and-erasure mechanism: thanking someone for a minimal contribution while erasing a much greater one.  One biographer deletes the ‘even’ without any ellipsis, so as to erase the trace of his own omission, because the ‘even’ is the ‘tell’ of the lie – the written equivalent of losing eye contact or scratching behind your ear.  (292; Funder’s emphasis)

Phew!  Apparently using the word ‘even’ is an indication that one is lying; imagine that.  The finger-wagging at the unnamed biographer (identified in an endnote as Gordon Bowker) is typical of Wifedom throughout, and I would have thought that if Orwell had really wanted to bury Eileen’s involvement, an easier way would have been not to mention it at all.

Ironically, although this is the strongest evidence for Eileen’s involvement in the creation of Animal Farm, Funder doesn’t see fit to quote it in full.  What Orwell wrote in a letter to Dorothy Plowman was:

It was a terrible shame that Eileen didn’t live to see the publication of Animal Farm, which she was particularly fond of and even helped in the planning of.  — Peter Davison [ed], George Orwell: A Life in Letters, pp 289-290

Lacking Funder’s personal brand of X-ray specs, I take that at face value as a generous acknowledgment by Orwell of actual and unaccustomed help that Eileen gave him while he wrote the book, which could easily be a reference to talking it over with him at night.  Whatever it was, “helped in the planning of” – or even “even helped in the planning of” – falls short of the Funder thesis, a point that Funder herself concedes in her otherwise laughable “theft-and-erasure” theory.

Funder’s endnote to this letter mentions Orwell’s account in the Ukrainian edition of the origin of Animal Farm in seeing the boy and the carthorse.  Generously for this book, Funder concedes that Orwell may have seen this, but casts doubt on it even so, before raising a theory of her own that in 1947 Orwell possibly “needed a story of [Animal Farm’s] origins that avoided mentioning Stalin, who controlled Ukraine.” (432)  What Funder obviously didn’t know is that the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm was published in Munich – not Ukraine, not Stalin-controlled territory –  for distribution to displaced persons after the war (Davison, George Orwell: A Life in Letters, p 304n); her theory on that point is nonsense on stilts (and was ludicrous on its face anyway).

Funder also implicitly concedes that two quotations she presents or represents from the witnesses Lettice Cooper and Lydia Jackson don’t quite say what she says about the origin and writing of Animal Farm.  (In one of these quotations Jackson hedges her bets as to whether Eileen suggested elements of the book to Orwell, before giving it as her opinion that Eileen was a “subtle, indirect” [293] collaborator on it; strong as that is, it isn’t quite the Funder thesis.)  But this lack of agreement with her thesis doesn’t seem to bother Funder in the slightest, as she knows why the speakers didn’t say Eileen thought up the idea for the book and then “worked on it” with Orwell directly.  And that’s not because they didn’t believe it, but because (Funder knows) they did believe it and chose to say something else for a reason that Funder (of course) knows as well.  “Her friends know the truth but they put it cautiously, so as to take nothing away from his achievement.”  (292)  But that’s Funder verballing them, and it’s also not far off being a conspiracy theory.

The other quote that Funder gives at this point is of interest for unexpected reasons, and so here it is in full and as she gives it:

‘Some people,’ Lettice said, ‘who knew Eileen feel that the simplicity and elegance of Animal Farm may be due in part to her influence.’  (292)

That too is not exactly an expression of the Funder thesis, but the really interesting thing is that when you look it up it turns out Lettice Cooper didn’t say that at all.  In Funder’s cited source, Remembering Orwell, page 131, that exact quotation is a comment from the book’s editor, Stephen Wadhams, prefacing his quotation from Cooper.   But possibly even more interesting is that Sylvia Topp (Eileen, pp 367, 450 note 69) made exactly the same mistake in her book about Eileen published three years before Funder’s: the same quotation, the same citation details, the same misattribution to Lettice Cooper:

Lettice wrote, ‘Some people who knew Eileen feel that the simplicity and elegance of Animal Farm may be due in part to her influence.’

Wifedom is a tiresome book in all sorts of ways, and I tire even of pointing out its absurdities and errors.  I regret my inability to put on record all of its errors and misinformation, even of what I know, but one has to stop somewhere.  One might have hoped that an iconoclastic taking-on of one of the biggest literary names of the last 100 years would be closely documented and factually watertight, but Wifedom is neither.  It’s an appeal to the emotions and a slipshod piece of work.

Peter Hayes lives in Melbourne.

[1]    The dating of this piece is slightly uncertain.  Bernard Crick argued for “the late spring or early summer of 1945”:  ‘How the Essay Came to be Written.’  The Times Literary Supplement, no. 3680, 15 Sept. 1972, pp. 1039+. The Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive, link-gale-com.ezproxy.slv.vic.gov.au/apps/doc/EX1200383563/TLSH?u=slv&sid=bookmark-TLSH&xid=bde6717a. Accessed 12 Feb. 2024.  But in its text Orwell refers to “throughout five years of war”, which suggests a date of circa September 1944.

9 thoughts on “Mist, Fog and Funder

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Interesting piece Peter and pretty convincing I think.
    I’ve got a number of Orwell’s books and published copies of his letters and have read them all, including of course Animal Farm. Eileen very rarely gets a mention and I certainly never got even an inkling that she could have been the driving force behind the idea, in fact after reading your piece I got out my little penguin copy and reread their first page description of Orwell and his life. She wasn’t mentioned and in fact is not mentioned in the description page of my copy of Homage to Catalonia either…. and she accompanied him there.

    • Roger Franklin says:

      Peter, from memory, Eileen cracks a few passing mentions in Homage to Catalonia as the supplier of cigarettes and socks (again from memory), and she is mentioned when Orwell and Koestler make their escape to France as the Stalinists hunt and kill members of the POUM.

  • Tony Tea says:

    Wonder if Funder went to the Uncle Bruce School of Pascoing the Facts.

  • David Isaac says:

    Thank you for documenting this. Did Mrs Blair really call her husband George? If so it would surely only have been because she was in awe of his incisive intellect! These people were lefties and free love formed some part of their ideology but one shouldn’t expect someone like Mrs Allchin (nee Miss Anna Funder) to point this out as she embraces the new prudery.
    This sad saga is much of a piece with the new genre of blacked up British history dramas or Google’s famous American inventors search turning up mostly black people. This ghastly anti-White ideology, which now feeds mainly on the resentment of the bulk of women and non-Whites, leaves no stone unturned as its acolytes traverse the culture looking for White blokes to discredit, belittle and besmirch. That’s how you destroy a civilization, by turning the women against the men and using people of other races to displace and destroy the founding group. Does Mrs Allchin understand this or is she just a useful and very highly educated idiot?

    • ianl says:

      “Does Mrs Allchin understand this or is she just a useful and very highly educated idiot?”

      It does seem to me that portraying Orwell as a somewhat spiteful misogynist has several aims: to push the feminist line (we wuz robbed); to add to current attempts in slowly degrading Orwell’s character for the purpose of continually tainting 1984 (a satire too close to the New World Order for WEF comfort).

  • Paul.Harrison says:

    Funder down under has made a blunder and in all the thunder I hope she goes under.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Thanks Roger. I knew she’d got a bit of a mention in parts of Homage to Catalonia ; I seem to remember when he got out of hospital and went to their hotel she met him in the foyer and told him to get out, as their room had been searched, and he turned straight around and got out, then kept very low while arranging for them to somehow get out of Spain.

  • padraic says:

    I think it has finally dawned on some of these lefties that Orwell was having a crack at them.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    There are words on the page and the elusive realities that inspire them: between the two inevitably a lot of fog and mist, and in this case gender issues. That said, Anna Funder spent, I think, six or so years on her book, so for me her take was interesting, if controversial.
    As for Mrs Orwell, perhaps she should have taken the strong advice of her mother, and Orwell’s sister, Avril, and not fallen for a “down and out” intellectual determined to become a serious writer.
    In Homage to Catalonia (1938), which I have just read, she is certainly “missing in action” in the book, despite playing what seems to have been a vital admin role. There she is in a photograph taken at the front, crouching alongside a machine gun, with him the background, presumably before being shot in the neck while standing up in a trench a dawn to light a cigar she gave him, the perfect target for an enemy sniper. All the medicos said he was lucky to be alive: Orwell wrote wryly it would have been luckier not to have been shot at all.
    Funder spent some time at the key sites in Spain with Quentin Kopp, the son of Orwell’s commander, who described the civil war as a “comic opera, with an occasional death.” Hence her account of that important episode in Orwell’s life is worth reading.

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