Tuesday, January 22, 2013

George Orwell Day begins annual commemoration

Celebration of author's enduring influence marked with radio season 
George Orwell
George Orwell: 'In the air'. Photograph: BBC

A major celebration of George Orwell kicks off today with the inaugural "Orwell Day", to be followed by a month-long Orwell season on Radio 4 and a mass giveaway of one of his most famous essays, Politics and the English Language.

The author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm died on 21 January 1950, and 2013 also marks the 110th anniversary of his birth on 25 June 1903. The Orwell Estate, The Orwell Prize and the author's publisher Penguin has decided to launch an annual event, "Orwell Day", on 21 January in "recognition of one of Britain's greatest and most influential writers of the 20th century", and to "celebrate his writing in all its forms and explore the profound influence he has had on the media and discourse of the modern world", it said.
Orwell's 1946 essay Politics and the English Language is being given away for free from the Orwell prize's website, as well as published in a 99p edition by Penguin. "We're aiming to get everyone reading it – in schools, everywhere. It's just one essay, and it's such a radical essay, with the message that language is corrupt, but you can do something about it," said Jean Seaton, chair of the Orwell prize judges, professor of media history at the University of Westminster and the official historian of the BBC.

"Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from conservatives to anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind," wrote Orwell in the essay, and Seaton said "we are now in a battle for the kind of nation we will live in just as much as he was".

Today also marks the launch of new-look editions of four Orwell books, Animal Farm, Down and Out in Paris and London, Homage to Catalonia and Nineteen Eighty-Four, from Penguin Classics, with the latter sporting a new jacket with the book's title almost entirely blacked out, in recognition of the novel's topic of censorship.

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