Orwell Discovers He is Beloved By Censored French, Unknown To Ugly Americans

(Another entry in the beloved Orwell is Eeyore series.)

Early in 1945 I went to Paris as correspondent for the Observer. In Paris Tribune had a prestige which was somewhat astonishing and which dated from before the liberation. It was impossible to buy it, and the ten copies which the British Embassy received we read orwellweekly did not, I believe, get outside the walls of the building. Yet all the French journalists I met seemed to have heard of it and to know that it was the one paper in England which had neither supported the Government uncritically, nor opposed the war, nor swallowed the Russian myth. At the time there was—I should like to be sure that it still exists—a weekly paper named Libertes, which was roughly speaking the opposite number of Tribune and which during the occupation had been clandestinely produced on the same machines as printed the Pariser Zeitung.

Libertes, which was opposed to the Gaullists on one side and the Communists on the other, had almost no money and was distributed by volunteers on bicycles. On some weeks it was mangled out of recognition by the censorship; often nothing would be left of an article except some such title as “The Truth About Indochina” and a completely blank column beneath it. A day or two after I reached Paris I was taken to a semi-public meeting of the supporters of Libertes, and was amazed to find that about half of them knew all about me and about Tribune. A large working man in black corduroy breeches came up to me, exclaimed “Ah, vous etes Georges Orrvell!” and crushed the bones of my hand almost to a pulp. He had heard of me because Libertes made a practice of translating extracts from Tribune. I believe one of the editors used to go to the British Embassy every week and demand to see a copy. It seemed to me somehow touching that one could have acquired, without knowing it, a public among people like this: whereas among the huge tribe of American journalists at the Hotel Scribe, with their glittering uniforms and their stupendous salaries, I never encountered one who had heard of Tribune.

—George Orwell, “As I Pleased”

2 Responses to “Orwell Discovers He is Beloved By Censored French, Unknown To Ugly Americans”

  1. 1 nancy a June 1, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Poor George – abused even by his French fans who “crushed the bones of [his] hand almost to a pulp.”..

    One can only hope, that at some point, he had the company of Cats — to join him in that tangled mixture of angst and ennui….: )

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When I Worked

June 2013

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