Orwell adaptations

Monday 15 July 2013

The Orwell Prize, Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing, is supported by the Media Standards Trust, Political Quarterly, AM Heath and Richard Blair (Orwell’s son). Earlier this year, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a season on the life and works of George Orwell. The dramatisation’s included biographical material as well as scripted adaptations of works like Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Homage to Catalonia (you can still listen to various bits here). This was not the first attempt to reimagine Orwell through the mode of 21st century technology. Countless productions of Animal Farm have been made for screen, most memorably the 1954 animation, and Sir Elton John is reported to be working presently on a broadway musical version. Now a young film maker in Los Angeles is hoping to create an adaptation of Orwell’s essay ‘Shooting an Elephant’. The essay, which was published in 1936, is one of two biographical pieces from Orwell’s time in Burma as an police officer. Screenwriter for the film, Alex Sokolow, describes the essay as; “Orwell becoming Orwell on the page.” With the support of the estate and Orwell’s son, Richard Blair, the film of ‘Shooting an Elephant’ is asking for donations through the project sponsorship website, Kickstarter. You can watch an appeal video and pledge support, as well as being the first to know about this this Orwell adaptation here.

Norman MacKenzie dies

One of the last living writers to appear on Orwell’s blacklist of “crypto-communists and fellow-travellers… who should not be trusted as propagandists” has died. In a moving obituary by the Telegraph they say; “It is not hard to understand why Orwell might have included MacKenzie on his list — which he prepared in 1949 for a clandestine anti-communist propaganda unit in the Foreign Office (the list was made public in 2003). MacKenzie had been, first, a member of the Marxist Independent Labour Party, and then of the Communist Party before he joined the Labour Party in 1943. In addition to the New Statesman he sometimes wrote for Telepress, a Soviet-backed news agency. Leonard Woolf had once described him as ‘the most dangerous man in the New Statesman.'” You can read the full piece here.

From elsewhere: winners special

  • Clive James – a life in writing, The Guardian
  • Things I Don’t Want to Know: a powerful feminist response to Orwell’s Why I Write, New Statesman
  • Never mind Orwell, all’s well in our land of renewed hope and glory, Evening Standard
  • Why we are hunger-striking in solidarity with Guantánamo’s detainees, The Guardian

    The diaries

    Don’t forget our other Orwell Diary blogs: his Wartime Diary, Hop-Picking Diary and The Road to Wigan Pier Diary. You can sign up to our newsletter If you’ve got any suggestions about our website(s), we’d love to hear from you – email us on katriona.lewis@mediastandardstrust.org. You can also follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.