UPDATE: Orwell's head returns to Hampstead after mysterious disappearance (missing since October 2010), Ham & High, October 10, 2014
To Orwell Today,
Dear Jackie Jura,
I was looking for some information on the internet about George Orwell to write an article in Spanish, and I've found your website.
I've read that the commemorative plaque in South End Green in Hampstead has been stolen. Do you know if the plaque is still missing, or if they have replaced it with a new one, or found the thief?
Thanks for letting me know about the Orwell plaque in Hampstead, London, England (and sorry for taking so long to respond). I had noticed the story when it first came out, and was shocked about it - especially upon reading that Orwell's face had been missing from the plaque for quite a long time, and yet nothing was being done about it:
George Orwell tribute goes missing
Well, where did it go?
by Conrad Landin, Camden Journal, Oct 14, 2010
George Orwell once quipped: "At 50, everyone has the face they deserve". But would the author of 1984 and Animal Farm have offered the same sentiment to the vandals who have escaped with a frieze of his own features? Mystery surrounds who chipped away at a commemorative plaque marking Orwell's links to South End Green in Hampstead, completely removing the writer's face. There was speculation in nearby neighbourhood centres that a fanatical lover of Orwell's work may have taken it as a souvenir. The plaque marks the location of Booklover’s Corner, the secondhand shop where Orwell worked in the 1930s. He lived in a flat above it, which is now Le Pain Quotidien bakery. Staff said they were astonished to see the frieze had been wrenched away.
The theft is thought to have taken place during the past three months although those who pass by the scene regularly have differing accounts about when they last saw it intact. Louise Sorling, the bakery's supervisor, said: "About two months ago a man came into the shop and was talking about its history, and asked me if I knew that Orwell's face had gone. It's a pity, because lots of people come to see the place where he worked, and it's a shame people feel they can just vandalise this part of our history". Russell Oppenheimer, who runs nearby business Blue Daisy, said: "It's terrible. "It's a site of great interest to local people, and I'd like to see more commemoration of the fact that Orwell worked there. Maybe this is an opportunity to try to get something more substantial put up".
Orwell worked at the bookshop for a year from 1934, writing about his experiences in an essay entitled BOOKSHOP MEMORIES as well as fictionalising them in his novel KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING. He later moved to nearby Parliament Hill, and Lawford Road in Kentish Town.
end quoting from George Orwell tribute goes missing article
In the three weeks since Orwell's face went missing I haven't seen any further news about it so don't know if the plaque's been repaired or not.
When I was at that site in Hampstead seven years ago, I saw the plaque on the front of the building -- it was a pizza-parlour then.
The photo I took was a long-shot, so the plaque can't be seen very well, but it's on the beam above where my friend Zoe is standing. Those are the windows of what used to be the bookstore where Orwell worked, and also the windows of the upstairs apartment where he lived. See ORWELL'S BOOKLOVER'S CORNER
Last week I talked to Zoe by phone from London and she said she'd try and go out to Hampstead and see if the face on the plaque is back - and take an updated photo if it is.
In that Hampstead news article it mentioned that some people in the area think the vandalism of the memorial to Orwell may inspire a grass-roots movement to create something more substantial than a mere plaque in that historical location.
That's been my wish all along -- that England honour Orwell in a manner fitting to his stature. In my opinion, a full-sized statue of Orwell on a pedestal (with quotes from his books etched in stone) would be the proper way to do that. And the statue should be erected in Trafalgar Square for all to see.
It was exciting news when a statue of Orwell was erected a year ago in India in the village of his birth. See ORWELL STATUE IN MOTIHARI
All the best,
PS - It's interesting to hear you found my website while searching for articles about Orwell and Spain -- some of which I've linked below.
George Orwell's head returns to Hampstead after mysterious disappearance, by Paul Wright, Ham & High, October 10, 2014
The son of George Orwell has celebrated the return of his father to Hampstead after a plaque that was quite literally defaced was restored last week. The commemorative plaque marking the site of Booklover's Corner -- a former bookshop in South End Road where the renowned author worked and lived during the 1930s -- received a new face after four years of being left bare. It follows a mysterious and as-yet unsolved incident n 2010 when the original sculpture of Orwell's visage suddenly disappeared, leading to theories it had become the victim of adoring fans wanting a memento or down-and-out thieves. But the author of ANIMAL FARM and NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR now has his head firmly back in place at the spot which currently houses bakery Le Pain Quotidien.
Richard Blair, the adopted son of Orwell (real name Eric Blair) who helped fund the new sculpture, told the Ham & High: "I'm glad to see him returning to Hampstead, assuming that's what people want -- which they seem to. "Everyone has their own views on his writing but we couldn't just have a blank space there. It's a different design to what we originally had. "The new face is a scaled-down version of a mask I have in my own study. I'm assured it's a like-for-like copy but perhaps the moustache seems to have been lost in translation somewhat. "There were lots of theories about what happened when the original disappeared but I think it may have actually just fallen off -- a victim of corrosion rather than vandalism". Mr Blair says he has been assured the new face has been fastened on tightly. It marks the site of the bookshop where Orwell is said to have written KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING. David Kitchen, of the South End Green Association, which helped to erect the original plaque, said: "Orwell was a model for the things we thought were good about the neighbourhood".
1937 photo of Orwell in Spain (...The day after their wedding in Wallington in June 1936 Orwell had gone right back to work writing THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER. Then immediately after sending it to the publisher in December 1936, he'd gone to Spain (Eileen followed soon after) and spent six months there fighting alongside Spanish socialists defending their coalition government against overthrow by communist-capitalist-backed fascist Franco. Eileen was working in the Independent Labour Party office in Barcelona, but visited Orwell at the front, as seen in the photo... Shortly after that, in May 1937, Orwell got shot through the throat, and it was a miracle he lived - the bullet travelling so fast it cauterized the wound as it passed through his neck.... Then in June - after hiding from Stalin's secret police, the KGB (who were throwing Orwell's militia compatriots into prison and executing them) - Orwell and Eileen escaped into France and home to England. Once back in Wallington, Orwell worked non-stop writing HOMAGE TO CATALONIA - his book about the Spanish Civil War and his experiences there...). See ORWELL'S TB DOC O'SHAUGHNESSY, brother of Orwell's wife who he first met while working at Booklovers' Corner and living at 77 PARLIAMENT HILL in Hampstead.
2010 IS 1984 PROPHECY (reader Carmen sends the article she wrote, in Spanish, for publication in Mexican newspaper)
ORWELL COMMON FRIEND TRESSELL (...It's ironic - anti-Communist and anti-Marxist as Orwell and Common were - that Common's forehead was used as a model for the statue of Karl Marx that sits on Marx's London grave.... It was around 1935, when Orwell was writing KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING, that he met Jack Common, who was working as an editor at the ADELPHI, a magazine which had been the first to publish Orwell's writings, including some he sent from Paris when he was "down and out". It could very well have been Jack Common who introduced Orwell to Robert Tressell's book THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTRHOPISTS.... Speaking of Marx and Communism, it's timely that you're reading Orwell's HOMAGE TO CATALONIA because it was there, during the Spanish Revolution in 1937, that Orwell saw, and personally experienced, the evil of Communism in alliance with Capitalism. The writing of HOMAGE TO CATALONIA almost destroyed Orwell's health (on top of his being shot through the neck in Spain and barely escaping Stalin's KGB there). Added to that was the stress of finding a publisher to print HOMAGE TO CATALONIA because anything anti-Communist or anti-Stalin was being suppressed by the right-wing-owned left-wing press (my term) in England....)
SPAIN REMEMBER'S ORWELL'S CENTENNIAL
VISITING ORWELL'S BARNHILL (...Demaris also showed us another photo that is framed and on the wall. It's of the PLAZA DE GEORGE ORWELL in Barcelona, Spain, that was taken by the neighbour who lives two miles north at Kinuachdrach. That inspired a discussion about how there is no plaza or monument or museum to Orwell in England whereas there is a statue of Karl Marx and a Charles Dickens museum. Demaris conjectured that maybe it's because Orwell isn't a "dead author". I asked what she meant by that and she said words to the effect that "Orwell isn't dead because his name is mentioned every day and his words are quoted to such an extent that it seems like he's still here talking to us". I thought that was a brilliant explanation for why there isn't a monument to Orwell and after discussing it with a friend since coming home she added that "there IS a momument to Orwell, it's just not made of brick and mortar. It's the living, breathing presence of his words that is his monument". I thought that was so true....)
ORWELL'S CRYSTAL SPIRIT POEM
ORWELL HOMAGE TO CATALONIA
ORWELL'S ASPIDISTRA FLYING
BOOKLOVERS' CORNER (...After getting off the underground we strolled leisurely down the High Street of Hampstead which is a very trendy area full of unique shops and cafes and interesting-looking flats and houses. Zoe noticed in the A to Z that a nearby park had a statue of Karl Marx "if we wanted to go and see". I almost choked on my ice-cream cone and told her I'd much prefer going to see a statue of George Orwell - one of England's greatest writers - than of an author no one's read but everyone talks about, and who was the figurehead of a political system Orwell spent the last fifteen years of his life actively opposing. But to this date there are no statues of Orwell... Just this past winter I'd read Keep the Aspidistra Flying which Orwell wrote during his fourteen months in Hampstead. The book's main character, Gordon Comstock, is a struggling author working in a bookstore where "there were highbrow, middlebrow and lowbrow books, new and second-hand all jostling together, as befitted this intellectual and social borderland". The book is so obviously autobiographical that a person reading it experiences a feeling of being a confidant of Orwell's in whom he shares his innermost thoughts and feelings. So I was really looking forward to seeing if the bookstore in real life had any resemblance to how I'd pictured it while reading Aspidistra. Before we knew it we'd reached the bottom of the hill and were literally standing in front of our destination, "Booklovers' Corner"...)
15.Life in Oceania
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~