To Orwell Today,
re: ALL ABOUT ORWELL

Dear "Julia Jura",

Thank you for your most interesting website.

I note a reference to a biography which alludes to Orwell's speaking 9 languages, including Latin and ancient, I presume, Greek.

I am most interested in 2 of them; Spanish and Catalan.

Are you aware that he studied one or both of these at Eton?

I have seen recent passing reference to there being some tradition of Catalan teaching at Eton.

My interest is a combination of the fact that he gave little time to the issue of these 2 languages in the book HtoC yet they were essential to him during the SCW.

Furthermore I have for some time now been resident in Catalonia and in the limited information available here about Orwell/Blair, the issue of linguistic competence is also never addressed.

Yours curiously,
Jim Scott

Greetings Jim,

Thanks for you kind comments about the website -- and great to have you as a reader from Spain.

I am actually "Jackie" but don't mind being addressed as "Julia" (from 1984) in context with Orwell.

In the article you reference I talk about the 8 foreign languages Orwell spoke as quoted in the biography by Myers:

      - Greek
      - Latin
      - Burmese
      - Hindustan
      - Shaw-Karen
      - French
      - Spanish
      - Catalan

I assume Blair (he didn't become Orwell until age 30 in 1933) learned the Greek, Latin, French and Spanish at school -- maybe starting at St Cyprian's prep-school and continuing on at Eton to where he earned a scholarship.

Orwell reportedly (according to a biography by Sheldon) picked up the Catalan while in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War (the SCW as you refer to it).

The Burmese, Hindustan and Shaw-Karen languages he probably learned during the five years he was in Burma and from his life-long interest in India where he was born and where his father worked his entire career in the Imperial Foreign Service.

You are correct that in HtoC (Homage to Catalonia) Orwell doesn't mention his ability to speak Spanish and Catalin. But he makes a point, I notice, of saying he doesn't speak Italian when describing his encounter with the Italian soldier about whom he wrote the CRYSTAL SPIRIT poem.

Orwell not mentioning his linquistic competence isn't really surprising the more a person learns about his character and personality. Orwell was a very private man and he didn't brag at all about his accomplishments -- even though he was brilliant and had alot he could say.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

TOUR ORWELL'S SPANISH TRENCHES

SOLDIER ORWELL AT SPANISH FRONT (...[Captain] Lewinski remembered that Orwell's linquistic abilities were excellent. He thought that his friend's French was very good, and he was impressed at how quickly Orwell was able to pick up enough Catalan to communicate effectively with the troops in his unit. It was partly for this reason that Lewinski made him a corporal, or cabo, almost as soon as he arrived at the front....)

ORWELL BULLET THRU NECK

ORWELL BIRTHDAY TYPING CATALONIA

ORWELL'S CRYSTAL SPIRIT POEM (In the Lenin Barracks in Barcelona, the day before I joined the militia, I saw an Italian militiaman standing in front of the officers' table.... I hardly know why, but I have seldom seen anyone -- any man, I mean -- to whom I have taken such an immediate liking. While they were talking round the table some remark brought it out that I was a foreigner. The Italian raised his head and said quickly: 'Italiano?' -- I answered in my bad Spanish: 'No, Ingles. Y tu?'-- 'Italiano'... [opening paragraph from Homage to Catalonia]

SPAIN REMEMBERS ORWELL'S CENTENNIAL

ORWELL'S HOMAGE TO CATALONIA

LOOKING FOR ORWELL AT ETON

ALL ABOUT ORWELL

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
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