Crystal Spirit
The title of the book, by Orwell's friend George Woodcock,
was chosen after the last line in Orwell's poem.


...Your name and your deeds were forgotten
Before your bones were dry,
And the lie that slew you is buried
Under a deeper lie;

But the thing that I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.

The Spanish Civil War had a profound effect on Orwell's psyche and knowledge of it drove him on to become a political writer. Memories of it inspired deep emotional outpourings including a poem dedicated to a soldier he met in Spain. The poem is contained in an essay entitled Looking Back on the Spanish War.~ Jackie Jura

excerpt from LOOKING BACK ON THE SPANISH WAR, by George Orwell
taken from Volume 2, Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell

...I never think of the Spanish war without...the memory of the Italian militiaman who shook my hand in the guardroom, the day I joined the militia. I wrote about this man at the beginning of my book on the Spanish war, and do not want to repeat what I said there. When I remember ó oh, how vividly! ó his shabby uniform and fierce, pathetic, innocent face, the complex side-issues of the war seem to fade away and I see clearly that there was at any rate no doubt as to who was in the right. In spite of power politics and journalistic lying, the central issue of the war was the attempt of people like this to win the decent life which they knew to be their birthright. It is difficult to think of this particular manís probable end without several kinds of bitterness. Since I met him in the Lenin Barracks he was probably a Trotskyist or an Anarchist, and in the peculiar conditions of our time, when people of that sort are not killed by the Gestapo they are usually killed by the G.P.U. But that does not affect the long-term issues. This manís face, which I saw only for a minute or two, remains with me as a sort of visual reminder of what the war was really about. He symbolizes for me the flower of the European working class, harried by the police of all countries, the people who fill the mass graves of the Spanish battlefields and are now, to the tune of several millions, rotting in forced-labour camps...

I never saw the Italian militiaman again, nor did I ever learn his name. It can be taken as quite certain that he is dead. Nearly two years later, when the war was visibly lost, I wrote these verses in his memory:

The Italian soldier shook my hand
Beside the guard-room table;
The strong hand and the subtle hand
Whose palms are only able

To meet within the sound of guns,
But oh! what peace I knew then
In gazing on his battered face
Purer than any womanís!

For the flyblown words that make me spew
Still in his ears were holy,
And he was born knowing what I had learned
Out of books and slowly.

The treacherous guns had told their tale
And we both had bought it,
But my gold brick was made of gold ó
Oh! who ever would have thought it?

Good luck go with you, Italian soldier!
But luck is not for the brave;
What would the world give back to you?
Always less than you gave.

Between the shadow and the ghost,
Between the white and the red,
Between the bullet and the lie,
Where would you hide your head?

For where is Manuel Gonzalez,
And where is Pedro Aguilar,
And where is Ramon Fenellosa?
The earthworms know where they are.

Your name and your deeds were forgotten
Before your bones were dry,
And the lie that slew you is buried
Under a deeper lie;

But the thing that I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.

~ by George Orwell, written in Autumn 1942

The following story is about George Woodcock, an anarchist, anti-war writer and publisher, who Orwell befriended during the WWII years when he was living in London working for the BBC, and then writing Animal Farm while literary editor for the Tribune newspaper. In the published letters of George Orwell there are many to George Woodcock, written from his hospital bed near Glasgow and from Barnhill on Jura where Orwell was struggling with writing "1984". George Woodcock left England in 1947, and imigrated to British Columbia, Canada. In 1966 he wrote a study of Orwell's works which he named "The Crystal Spirit" because it was the last line of Orwell's poem and because Woodcock considered Orwell "a crystal spirit". Also, Woodcock's generosity in financial aid to India honours Orwell's affinity for that country of his birth. ~ Jackie Jura

Orwell's friend bequethes $1.87-million (Woodcock wrote Orwell biography "The Crystal Spirit"). CBC, May 22, 2006
The Writers' Trust of Canada has received a $1.87-million bequest from the estate of the late George and Inge Woodcock. It will use the gift to swell the Woodcock Fund, which helps both emerging and established authors who are struggling financially. George Woodcock, who died in 1995, was a writer and founder of the journal Canadian Literature. He and his wife, Inge, took a keen interest in Canadian writing and encouraged many individual writers. In 1989, they established the Woodcock Fund, which provides grants of $5,000-$10,000 to writers who are in the process of writing a book but need money to live. Writers apply through the Writers' Trust and are assessed by a jury of their peers. "The Woodcock Fund is one of the many enduring legacies funded by the Woodcock's generous, passionate, and unflagging engagement with the world," said Ronald Wright, chair of the Woodcock committee. "Many authors received the Woodcocks' encouragement and friendship, which are rare gifts, and especially so from our heroes."

A political activist and historian, Woodcock is best known for his books on the philosophy of anarchism and its history, and for his biography of George Orwell, The Crystal Spirit, which won a Governor General's Award. He taught at the University of British Columbia from 1955 into the 1970s, and contributed to CBC radio. Woodcock refused the Order of Canada because he said he only accepted awards given by his colleagues and peers. The Woodcocks had an interest in Tibetan refugees and founded the Canada India Village Aid Society to help alleviate poverty in India. Inge Woodcock died in 2003 and it has taken some time to settle the estate. The Woodcock Fund has given $420,000 over the past 17 years to 110 writers. The Woodcocks's bequest will allow the fund to help more writers. According to the 2003 Study of Author Income, the average income of Canada's writers is less than $9,000 annually from their craft.









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