George Orwell, the B.B.C. and India: a critical study
Rodrigues, Abha Sharma
This thesis focuses attention on the two years that George Orwell spent, between August 1941 and November 1943, at the Indian Section of the B.B.C., producing propaganda talks for listeners in India and elsewhere. It views Orwell's occupation in the context of the growing popularity of radio as the most successful weapon of propaganda war in the late thirties and early forties. The study looks briefly at the changing role of the intelligentsia during wartime, and examines the influence of the B. B. C. and other wartime institutions on Orwell's mind and creativity. Although much of Orwell's own contribution at the B. B. C. had become available after the publication of his war broadcasts and commentaries in 1985, this thesis incorporates fresh material and new documents from the B. B. C. Archives and the Orwell Archive, along with some other essays, journalism and letters, which have not been included in any posthumous collections of Orwell's works. The second area of investigation is Orwell's relationship with India and the East. Although his concern for India and Burma was always quite intense, his attitude towards their political problems underwent constant changes, thereby creating some inconsistency in his outlook. This thesis brings to light Orwell's acquaintance with several members of the Indian intelligentsia residing in London during the war, and gives particular attention to his friendship with the veteran Indian writer, Mulk Raj Anand, which hitherto has remained largely unconsidered. Chapter I surveys the propaganda policies of the British and German broadcasting agencies and introduces readers to those factors which led to, and affected, the creation and growth of the Indian Service. An insight into Orwell's mind just before the outbreak of the war explains his reasons for accepting this particular post. Chapter II establishes the biographical details of Orwell's life between 1941 and 1943, and analyses the effect of the bureaucracy of the B.B.C. and M.O.I. on his mind and behaviour. Chapter III contains a taxonomy of his wartime scripts and elaborates upon his social life during the war, including his apparent intimacy with the poet Stevie Smith. The B.B.C. presented Orwell with many ideas and images which contributed to the imaginative setting, characterisation and content of Nineteen Eighty-Four. A discussion of these is contained in Chapter IV. Chapter V -'Child of the Raj'- examines Orwell's ever-changing relationship with India in terms of four stages and charts the development of his political, social, economic and cultural responses to the country and its peoples. His friendship with Mulk Raj Anand, and a comparison of their early lives and novels, is the subject of the concluding chapter, which also highlights their shared responses to politics and society in the thirties. The six appendices that follow substantiate the argument provided in the thesis. Particularly worthy of mention is 'Who listened-in to George Orwell? ' which surveys patterns of listening-in to broadcasts from the B. B. C. and other radio stations in India during the war.