The personal archives of George Orwell, containing the author and journalist's first phrasing of the sinister slogan from Nineteen Eighty-Four, “War is Peace. Ignorance is strength. Freedom is slavery”, have been added to Unesco's register of the world ...
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‘A profound influence on human thought in all parts of the world’ … George Orwell. Photograph: Mondadori via Getty Images
The personal archives of George Orwell, containing the author and journalist’s first phrasing of the sinister slogan from Nineteen Eighty-Four, “War is Peace. Ignorance is strength. Freedom is slavery”, have been added to Unesco’s register of the world’s most significant documents.
The Memory of the World register is the archival equivalent of Unesco’s world heritage sites, listing unique historical documents from the Diary of Anne Frank to Magna Carta, with the intention that they be “fully preserved and protected for all”. University College London, which houses the manuscript notebooks, diaries, letters and photographs that make up the Orwell papers, said it underwent a highly competitive selection process to win a place on the list, and that Unesco’s selectors had recognised the “world significance and outstanding universal value” of Orwell’s writings.
Orwell’s son, Richard Blair, said the award was a clear indication of the value attached to his father’s work. “Not only am I immensely proud of this achievement and what it means personally, but also of those who have put in so much hard work to bring about this singular recognition,” he said.
UCL was loaned Orwell’s manuscripts and notebooks in 1960 by his widow Sonia Orwell, and has since supplemented them with donations and purchases. The writer, who was born Eric Blair, kept “very few personal papers and even fewer manuscripts”, according to the university, with what remains occupying only three linear metres in its high-security storage in Bloomsbury.
As well as the first appearance of Orwellian concepts such as “Two Minutes Hate” and “Newspeak”, and a 1943 notebook containing the layout for Nineteen Eighty-Four, the archive also includes Orwell’s working notes and diary entries for when he was writing The Road to Wigan Pier, his major work of reportage on the working conditions of miners in the north of England.
In its submission to Unesco, UCL said that Orwell’s writing “had a profound influence on human thought in all parts of the world, an influence that remains potent today … It is rare to find serious reviews analysing current events even now, in the first quarter of the 21st century, with no mention of Orwell or his ideas. The manuscripts and personal papers are the only writings in existence in Orwell’s own voice and as such are unique and irreplaceable. The history of humanity would undoubtedly be all the poorer should any harm or loss befall the material.”
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