Thank you, Mr Chairman, for your kind words. I’m delighted, I really am, to be making my first visit to Grand Rapids, and, no, I can never tire of talking about Orwell.
God but am I tired and saddlesore. What a year. I just kept on talking through all that media razzmatazz and ideological bodysnatching. For mental self-protection I tried to vary my standard ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984’ lecture with an occasional ‘Little Eric and the Bodysnatchers’ or ‘The Other Orwell’; but market forces went for the standard product – thirty-one times in this country alone. And in North America: Grand Rapids, Akron, Chicago, Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Montreal, Boston, New York – all in January. Then back in the spring for Albion, Michigan; Syracuse, New York; Portland, Maine; Rosemont, Pennsylvania; Wake Forest, Guilford, Charlotte, Wilmington Beach, Greenboro, Laurinburg, Chapel Hill, Raleigh – all in North Carolina. Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction – all in Colorado. Then the great Library of Congress Orwell experts’ shoot-out in Washington and the Institute of Humanities at NYU to end, forgetting, or not forgetting, as the case may be, half a dozen High Schools along the trail.
Tired and saddlesore. Now there is only one more Orwell conference in Vancouver where I’ll do ‘Orwell’s Socialism’, a more academic version of Sheffield Town Hall back in March (the second Marx Memorial Lecture); and one more special lecture, ‘Orwell and Englishness’ at Bangor, North Wales. But the gods punished me only yesterday. A seven-hour train journey from Edinburgh to Cardiff was two hours late, in time to see the last of the Historical Association fading down the lane. And to think that in April I had driven myself through a blizzard across the Rockies from Colorado Springs to get to Grand Junction in time. British Rail is the pits.