A small town in north-eastern India has made its claim on one of Britain’s most well-known and revered authors. George Orwell, famous for his dystopian novel 1984 and Animal Farm, his critique of Soviet Russia, was actually born in Motihari (British India) before moving to Henley a year after his birth. Now his home in the colonial-era bungalow, a remnant of the British Empire in India, is being turned into a museum!
While the museum may be a source of chagrin for many English literature teachers and scholars in the UK, this bizarre story gives us an insight into the ways in which travel and globalisation have affected the writing and study of English literature.
Professor Iqbal Hussein, an English teacher at the Munshi Singh College, the town’s leading school, defended the decision, arguing that ‘’it is right to build the museum. It will give English a leg-up here.’’ For Hussein, ‘’Orwell is as much Indian as he is British’’ and ‘’was strongly opposed to imperialistic ideas.’’
Hussein’s belief that ‘’great writers are of all places and all times’’ should encourage us to look at the impact of not only Orwell, but many other English-speaking authors across the world. With India formerly part of the British Empire, perhaps a stronger case can be made for introducing colonial, post-colonial and commonwealth writing in English Literature courses?
English, Politics, History and HSPS applicants looking for more on the 1984 author’s own political views should have a read of Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, as well as this great review of cultural historian Robert Colls’ book on Orwell’s aversion to ideology.
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