I have finally attained the privilege of being a reader of the TLS as it has fallen generously from the table of my supervisor, as a child lets slip gristle to a dog, who, perhaps through some subterfuge of generosity, the most generous kind where the recipient is lead to believe they owe no debt of gratitude, inexplicably found himself regularly sent a duplicate copy. I mention this only because the present edition includes an article mentioning a biography that mentions this extraordinary detail, brief but speaking volumes about a certain writer’s character:
Orwell complained of his honeymoon that he’d only done two days work out of seven. These two days work gave us ‘Shooting An Elephant’.
‘Shooting An Elephant’ is one of his best works, and among the best of English short fiction. This anecdote is framed as a criticism of Orwell’s neglect of his wife, celebrating the fact he was only human and no saint. If he had only realised what a few days with his beloved could produce on return to the desk, how much improved might his oeuvre have been? An alternative inference: if 5 days with his wife could produce ‘Shooting An Elephant’, how many nights of marital bliss went into 1984 and Animal Farm? All cleverness aside, can’t an author know themself all too well and make a joke? What’s more, deep involvement and dedication in works, whatever they may be, is something people may love about each other. Not everyone wants to be their lover’s work.