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17.03.2010 09:31

New discoveries: George Orwell's time in Stuttgart

Ursula Zitzler Referat für Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Universität Stuttgart

    The fact that the world-renowned English author George Orwell spent three months in France, Germany and Austria in 1945 as a war correspondent is publicly known. What is not widely known are the details of where Orwell stayed and exactly what he did during his time in Germany. Now, a researcher in the English Department at the University of Stuttgart, Australian-born lecturer Geoff Rodoreda, has uncovered new information about George Orwell's stay in Stuttgart, the capital of the south-west German state of Baden-Württemberg.

    The fact that the world-renowned English author George Orwell spent three months in France, Germany and Austria in 1945 as a war correspondent is publicly known. What is not widely known are the details of where Orwell stayed and exactly what he did during his time in Germany. Now, a researcher in the English Department at the University of Stuttgart, Australian-born lecturer Geoff Rodoreda, has uncovered new information about George Orwell's stay in Stuttgart, the capital of the south-west German state of Baden-Württemberg.
    One famous, reflective Orwell essay, called Revenge is Sour, published in the British newspaper Tribune in November 1945, reports on Orwell's visit to Stuttgart. "A few hours after Stuttgart was captured by the French army (I) entered the town," writes Orwell, who was accompanying the American army, which advanced on the city from the east. "All the main bridges into the town had been blown up," he explains, "and we had to enter by a small footbridge which the Germans had evidently made efforts to defend."
    As a result of research in the Stuttgart city archives and elsewhere, Rodoreda has identified the footbridge over the River Neckar that Orwell must have crossed to enter the city. It is known locally as the Berger Steg, and is still intact and still used today by pedestrians and cyclists.
    Rodoreda has also examined a second, lesser-known article written by Orwell, originally published in The Observer, 29 April 1945 (and reprinted in The Complete Works of George Orwell edited by Peter Davison, published in 1998), which reports in more detail on the author's stay in Stuttgart. Orwell stayed in the city for two nights and three days (23-25 April 1945) and was "billeted on some middle-class Germans in the suburbs."
    Orwell emerges in this article as an important, neutral, on-the-ground observer of the 'Stuttgart incident', a key period in the city's history: French troops - who had approached Stuttgart from the south and west - took control of the city on 22 April 1945 against the wishes of the Allied Command. This task was supposed to be undertaken by American forces, which approached from the east, and had arrived later than expected.
    Orwell thus witnessed the chaos of the first hours of the post-Nazi era, as French and American commanders quarrelled over control of the city, as freed political prisoners roamed through the streets, as the vandalism and looting of shops and wine cellars went largely unabated. Orwell's unique observations may provide historians with new insights into this crucial period in the city's history.
    Background information
    In February 1945, George Orwell (born as Eric Arthur Blair in Bengal in June 1903) was commissioned by the Observer newspaper to report on the end period of the war in Germany. He based himself in Paris and travelled to Cologne in March. In late March he had to rush back to London: his wife had died during a routine operation. Around two weeks later he was back in Paris, and in April reported from Nuremberg and then Stuttgart. He also travelled briefly to Austria before returning to London in May. Later in 1945, Orwell's novel Animal Farm was published, bringing him worldwide fame. In 1949, his most famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published. In January 1950, George Orwell died in London from tuberculosis aged 46.

    Contact:
    Geoff Rodoreda
    Modern English Literature
    University of Stuttgart
    Tel: +49 (0)711 6858 3095
    Email: geoff.rodoreda@ilw.uni-stuttgart.de


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    Geschichte / Archäologie, Kulturwissenschaften, Sprache / Literatur
    überregional
    Buntes aus der Wissenschaft
    Englisch


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