Esperanto and George Orwell

The following brief article appeared prefixed to a 1984 British reprint of a paper submitted by the United Nations Association of New Zealand to the 27th Plenary Assembly of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, held in Barcelona in 1979. The reprint was published by the Esperanto Centre, London. It says "Reproduction in whole or in part permitted provided that the source is acknowledged", and I hereby acknowledge both the source and the fact that I am not sure just what the source is! The authorship of this part of the publication is left anonymous, though it is just possible that it may be by the authors of the UNANZ paper, Professor C. J. Adcock and Mr. W. R. Aldridge. I have supplied minor typographical emendations but have passed up the chance to revise the paper's style, which is somewhat less turgidly pedantic than the style of the WFUNA document to which it was attached. [1]

      Esperanto is a living language. Indeed today more people speak Esperanto than ever before.

      The widely reported claim that Newspeak is based on Esperanto is made on superficial evidence but seems to be true. All living languages however grow, prosper and develop. That is true of Esperanto but it is not true of Newspeak.

      In 1927 George Orwell (born Eric Blair) travelled to Paris to visit his aunt, Nellie Limouzin, who was then living with the prominent Esperanto activist Eugene Adam (better known as Lanti). Esperanto was their home family language. This may well have been the young Orwell's first contact with someone using an assumed name, and one can speculate whether Orwell's adoption of his own pseudonym was due to Adam's example.

      There were other Esperanto influences upon him. According to Bernard Crick,* 'Orwell told a friend in his last years that, as a young man, he had gone to Paris partly to improve his French, but he had to leave his first lodgings because the landlord and his wife spoke only Esperanto — and it was an ideology, not just a language.

      It should be noted that the early Esperanto movement was much more ideologically committed than it is now, according to research by Dr. P. G. Forster of the University of Hull.

      There was a third Esperanto influence on the author, as a young man. The bookshop proprietos in Hampstead for whom Orwell worked, Francis and Myfanwy Westrope, were of the same political persuasion as Adam. Orwell's creation of Newspeak owes a lot to the influence of Esperanto which he saw as more than a mere means of communication.

      In form, too, Newspeak owes much to Esperanto. The word 'ungood' is modelled on Esperanto 'malbona' — 'bona', meaning 'good', preceded by the negative prefix.

      Although 1984 has not yet appeared in an Esperanto translation, Orwell's Animal Farm was published as Bestofarmo several years ago. It is clear that Nineteen Eighty-Four was a rational warning against totalitarian tendencies in society, rather than a prophecy about the future.

      Esperanto should not be seen as a part of those totalitarian tendencies. Esperanto is intended as a second language for all, not a dominant one.

      The Esperanto Centre has therefore republished the document issued by the World Federation of United Nations Associations, as an attempt to correct misrepresentations against the international language.

      We ask for your co-operation in making the facts in the W.F.U.N.A. document more widely known.

Esperanto Centre — 1984


* Bernard Crick, George Orwell: A Life, p. 114

[1] Ĉi tiun enkondukan paragrafon aldonis la persono kiu enretigis ĉi tiun dokumenton ĉe nun fermita retejo geocities. / Introductory paragraph added by the person who published this web page on the now-defunct geocities. The report to which this page was attached is The Use of an International Language, with cover page: document PA 27/21 New Zealand (A): Twenty-Seventh Plenary Assembly, 8-13 October, 1979, Congress Hall, Barcelona, Spain. Item 21: Esperanto. Paper submitted by the United Nations Association of New Zealand. Geneva, August 1, 1979. [Altogether 7 pp.] — RD

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