Found at Last! George Orwell’s Fabled Manuscript “Lost-in-Catalonia”


George Orwell, one of the world’s most beloved authors, died in 1950 at just 46 years of age.  His real name was Eric Arthur Blair.  “George Orwell” is a pseudonym—the first name, George, ties him to the English King George, and the last name, Orwell, a river in Suffolk, ties him to the English landscape.  He most enduring legacy is his opposition to totalitarianism and social injustice.

Orwell’s words profoundly influence the English language— stretching the boundaries of our collective imagination with mind-bending political terms such as: Big Brother, thoughtcrime, doublethink, memory hole, and Newspeak.

This past week, the literary world was set ablaze when an anonymous Russian art dealer discovered—among the papers of late Hungarian art collector, L.E. Raynal—a solitary page from a long, lost novella by George Orwell—the final page—signed by the author—from a work reportedly penned by Orwell in 1937—the fabled manuscript, Lost-in-Catalonia.

“We’re putting it up for auction at Christie’s in London,” says publicist Francois Reichenbach, “where the bidding starts at £2 million.  And yes, independent experts have verified the authenticity of Orwell’s signature.”

Okay, so where’s the rest of the novella?—it apparently remains lost to the ravages of time, the Spanish Civil War, and international corporate intrigue.

Orwellian scholars the world over have been buzzing with news that the very last page of Orwell’s long-lost novella, page number 22, has surfaced and is now headed for the auctioneer’s block.  And indeed, with only 22 pages, the work is much shorter than its legend or myth might otherwise suggest.  In fact, it’s so brief that many refer to it as an essay rather than novella.  Orwell wrote the piece on a portable field typewriter, which was his constant companion while serving the Crown in Burma.

During the fall of 1937—in correspondences to colleagues, family, and friends—Orwell specifically mentions working on an untitled manuscript, however, no copy of the entire manuscript is known to exist.  All we have is the novella’s cryptic last page—and Orwellian scholars fiercely debate its meaning.

The notorious final page of Lost-in-Catalonia reads:

“They would see a global emergence of tyrannical corporate overlords — ruthless, cunning, and efficient – conducting their business enterprises in secret — all the while cloaked in politeness and respectability.   These cartels would be the final superpower.   They would make popular revolution impossible.   Children of future generations would learn that our de-population choices were a brave moral imperative.   For the greater good, the people acquiesced to government food rationing, forcible medical mandates, and eradication of personal freedoms.   Starvation, followed by civil unrest, displacement, and then, ultimately, genocide was naturally their fate.   Eugenics is not a spectator’s sport.   It’s much easier to cull a populace – than it is to convince them they’re being culled.” ~~Geo. Orwell

orwell Lost In Catalonia FINAL

“It’s so tantalizing and provocative because we have only the last page,” says Orwellian scholar, T. Matthew Phillips. “My favorite part is the last line, which reads: It’s much easier to cull a populace than it is to convince them they’re being culled!

The most influential political essayist since, Niccolo Machiavelli, Orwell is known for his works from the 1940s—the allegorical Animal Farm, (1945), written in the style of an English barnyard fable—in which Orwell exposes the fraud underlying the Soviet myth, and, of course, his most well-known work, the dystopian, futurist novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

“It’s like my favorite book ever!” quips T. Matthew Phillips, “but Nineteen Eighty-Four was intended to be a cautionary tale, not a blueprint for tyranny.”  Nineteen Eighty-Four is about a future world of perpetual wars—waged by totalitarian corporatized governments—that secretly spy on their own citizens, trample individual liberties, and persecute free-thinkers who violate community standards, and thus commit thoughtcrimes.

orwell 1984 11

Orwell mastered the art of political writing through six rules he devised for clear and concise language.  To be an effective writer, reasoned Orwell, the writer must be sincere—and sincerity comes only from clear and concise language.  In his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, Orwell promulgates six rules—for clear and concise language—which in turn makes for sincere writing :  (1) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.  (2) Never use a long word where a short one will do.  (3) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.  (4) Never use the passive where you can use the active.  (5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.  (6) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

Professor Nikita T. Kovshevnikov (Ковшевников), at American University in Moscow, argues that “Unclear writing is a powerful tool for political manipulation because words shape the way we think.”  Indeed, Orwell keenly observed: “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.”

The general public is less acquainted with Orwell’s work before the war.  In the late 1930s, Orwell was a volunteer combatant in the Spanish Civil War—fighting fascism.   The American novelist Henry Miller famously told Orwell that his decision to fight fascism based on moral obligations was “sheer stupidity.”  Undeterred, Orwell, marched with rifle in hand to the front lines in Barcelona to lock arms with his Spanish compañeros and kill fascists!  “Viva La Revolución!”

In 1936, Orwell ventured to Spain to take part in the Spanish Civil War.  His non-fiction work, Homage to Catalonia, (1938), recounts his wartime experiences.  And the recent finding of the lost signature page corroborates rumors of the earlier work, Lost-in-Catalonia (1937), purportedly written by Orwell while recovering from his war wounds.

orwell 1937
George Orwell, Hertfordshire, England, August 1937

At six-feet, two inches in stature, Orwell, the lanky, floppy-haired Englishman, was considerably taller than his Spanish compañeros, which made him a perfect target for enemy snipers.  On May 20, 1937, while at the front lines in Spain, Orwell was shot through the throat by a sniper’s bullet.  He was nearly killed.  Orwell did not speak for some time.

Orwell later wrote that Catalonians would often tell him: “A man shot through the neck who survives is the luckiest man alive,” which prompted Orwell to wryly reply: “I would be even luckier if I were never shot in the first place.”

Unable to speak, Orwell purportedly began working on Lost-in-Catalonia while convalescing in June 1937.   The story is rumored to be a sardonic tale of fascist, multinational corporations that hijack democracy—with the ultimate agenda being world domination.

Legend has it that the story surrounds an evil, corporate-controlled Prime Minster—named William Henry Gates—who hires one-half of the working class to kill the other half.  Many believe Orwell calculated the work as a means to empower individuals to halt this frightful corporate agenda.  “It’s as if Orwell had a Nostradamus moment!  Back in 1937, he accurately predicted the rise of Bill Gates,” explains T. Matthew Phillips.  “You just can’t make this stuff up!”

Conspiracy theorists believe a handful of international conglomerates, by force or threat of force, managed to acquire Orwell’s manuscript— then quickly destroyed it for obvious reasons.  And now, all that remains of the story is rumor, myth, and legend.

Professor Nikita T. Kovshevnikov explains, “Some say that Orwell’s publisher rejected Lost-in-Catalonia based on its pessimistic tone, cynical themes, and general gloominess.”   Many believe that Orwell’s publisher had sympathetic fascist leanings.  Professor Kovshevnikov adds, “From Orwell’s correspondence, we know he fought bitterly with his publisher—who tried to control him, but Orwell would have none of it.”

The final page from the novella is mentioned in 1949 in a letter from Ernest Hemmingway to his Paris publishers, in which Hemmingway validates the existence of the novella, or what’s left of it, reporting that the book, “will never be published due to its bleak and unsettling nature.”

Mainstream historians argue that Lost-in-Catalonia is not a “lost” novella at all, but rather, simply an rawer, earlier version of his 1938 novel, Homage to Catalonia.  Apparently, the earlier versions of Homage contained Orwell’s first-hand, unexpurgated accounts of battlefield carnage.  And, so the story goes, after his publisher rejected Lost-in-Catalonia, Orwell went on to publish Homage to Catalonia in 1938.  “Commercially, it was a flop,” says T. Matthew Phillips.  But it would be a turning point for Orwell—as he would never again let his publishers edit his work.  “From then on, Orwell had final cut, just like Stanley Kubrick after filming Spartacus,” explains Phillips.

So who is the anonymous Russian art dealer who found the lost signature page?—Francois Reichenbach won’t say.  And, most unprecedented, those participating in the Christie’s auction must sign a confidentiality agreement before viewing the provenance (historical chain of custody) which traces the document’s journey from L.E. Raynal’s Murray Hill apartment in New York City—all the way to the auctioneer’s block at Christie’s in London.

L.E. Raynal in Ibiza, circa 1974

Sources close to the investigation indicate that a complete, signed version of Lost-in-Catalonia was stolen from Orwell’s publisher in 1937 and spent the wartime years in Casablanca.  The manuscript somehow migrated to Lisbon where, in 1953, it was apparently rescued by a souvenir hunter who allegedly sold it to a Russian ballet dancer rumored to be a member of Italy’s Communist Party hoping to make a quick buck selling Orwell’s signature on the black market in British-occupied Vienna, where British officials, on New Year’s Day 1954, confiscated the document.  Later that same year, British officials submitted it the British Museum in London, from which it was promptly stolen just days after being catalogued into the Museum Registry.

“And now it reappears!” says Professor Kovshevnikov, “Orwellian scholars have dreamed about this for ages, and even though there’s only one page, it’s quite invigorating.”   For interested bidders, the Christie’s auction is slated for June 25, 2018—to commemorate Orwell’s birthday.

“If he were alive today, George Orwell would be 114 years old,” adds the good professor.

Produced, and Directed by TMP’s Midnight Minions
in association with Chapter Eleven Productions,
Fly-By-Night Management Services, and
Neurotica Entertainment Group

Copyright 2018 – T. Matthew Phillips, Esq.

“If fools did not go to market,
cracked pots and false wares would not be sold.”
~ Clifford Irving ~

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