Saturday, 25 August 2012

Orwell on statues

I don't know what George Orwell would have made of the fact that the outgoing director general of the BBC apparently vetoed the siting of a proposed statue of him outside Broadcasting House because he was 'too left wing'. We do know that he was pretty ambivalent about statues per se.

In his novel Coming Up for Air, the narrator George Bowling, alluding to the endless tracts of semi-detached housing built in the 1930s, proposes a statue to 'the god of building societies'. And in Down and Out in Paris and London, Orwell writes about how his Russian friend, Boris, liked dining in a particular cafe in Montparnasse 'simply because the statue of Marshal Ney stands outside it' and he liked anything to do with soldiers.

In Victory Square in 1984, Winston Smith walks past 'the statue of a man on horseback which was supposed to represent Oliver Cromwell'. And according to Jeffrey Meyers's biography of Orwell, he was amused by the monument to the hymn writer, Reginald Heber, bishop of Calcutta. He told a friend, 'if you are ever near St Paul's & feel in a gloomy mood, go in & have a look at the statue of the first Protestant bishop of India, which will give you a good laugh'.

But I am sure that Orwell would have approved of the choice of sculptor to make his statue. Martin Jennings also did the statue of John Betjeman at St Pancras, which has the poet holding his hat as he gazes up in wonder at the huge span of William Barlow’s train shed, and it is lovely.

1 comment:

  1. What Orwell would not have celebrated is that there is a god-awful pub on Manchester's Deansgate called 'The Moon under Water' that bears no resemblance to his dream hostelry of the same name. If only there was a statue there instead.