42 / CHRONICLESnimaginary 1942 interview between Orwellnand his literary hero JonathannSwift (in which Orwell, latterly famousnfor his alleged pessimism, distinguishesnhimself from the Dean on the basis ofnoptimism). Yet it is the dross which,nunfortunately, predominates in thisnvolume. Perhaps the promised secondnvolume (a collection of commentariesnon the events of the war, which Orwellnwrote for weekly broadcasts to India)nwill have more material of substance.nActually, by far the most interestingnpart of The Lost Writings is not writtennby Orwell but by West. In a long andnscholarly introduction. West argues thatndespite the standard view, Orwell madengood use of his time at the BBC: thesenwere not “lost years.” Orwell learned tonturn out written work at a very fast clipn(which helps account for the markednincrease in his literary production aftern1943); and preparing for the literarynbroadcasts gave him time to read (ornread again) many of the classics ofnEnglish writing. I do not think therencan be much doubt that the Orwell whonemerged from the BBC was a muchnmore self-confident person than thenman who went to work there two and anhalf years before—perhaps not leastnbecause he had (for the first time sincenthe I920’s) held a steady and demand­ning job for a long period, and had donenwell at it.nBut West also argues that Orwell’snexperience within the BBC bureaucracynforms the model and sets the tone fornthe world of Nineteen Eighty-Four.nOther critics—looking for a way tondiscuss Orwell’s greatest work withoutnmentioning the Soviet Union—havenpushed this hypothesis much farthernthan West does. Here the informednreader is compelled to dissent. Therencan be no doubt now, thanks to West’snresearches, that certain aspects of NineteennEighty-Four turn out to be insidenjokes. The sinister Ministry of Truthnwhere Winston Smith works — thatnvast, pyramidical building—is clearlynmodeled on the wartime headquartersnbuilding of the Ministry of Informationn(and hence of the BBC): namely, thenSenate Building of the University ofnLondon! The telegraphic address of thisnbuilding was, during the war, MINI-nFORM (Ministry of Information)—anchilling parallel to Winston Smith’snMINITRUE. The Minister of Informationnduring Orwell’s time at the BBCnwas Mr. Brendan Bracken, and MOIninternal memos consistently refer to thisnman as “B.B.”—precisely as the internalnmemos at Winston Smith’s MINI-nTRUE refer to Big Brother. And therenwas even a major fad at the BBC fornC.K. Ogden’s simplified languagencalled “Basic English” (Orwell himselfncommissioned a radio-essay on it); thenrelationship here to Orwell’s notoriousn”Newspeak” is obvious.nIt is good to know these inside jokes.nBut West pushes the parallel betweennOceania and the BBC too far. A case innpoint is West’s suggestion that Oceania’snall-pervasive system of telescreennsupervision has its origins in Orwell’snfears that microphones might be left onnin BBC studios, so that private conversationsnwere accidentally overheard.nThis is patently ridiculous: there is notnthe slightest evidence that Orwell evernworried about microphones at the BBCnbeing accidentally left on; the parallelndoes not work because Orwell’s telescreensnare both intentional and allpervasiven(unlike accidentally activenmicrophones at the BBC); and the obviousnsource for the pervasive telescreensnof Nineteen Eighty-Four is Orwell’snknowledge of the pervasiveness of secretnpolice systems in certain countries, anproblem which we know worried himnvery deeply.nTowards the end of his introductorynessay. West himself seems to realizenthat the context and the meaning ofnNineteen Eighty-Four are larger andnPOETRY IQURNALnPlains Poetry Journal is committed to the theory that poetry is art and art is made. It’s the most refreshing concoctionnof real poetry you’ll find between the soft pages of a “little” magazine, by talented well-known and un-knownnpoets determined to use classical poetic traditions in vigorous, compelling new ways. Quarterly; $3.50/issue,n$14/year. Heartening editorial manifesto for SASE. Plains Poetry Journal, P.O. Box 2337, Bismarck, ND 58502.nnn