Blogging Barbarossa

22 June 2011

Perhaps the most horrific battle of them all began 70 years ago today. Here’s Orwell:

The Germans invaded the U.S.S.R. this morning.

Everyone greatly excited. It is universally assumed that this development is to our advantage. It is only so, however, if the Russians actually intend to fight back and can put up a serious resistance, if not enough to halt the Germans, at any rate enough to wear down their air force and navy. Evidently the immediate German objective is not either territory or oil, but simply to wipe out the Russian air force and thus remove a danger from their rear while they deal finally with England. Impossible to guess what kind of show the Russians can put up. The worst omen is that the Germans would probably not have attempted this unless certain that they can bring it off, and quite rapidly at that.

Things to note:

1) Orwell would have written a blog, not a diary (or perhaps in addition to a diary) had such things existed then.
2) He’s instinctively contrarian. The majority think this; this may well be proved mistaken. This suits 1) above.
3) Sometimes the majority are actually right. This was one such instance and Orwell was wrong.
4) Orwell’s pessimism looks daft now; it was not necessarily so at the time.
5) A diary, like a blog, is a contemporary account of events. A single entry ought best, where possible, be considered in the context of the broader, greater narrative. A snapshot at any one time is useful but also, often, misleading. 
6) Most of us could probably use a little more doubt in our writing.
7) Blogs will be an amazing resource for historians compiling histories of the 21st century.

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  • rndtechnologies786

    Good view.

  • ndm

    I believe Orwell to be somewhat overrated. A couple of very important novels with a bunch of very minor ones (several with the same sex scene in the woods).

    As an essayist, he was tedious to the point of boredom. His essays have nothing of the light contained in those of Albert Camus – who had both a real war and, in the phrasing of the obituary, a good war.

    But neither Orwell nor Camus saw the war that Vasily Grossman saw. As a journalist, Grossman reported on the Battle of Stalingrad as it happened, and then followed the Soviet troops to Berlin. This included their arrival at what he described as the “Hell of Treblinka.” This journalism is available in the book “Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army, 1941-1945.” As a novelist, Grossman wrote about the Battle of Stalingrad and the fate of Russian Jewry in his epic novel “Life and Fate.”

    Orwell’s war was different from that of Camus and Grossman. His was as a commentator in a land under attack but not under occupation. Both Camus and Grossman, were journalists in lands not merely under attack but under occupation.

  • normanc

    I don’t see where Orwell is wrong anywhere.

    The Germans were supremely confident they could pull it off

    One strong kick and the whole rotten edifice will collapse – Hitler

    It is no exageration to say the war has been won in 6 weeks – Jodl

    Guderian and others dismissed as fantasy the reports they received of the number of tanks the Soviet Union had.

  • Sam Davidson

    Something like this perhaps;

    @GeorgeOrwell Off to the barricades, waistcoat unbuttoned.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    It is apparent that neither the majority nor Orwell quite grasped that this part of the war was more important than all the rest put together. The Eastern front WAS WW2. And strngley he allows no consideration that the German aim was to destroy communism and remove the threat from the East, that it was both ideological and racial, in addition to the search for lebensraum and raw materials. Orwell’s pessimism doesn’t look daft to me, the Germans only failed by a whisker. Indeed were it not for the sideshow in the Balkans, they might have started earlier and taken Moscow before the autumn rains.

    But on your basic premise, how nice it would be to read Orwell’s blog. But remember, there would be no collections of diaries and letters of historical figures, we would have to reconstruct their lives from their twitter. Those who twitter would be well advised to leave only good stuff for posterity.

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