The organizers of the Orwell Prize recently began running George Orwell's diary as a blog, 70 years to the day after he wrote each entry. Most of the entries thus far have been mundane -- Orwell was obsessed with observing animals, appropriately enough -- but his Sept. 27 diary contains a particularly vivid description of poverty in Marrakesh, Morocco:

People sleep in the streets by hundreds and thousands, and beggars, especially children, swarm everywhere. It is noticeable that this is so not only in quarters normally frequented by tourists, but also in purely native quarters, where any European is promptly followed by a retinue of children. Most beggars are quite satisfied with a sou (twenty sous equal a penny halfpenny). Two illustrative incidents: I asked a boy of about 10 to call a cab for me, and when he returned with the cab I gave him 50 centimes (three farthings, but by local standards an overpayment.) Meanwhile about a dozen other boys had collected, and when they saw me take a handful of small change out of my pocket they flung themselves on it with such violence as to draw blood from my hand. When I had managed to extricate myself and give the boy his 50 centimes a number of others flung themselves on him, forced his hand open and robbed him of the money.

Orwell mentions in this diary giving bread to a Moroccan city worker who saw him feeding some to gazelles. He refers to this incident again in "Marrakech," an essay he wrote that was published a year later.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

Comments

Interesting post - I've heard similar stories of poverty in many countries where the impoverished people all act the same way. It is very sad.


 

This diary entry was written in 1938. Things have changed a lot in Morocco since then.


 

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