Philip Gourevitch, the editor of the American literary journal 'The Paris Review',
beat off competition from a host of acclaimed international writers
to be awarded a sponsored writing residency on the Isle of Jura.
ORWELL JURA WINNER A LOSER
But the author, speaking on the first day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival,
surprised a sellout crowd by admitting that
he did not take the opportunity to visit Barnhill,
where Orwell wrote his dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four,
because he was unable to drive his car to the front door.
This past spring I read about the author Philip Gourevitch entering a contest to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the island of Jura, Scotland to live rent-free for a month in a luxurious house in the village of Craighouse, 25 miles south of the house - "Barnhill" - where George Orwell wrote "1984". Gourevitch beat all other contenders and won the much-desired prize previously won by a London writer named Will Self:
A journey of Self indulgence. Scotsman, May 11, 2007 (...The Writers' Retreat Programme at Jura Lodge, which Self's short stay inaugurates tomorrow, will change that. Already the Scottish Book Trust has drawn up plans for some of the world's best writers to follow him: in August, award-winning American author and Paris Review editor Philip Gourevitch....)
Homage to Jura. Scotsman, May 11, 2007 (...In October 2006, the onetime head distiller's house was converted from "flat over the shop" to a five-bedroom luxury lodge....French-American interior designer Bambi Sloan took on the job of transforming the house and what she has created is a unique, astonishing island bolthole that makes the awkward trip across Scotland (via Islay) by plane, ferry and car truly worthwhile...)
Isle of Jura Retreat Programme. Scottish Book Trust, May 2007 (...Commenting on the award Philip Gourevitch said: "The Jura retreat is an extraordinary opportunity - a gift of time and astonishing space to think and write far from the hurly-burly, in a place of natural magnificence. That George Orwell's spirit may be flitting about in the sea air gives the setting even greater meaning. Even the anticipation of our month at the lodge is a form of inspiration...")
Now, just back from his so-called "extraordinary opportunity" at the Jura retreat Gourevitch is bragging that he didn't even bother visiting Orwell's house. His excuse was that it was "too far to walk" and he couldn't drive there because there was "no one to open the gate":
Author on Jura didn't visit Barnhill. Scotsman, Aug 12, 2007 (...Gourevitch said: "I haven't been to Barnhill. I drove up to the end of the road in a downpour and the guy who controls the gate wasn't around. I couldn't find anybody to open it so I could drive up there...")
Maybe living like a person 'to the manor born' for a month went to Gourevitch's head and he deemed himself too 'lordy' to fend for himself in any respect. The reason there was no one there to open the gate for him is because the gate is nothing but a swinging farm-gate across the road as you pass the manor house at Ardlussa. It's there to keep cows away from the property and people are expected to get out of their vehicle and open and close the gate after themselves - as a matter of common courtesy - and then carry on down the road to where they can park their vehicle and walk the last 7-miles of the road to Orwell's house, "Barnhill".
Obviously Gourevitch has no empathy or respect for George Orwell, even though he accepted the prize of a freebie trip to Jura - a place sacred to Orwell fans, most of whom pay their own way. My trip there in August 2004 cost hundreds of pounds (when transportation, hotel and meals are tallied) and was a priceless experience. See JOURNEY TO ORWELL'S JURA and VISITING ORWELL'S BARNHILL.
Other Orwell devotees have made the long trip to Jura and then the rough road to Barnhill to feel the spiritual connection to Orwell. Recently a reader sent a story about someone who journeyed there in 2006. See EUREKA ORWELL'S MOTORCYCLE!
But apparently award-winning writer Gourevitch derives no inspiration from Orwell and had no desire to connect spiritually with the man considered to be the greatest writer of the 20th century and a form of prophet.
To add injury to insult, Will Self - the writer who preceded Gourevitch's stay on Jura and gently chastised him for not doing the Barnhill walk - went on to say that Orwell copied "1984" from Zamyatin's "We" which he, Self, says is a better book.
Self isn't the first person to accuse Orwell of modelling "1984" after "We" but in reality there is no truth to the allegation. Orwell had most of "1984" sketched out in his mind (and written in his essays) before he read "We" in 1946. But when Orwell DID read "We" he wrote a review of it that encapsulates its most interesting passages. See ORWELL REVIEWS ZAMYATIN'S WE.
The rest of "We" is forgettable. I know, because I've read it, and although it has its strengths (as pointed out by one of my readers) it is a far inferior novel to "1984". See ESSENCE OF WE & 1984 and INTEGRAL POINT OF WE.
Also, if "We" is so great a book why is it that it is so unknown to the vast majority of the people on the planet and yet "1984" is a book known and respected worldwide - including by people who have lived under totalitarian tyrannies it uncannily describes, for example Russia and Burma. See FINDING ORWELL IN BURMA.
There is so much complexity to "1984" that I was able to recognize 45-themes which are listed on the left side of the home page of my website, "Orwell Today". I wouldn't be able to do that with "We", even if I had an uninterrupted month-long literary retreat on Jura with Orwell's spirit all around. I doubt that Will Self could either.
And I'm disgusted by Gourevitch's ignorant behaviour toward Orwell, the raison d'etre for the Jura retreat.
I've quoted Gourevitch's book "We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Familes: Stories From Rwanda" on my website and even got it signed by Rwanda's President, Paul Kagame, when I covered his visit to London, Canada in April 2006:
See RWANDA'S GOOD MAN KAGAME and HOW KAGAME BECAME LEADER and RWANDA'S LIVING LEGEND IN LONDON and GOMA CAMP MAFIA HOTEL and INFORMING ON INFORMER.
Although the good writing Gourevitch has done can't be taken away from him, my opinion of him as a person has changed. I now consider him a traitor to the cause of freedom and the pursuit of truth, the way he has insulted George Orwell. I'm sure, however, that it would come as no surprise to Orwell who can see beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm. Orwell probably didn't want him knocking on his door anyway. ~ Jackie Jura
Author who won residency on Jura
admits he could not be bothered to walk to Orwell house
Scotsman, Aug 12, 2007
AN AMERICAN author who won a prestigious opportunity to follow in the footsteps of George Orwell has admitted he did not visit the author's home because he could not be bothered walking there. Philip Gourevitch, the editor of the American literary journal the Paris Review, beat off competition from a host of acclaimed international writers to be awarded a sponsored writing residency on the Isle of Jura. But the author, speaking on the first day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, surprised a sellout crowd by admitting that he did not take the opportunity to visit Barnhill, where Orwell wrote his dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four, because he was unable to drive his car to the front door.
Gourevitch made the sheepish admission in a discussion about Orwell with Will Self, the English novelist who had taken up a previous residency on the 142-square-mile island. Self was moved by his visit to the farmhouse, which his legendary literary predecessor rented in 1946, and asked Gourevitch for his impressions.
The American replied: "I haven't been to Barnhill. I drove up to the end of the road in a downpour and the guy who controls the gate wasn't around. I couldn't find anybody to open it so I could drive up there."
A visibly perplexed Self responded, to loud laughter: "The thing to do is to walk. You are not actually allowed to drive beyond the gate. Orwell himself managed to walk there and he had tuberculosis." Self said the effort of a short stroll beyond the gate was more than compensated for. "The juxtaposition between the lived-in feel of Barnhill and its illustrious literary history profoundly moved me and I'm not a man who's easily moved. "In the upstairs bedroom where Orwell clacked away on his typewriter there was a distinct atmosphere."
Despite this, the author, broadcaster and cultural commentator suggested that the late writer's magnum opus was largely inspired by the dystopian novel We, penned in 1921 by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which used science fiction to satirise emerging repression in the Soviet Union. "I don't want to diss Orwell, but I had the opportunity to write an introduction to Zamyatin's We and it's all there," said Self. "He changed it in certain vital respects and it was his own book, but Zamyatin had really got Soviet totalitarianism to an absolute tee within six years of the October Revolution. He was really ahead of the game."
Gourevitch claimed that there were Orwellian aspects to Bush's regime in Washington. "There is the language they use, the way that spin words, the way that euphemisms are used and the way that exporting democracy turns out to be nothing of the sort."
The New York-based editor and Self won month-long writing residencies on the island in a collaboration funded by the Scottish Book Trust, the Isle of Jura Distillery and the Scottish Executive....
Isle of Jura Retreat Programme
Scottish Book Trust, May 2007
Since its launch in late 2006, the Isle of Jura Writer Retreat programme has established itself as one of the best creative opportunities available to writers of stature anywhere in the world.
The appointment of Will Self as the first writer to take up the Retreat opportunity was widely reported in the world press, including The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Age and The Sunday Times....
American writers were invited to apply for the summer Retreat period, and applications of a very high standard were received. However, the judging panel were unanimous in making the award to Philip Gourevitch who will be accompanied by his wife Larissa MacFaquhar, underlining just what a gilt-edged opportunity this is.
Commenting on the award Philip Gourevitch said: "The Jura retreat is an extraordinary opportunity - a gift of time and astonishing space to think and write far from the hurly-burly, in a place of natural magnificence. That George Orwell's spirit may be flitting about in the sea air gives the setting even greater meaning. Even the anticipation of our month at the lodge is a form of inspiration."
There can be few better writers suited to this award. Editor of one of the great literary magazines, The Paris Review, Gourevitch made his name internationally with his astonishing book on the Rwandan massacres "We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: stories from Rwanda" (1998)....
As part of the Jura programme, Philip Gourevitch and Will Self will be taking part in the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2007, talking about their experiences of the island, Orwell’s legacy and the importance of reportage. Both writers will produce new Jura-inspired work for a week of programmes on BBC Radio 4 to be broadcast in April 2008. Meanwhile, as a further element to the Jura programme, Will Self and the great Scottish writer and artist Alasdair Gray will be collaborating on a limited edition print during the spring and summer of 2007, produced at Glasgow Print Studios.
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