Haruki Murakami Announces an Archive That Will House His Manuscripts, Letters & Collection of 10,000+ Vinyl Records

Image by wakarimasita, via Wikimedia Commons

It has become the norm for notable writers to bequeath documents related to their work, and even their personal correspondence, to an institution that promises to maintain it all, in perpetuity, in an archive open to scholars. Often the institution is located at a university to which the writer has some connection, and the case of the Haruki Murakami Library at Tokyo's Waseda University is no exception: Murakami graduated from Waseda in 1975, and a dozen years later used it as a setting in his breakthrough novel Norwegian Wood.

That book's portrayal of Waseda betrays a somewhat dim view of the place, but Murakami looks much more kindly on his alma mater now than he did then: he must, since he plans to entrust it with not just all his papers but his beloved record collection as well. If you wanted to see that collection today, you'd have to visit him at home. "I exchanged my shoes for slippers, and Murakami took me upstairs to his office," writes Sam Anderson, having done just that for a 2011 New York Times Magazine profile of the writer. "This is also, not coincidentally, the home of his vast record collection. (He guesses that he has around 10,000 but says he’s too scared to count.)"




Having announced the plans for Waseda's Murakami Library at the end of last year, Murakami can now rest assured that the counting will be left to the archivists. He hopes, he said at a rare press conference, "to create a space that functions as a study where my record collection and books are stored." In his own space now, he explained, he has "a collection of records, audio equipment and some books. The idea is to create an atmosphere like that, not to create a replica of my study." Some of Murakami's stated motivation to establish the library comes out of convictions about the importance of "a place of open international exchanges for literature and culture" and "an alternative place that you can drop by." And some of it, of course, comes out of practicality: "After nearly 40 years of writing, there is hardly any space to put the documents such as manuscripts and related articles, whether at my home or at my office."

"I also have no children to take care of them," Murakami added, "and I didn’t want those resources to be scattered and lost when I die." Few of his countless readers around the world can imagine that day coming any time soon, turn 70 though Murakami did last month, but many are no doubt making plans even now for a trip to the Waseda campus to see what shape the Murakami Library takes during the writer's lifetime, especially since he plans to take an active role in what goes on there. "Murakami is also hoping to organize a concert featuring his collection of vinyl records," notes The Vinyl Factory's Gabriela Helfet. Until he does, you can have a listen to the playlists, previously featured here on Open Culture, of 96 songs from his novels and 3,350 from his record collection — but you'll have to recreate the atmosphere of his study yourself for now.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Gustave Doré’s Haunting Illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy

Inferno, Canto X:

Many artists have attempted to illustrate Dante Alighieri's epic poem the Divine Comedy, but none have made such an indelible stamp on our collective imagination as the Frenchman Gustave Doré.

Doré was 23 years old in 1855, when he first decided to create a series of engravings for a deluxe edition of Dante's classic.  He was already the highest-paid illustrator in France, with popular editions of Rabelais and Balzac under his belt, but Doré was unable to convince his publisher, Louis Hachette, to finance such an ambitious and expensive project. The young artist decided to pay the publishing costs for the first book himself. When the illustrated Inferno came out in 1861, it sold out fast. Hachette summoned Doré back to his office with a telegram: "Success! Come quickly! I am an ass!"




Hachette published Purgatorio and Paradiso as a single volume in 1868. Since then, Doré's Divine Comedy has appeared in hundreds of editions. Although he went on to illustrate a great many other literary works, from the Bible to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," Doré is perhaps best remembered for his depictions of Dante. At The World of Dante, art historian Aida Audeh writes:

Characterized by an eclectic mix of Michelangelesque nudes, northern traditions of sublime landscape, and elements of popular culture, Doré's Dante illustrations were considered among his crowning achievements -- a perfect match of the artist's skill and the poet's vivid visual imagination. As one critic wrote in 1861 upon publication of the illustrated Inferno: "we are inclined to believe that the conception and the interpretation come from the same source, that Dante and Gustave Doré are communicating by occult and solemn conversations the secret of this Hell plowed by their souls, traveled, explored by them in every sense."

The scene above is from Canto X of the Inferno. Dante and his guide, Virgil, are passing through the Sixth Circle of Hell, in a place reserved for the souls of heretics, when they look down and see the imposing figure of Farinata degli Uberti, a Tuscan nobleman who had agreed with Epicurus that the soul dies with the body, rising up from an open grave. In the translation by John Ciardi, Dante writes:

My eyes were fixed on him already. Erect,
he rose above the flame, great chest, great brow;
he seemed to hold all Hell in disrespect

Inferno, Canto XVI:

As Dante and Virgil prepare to leave Circle Seven, they are met by the fearsome figure of Geryon, Monster of Fraud. Virgil arranges for Geryon to fly them down to Circle Eight. He climbs onto the monster's back and instructs Dante to do the same.

Then he called out: "Now, Geryon, we are ready:
bear well in mind that his is living weight
and make your circles wide and your flight steady."

As a small ship slides from a beaching or its pier,
backward, backward -- so that monster slipped
back from the rim. And when he had drawn clear

he swung about, and stretching out his tail
he worked it like an eel, and with his paws
he gathered in the air, while I turned pale.

Inferno, Canto XXXIV:

In the Ninth Circle of Hell, at the very center of the Earth, Dante and Virgil encounter the gigantic figure of Satan. As Ciardi writes in his commentary:

He is fixed into the ice at the center to which flow all the rivers of guilt; and as he beats his great wings as if to escape, their icy wind only freezes him more surely into the polluted ice. In a grotesque parody of the Trinity, he has three faces, each a different color, and in each mouth he clamps a sinner whom he rips eternally with his teeth. Judas Iscariot is in the central mouth: Brutus and Cassius in the mouths on either side.

 Purgatorio, Canto II:

At dawn on Easter Sunday, Dante and Virgil have just emerged from Hell when they witness The Angel Boatman speeding a new group of souls to the shore of Purgatory.

Then as that bird of heaven closed the distance
between us, he grew brighter and yet brighter
until I could no longer bear the radiance,

and bowed my head. He steered straight for the shore,
his ship so light and swift it drew no water;
it did not seem to sail so much as soar.

Astern stood the great pilot of the Lord,
so fair his blessedness seemed written on him;
and more than a hundred souls were seated forward,

singing as if they raised a single voice
in exitu Israel de Aegypto.
Verse after verse they made the air rejoice.

The angel made the sign of the cross, and they
cast themselves, at his signal, to the shore.
Then, swiftly as he had come, he went away.

 Purgatorio, Canto IV:

The poets begin their laborious climb up the Mount of Purgatory. Partway up the steep path, Dante cries out to Virgil that he needs to rest.

The climb had sapped my last strength when I cried:
"Sweet Father, turn to me: unless you pause
I shall be left here on the mountainside!"

He pointed to a ledge a little ahead
that wound around the whole face of the slope.
"Pull yourself that much higher, my son," he said.

His words so spurred me that I forced myself
to push on after him on hands and knees
until at last my feet were on that shelf.

Purgatorio, Canto XXXI:

Having ascended at last to the Garden of Eden, Dante is immersed in the waters of the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and helped across by the maiden Matilda. He drinks from the water, which wipes away all memory of sin.

She had drawn me into the stream up to my throat,
and pulling me behind her, she sped on
over the water, light as any boat.

Nearing the sacred bank, I heard her say
in tones so sweet I cannot call them back,
much less describe them here: "Asperges me."

Then the sweet lady took my head between
her open arms, and embracing me, she dipped me
and made me drink the waters that make clean.

Paradiso, Canto V:

In the Second Heaven, the Sphere of Mercury, Dante sees a multitude of glowing souls. In the translation by Allen Mandelbaum, he writes:

As in a fish pool that is calm and clear,
the fish draw close to anything that nears
from outside, it seems to be their fare,
such were the far more than a thousand splendors
I saw approaching us, and each declared:
"Here now is one who will increase our loves."
And even as each shade approached, one saw,
because of the bright radiance it set forth,
the joyousness with which that shade was filled.

Paradiso, Canto XXVIII:

Upon reaching the Ninth Heaven, the Primum Mobile, Dante and his guide Beatrice look upon the sparkling circles of the heavenly host. (The Christian Beatrice, who personifies Divine Love, took over for the pagan Virgil, who personifies Reason, as Dante's guide when he reached the summit of Purgatory.)

And when I turned and my own eyes were met
By what appears within that sphere whenever
one looks intently at its revolution,
I saw a point that sent forth so acute
a light, that anyone who faced the force
with which it blazed would have to shut his eyes,
and any star that, seen from the earth, would seem
to be the smallest, set beside that point,
as star conjoined with star, would seem a moon.
Around that point a ring of fire wheeled,
a ring perhaps as far from that point as
a halo from the star that colors it
when mist that forms the halo is most thick.
It wheeled so quickly that it would outstrip
the motion that most swiftly girds the world.

Paradiso, Canto XXXI:

In the Empyrean, the highest heaven, Dante is shown the dwelling place of God. It appears in the form of an enormous rose, the petals of which house the souls of the faithful. Around the center, angels fly like bees carrying the nectar of divine love.

So, in the shape of that white Rose, the holy
legion has shown to me -- the host that Christ,
with His own blood, had taken as His bride.
The other host, which, flying, sees and sings
the glory of the One who draws its love,
and that goodness which granted it such glory,
just like a swarm of bees that, at one moment,
enters the flowers and, at another, turns
back to that labor which yields such sweet savor,
descended into that vast flower graced
with many petals, then again rose up
to the eternal dwelling of its love.

You can access a free edition of The Divine Comedy featuring Doré's illustrations at Project Gutenberg. A Yale course on reading Dante in translation appears in the Literature section of our collection of 750 Free Online Courses.

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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in October 2013.

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Watch the Trailers for Tolkien and Catch-22, Two New Literary Films

For decades, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings wondered if the books could ever become a film. The Beatles and John Boorman both tried to get adaptations off the ground in the 1960s and 70s, and animator Ralph Bakshi came up with his own cinematic interpretation, if only a partial one, in 1978. But now we live in a world rich with Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Rings-related material on film, thanks to the efforts of director Peter Jackson and his collaborators on not just the adaptations of The Fellowship of the RingThe Two Towers, and The Return of the King, but three whole feature films bringing the relatively brief tale The Hobbit to the screen.

What remains for the Tolkien-inspired filmmaker today? None, so far, have proven brave enough to take on the likes of The Silmarillion, the forbiddingly mythopoeic work published a few years after the writer's death. But the Finnish director Dome Karukoski, whose last picture told the story of male-erotica illustrator Tom of Finland, has found material in the writer's life.




Going by the trailer above, Tolkien deals not just with the writing of The Lord of the Rings, described by star Nicholas Hoult as "a story about journeys, the journeys we take to prove ourselves," about "adventures" and "potent magic, magic beyond anything anyone has ever felt before."

It's also, says Hoult-as-Tolkien, a story about "what it means to love, and to be loved." That fits with another apparent storyline of Tolkien itself, that of the man who dreamed up Middle-Earth's relationship with Edith Bratt, the girl he met as a teenager who would become his wife — not long after which he received the letter summoning him to France to fight in the First World War, where he managed to survive the Battle of the Somme. An equally skilled writer of another temperament might have produced an enduring novel of the war, but Tolkien, as his generations of readers know, went in another direction entirely. A generation later, Joseph Heller proved to be that skilled writer of a different temperament, and sixteen years after coming back from the Second World War, he produced Catch-22.

Heller's novel has also made it to the screen a few times: Mike Nichols directed a feature-film adaptation in 1970, the pilot for a television series aired three years later, and now we await a Catch-22 miniseries that will air on Hulu this May. Christopher Abbott stars as Captain John Yossarian, the hapless bombardier with no aim in the war but to stay out of harm's way, and George Clooney (also one of the series' directors) as Lieutenant Scheisskopf, one of the book's cast of highly memorable minor characters. The series' six episodes should accommodate more of that cast — and more of the forms Heller's elaborate satire takes in the novel — than a movie can. If, as a result, you need to consult Heller's large-format handwritten outline for the book, by all means do — and have a look at Tolkien's annotated map of Middle-Earth while you're at it.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear Neil Gaiman Read Aloud 15 of His Own Works, and Works by 6 Other Great Writers: From The Graveyard Book & Coraline, to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven & Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Neil Gaiman is a storyteller. That title encompasses quite a few pursuits, most of which seemingly involve writing — writing novels, writing radio dramas, writing comic books — but he also occasionally tells stories the old-fashioned way: speaking aloud, and to an audience of rapt listeners. Traditionally, such storytelling happened in a circle around the campfire, but as a storyteller of the 21st century — albeit a master of timeless techniques who uses those techniques to deal with timeless themes — Gaiman can tell stories to the entire world. Today we've gathered all of Gaiman's streamable readings, both video and audio, in one place.

Nearly every type of text at which he has tried his hand appears in this collection, from novels (The Graveyard Book) to novellas (Coraline) to poetry ("Instructions," above) to manifestos ("Making Good Art"). Suitable as his voice and delivery are to his own work, Gaiman's live storytelling talent also extends to the works of others, as you'll find out if you listen to the selections on the second list below.




The material varies widely, from nonsense or near-nonsense poetry like Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham and Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" to the work of his friend Ursula K. Le Guin to a classic like Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," whose Gothic atmosphere will no doubt appeal to Gaiman's fans.

And Gaiman certainly has his fair share of fans. If you already count yourself in that group, you'll need little convincing to do a binge-listen of his readings here. But if you aren't yet familiar with Gaiman's work in all its various forms, you might consider using these pieces of video and audio as an entryway into his narrative world, with its emotional chiaroscuro, it modern-day mythology, and its unflagging sense of humor. There's plenty of Neil Gaiman out there to read, of course, but with his style of storytelling, sometimes he must simply be heard — if not around an actual campfire, then on that largest campfire ever created, the internet. These texts will be added to our list, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

His own work
Works by others

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Why Should We Read Flannery O’Connor? An Animated Video Makes the Case

Every time a story of mine appears in a Freshman anthology, I have a vision of it, with its little organs laid open, like a frog in a bottle. –Flannery O’Connor, "A Reasonable Use of the Unreasonable"

Why did Flannery O’Connor write? To convert us? The devout Catholic was not immune to a certain apologetic impulse, or a sense of her own purpose as a vessel for divine truth. Or did she, like Greek tragedians, write to inspire pity and terror? “I don’t have any pretensions,” she once demurred, “to being an Aeschylus or Sophocles and providing you in this story with a cathartic experience.” In any case, what drove her may be a less interesting question than what should drive us to read her.

O’Connor wrote, as most great writers do, because she was compelled to write. What we gain as readers is the deeply unsettling, but also deeply pleasurable experience of recognizing our own flawed humanity in her violent, manipulative characters, none of whom, somehow, are ever beyond redemption. O’Connor’s authorial voice does not judge or condemn but exposes to light the flaws that even, or especially, her most respectable characters would rather hide from themselves and others.




By use of what she called “a reasonable use of the unreasonable” she shows murder, contempt, and deception as shockingly ordinary states of affairs, belying the polite fictions of civility and social niceness. Perhaps no setting could better illuminate the contrasts than the piously violent segregated mid-century American South. O’Connor’s “mastery of the grotesque,” notes the TED-Ed video above by Iseult Gillespie, “and her explorations of the insularity and superstitions of the South led her to be classified as a ‘Southern Gothic’ writer.”

The label may fit superficially, but “her work pushed beyond the purely ridiculous and frightening characteristics associated with the genre to reveal the variety and nuance of human character.” O’Connor herself suggested that what set her apart were “the assumptions… of the central Christian mysteries.” Though we need not read her work this way, she grants, there is “none other by which it could have been written.” We might say that her committed belief in the idea of universal human depravity gave her unique insight into the meaninglessness of class and race distinctions. Few writers have taken the idea as seriously, or approached it with more wicked playfulness.

Why did she write? One reason is she “took pleasure in challenging her readers,” as the video explains. But it was pleasure that she chiefly desired to share. We can vivisect her stories, carve them up and seal them in jars labeled with politics and theologies. Yet “properly, you analyze to enjoy,” she wrote. "It's equally true that to analyze with any discrimination, you have to have enjoyed already, and I think that the best reason to hear a story read is that it should stimulate that primary enjoyment.” Lovers of O’Connor know the answer to the question of why we should read her. Because they take as much pleasure in reading her stories as she did in writing them.

Discover this enjoyment on your own. Hear Studs Terkel read her story "Revelation," hear Estelle Parsons read "Everything that Rises Must Converge," and hear O'Connor herself read that 1959 classic of her Southern grotesque style, "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Neil Gaiman Reads His Manifesto on Making Art: Features the 10 Things He Wish He Knew As a Young Artist

I think you're absolutely allowed several minutes, possibly even half a day to feel very, very sorry for yourself indeed. And then just start making art. - Neil Gaiman

It’s a bit early in the year for commencement speeches, but fortunately for lifelong learners who rely on a steady drip of inspiration and encouragement, author Neil Gaiman excels at putting old wine in new bottles.

He repurposed his keynote address to Philadelphia's University of the Arts’ Class of 2012 for Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World, a slim volume with hand lettering and illustrations by Chris Riddell.




The above video captures the frequent collaborators appearing together last fall at the East London cultural center Evolutionary Arts Hackney in a fundraiser for English PEN, the founding branch of the worldwide literary defense association. While Gaiman reads aloud in his affable, ever-engaging style, Riddell uses a brush pen to bang out 4 3/4 line drawings, riffing on Gaiman’s metaphors.

While the art-making “rules” Gaiman enumerates herein have been extrapolated and widely disseminated (including, never fear, below), it’s worth having a look at why this event called for a live illustrator.

Leaving aside the fact that each ticket purchaser got a copy of Art Matters, autographed by both men, and a large signed print was auctioned off on behalf of English PEN, Gaiman holds illustrations in high regard.

His work includes picture books, graphic novels, and lightly illustrated novels for teens and young adults, and as a mature reader, he, too, delights in visuals, singling out Frank C. Papé's drawings for the decidedly “adult” 1920s fantasy novels of James Branch Cabell. (1929’s Something about Eve featured a buxom female character angrily frying up her husband's manhood for dinner and an erotic entryway that would have thrilled Dr. Seuss.)

In an interview with Waterstones booksellers upon the publication of Neverwhere another collaboration with Riddell, Gaiman mused:

…a good illustrator, for me, is like going to see a play. You are going to get something brought to life for you by a specific cast in a specific place. That way of illustrating will never happen again. You know, somebody else could illustrate it—there are hundreds of different Alice in Wonderlands.

Which we could certainly take to mean that if Riddell’s style doesn’t grab you the way it grabs Gaiman (and the juries for several prestigious awards) perhaps you should tear your eyes away from the screen and illustrate what you hear in the speech.

Do you need to know how to draw as well as he does? The rules, below, suggest not. We’d love to take a peek inside your sketchbook after.

  1. Embrace the fact that you're young. Accept that you don't know what you're doing. And don't listen to anyone who says there are rules and limits.

  2. If you know your calling, go there. Stay on track. Keep moving towards it, even if the process takes time and requires sacrifice.

  3. Learn to accept failure. Know that things will go wrong. Then, when things go right, you'll probably feel like a fraud. It's normal.

  4. Make mistakes, glorious and fantastic ones. It means that you're out there doing and trying things.

  5. When life gets hard, as it inevitably will, make good art. Just make good art.

  6. Make your own art, meaning the art that reflects your individuality and personal vision.

  7. You get freelance work if your work is good, if you're easy to get along with, and if you're on deadline. Actually you don't need all three. Just two.

  8. Enjoy the ride. Don’t fret it all away. (That one comes compliments of Stephen King.)

  9. Be wise and accomplish things in your career. If you have problems getting started, pretend you're someone who is wise, who can get things done. It will help you along.

  10. Leave the world more interesting than it was before.

Read a complete transcript of the speech here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City tonight as host of Theater of the Apes’ monthly  book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

George Orwell’s Essay “British Cookery” is Officially Published 70 Years After It Was Rejected by the British Council (1946)

Image by BBC, via Wikimedia Commons

Voltaire once joked that Britain had “a hundred religions and only one sauce.” In my experience, that sauce is a curry, which was already a British staple in Voltaire’s time. No doubt he had something much blander in mind. Of course, it’s all hyperbolic fun until someone takes offense, as did George Orwell in 1946, when he wrote, against Voltairean stereotypes, about the misunderstood pleasures of British food. His essay, “British Cookery," was commissioned by the British Council, but they subsequently deemed that it would be “’unwise to publish,’” reports the Daily Mail, “so soon after the hungry winter of 1946 and wartime rationing.”

Not that it matters much now, but the Council has formally apologized to the deceased Orwell, over 70 years later. Senior policy analyst Alasdair Donaldson explains they are “delighted to make amends” by publishing the essay in full, alongside “the unfortunate rejection letter.” You can read it here at the British Council site. Orwell grants that the British diet is “simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous… with its main emphasis on sugar and animal fats…. Cheap restaurants in Britain are almost invariably bad, while in expensive restaurants the cookery is almost always French, or imitation French.”




Elsewhere, he concedes, “the British are not great eaters of salads.” Indeed, he says, “the two great shortcomings of British cookery are a failure to treat vegetables with due seriousness, and an excessive use of sugar.” He does go on at length, in fact, about what sounds like a national epidemic of sugar addiction. Such lapses of taste are also what we would now label a nutritional emergency. He may seem to grant too much to critics of British cooking. But this is mainly by contrast with spicier, more vegetable-friendly cuisines of the continent and colonies. The kind of cooking he describes makes creatively varied uses of sturdy but limited local resources (except for the sugar).

Orwell’s brutal honesty about British food's deficiencies makes him sound like a trustworthy guide to its true delights. One of the truths he tells is that “British cookery displays more variety and more originality than foreign visitors are usually ready to allow.” The average visitor encounters British food principally in restaurants, pubs, and hotels, which, “whether cheap or expensive” are not representative of “the diet of the great mass of the people.” This may be said of many regional cuisines. But Orwell is devoted to a native British cooking which had, at the time, almost disappeared after six years of war rationing.

This cooking is rich in roast and cold meats, cheeses, breads, Yorkshire and suet puddings, potatoes and turnips. The British diet is, or was, Orwell writes, eaten by the lower and upper classes alike, under different names and prices. Seasonings are few. “Garlic, for instance, is unknown in British cookery proper.” What stands out is mint, vinegar, butter, dried fruits, jam, and marmalade.

Orwell himself included a marmalade recipe. (A handwritten note reads “Bad recipe! Too much sugar and water.”), which you can see below. Decide for yourself how much sugar to add.

ORANGE MARMALADE 

Ingredients:

2 seville oranges

2 sweet oranges (no)

2 lemons (no)

8lbs of preserving sugar

8 pints of water

Method. Wash and dry the fruit. Halve them and squeeze out the juice. Remove some of the pith, then shred the fruit finely. Tie the pips in a muslin bag. Put the strained juice, rind and pips into the water and soak for 48 hours. Place in a large pan and simmer for 1/2 hours until the rind is tender. Leave to stand overnight, then add the sugar and let it dissolve before bringing to the boil. Boil rapidly until a little of the mixture will set into a jelly when placed on a cold plate. Pour into jars which have been heated beforehand, and cover with paper covers.

An increasing number of people are cutting back or quitting nearly every main ingredient in what Orwell describes as authentic British cooking: from meat to dairy to gluten to sugar to suet…. But if we are going to give it a fair shake, he argues, we must try the real thing. Or his version of it anyway. He includes several more recipes: Welsh rarebit, Yorkshire pudding, treacle tart, plum cake, and Christmas pudding.

Orwell’s "British Cookery" wars with itself and comes to terms. He fills each paragraph with frank acknowledgements of British cuisine’s shortcomings, yet he relishes its simple, solid virtues. He writes that “British cookery” is “best studied in private houses, and more particularly in the homes of the middle-class and working-class masses who have not become Europeanized in their tastes.” It's a kind of cultural nationalism, but perhaps one suggesting those who want others to understand and appreciate a specific kind British culture should invite outsiders in to share a meal.

Related Content:

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Try George Orwell’s Recipe for Christmas Pudding, from His Essay “British Cookery” (1945)

George Orwell’s Five Greatest Essays (as Selected by Pulitzer-Prize Winning Columnist Michael Hiltzik)

Foodie Alert: New York Public Library Presents an Archive of 17,000 Restaurant Menus (1851-2008)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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