At present the diaries find him in Morocco, where he went to recuperate after being shot in the throat while lighting a cigarette during the Spanish Civil War, and there he seems to be consumed with the minutiae of nature, machinery and social and agricultural custom. He records in detail, and diagrams, the local farmers' method of irrigation. He estimates the price of wheat he has purchased in "English dollars." The entry for Nov. 14, 1938 (or "14.11.38") reads, in its entirety, "Planted out nasturtiums." The previous day he reported seeing a "dead dog by the roadside. I am afraid the same one that came asking for food a few days back ... "
But what Orwell really found worthy of recording was the output of the hen, or hens, on the farm outside of Marrakesh where he was billeted. His Dec. 1 entry read:
Two eggs.The Nov. 30 entry read:
Two eggs.On Nov. 29:
One egg.Nov. 28:
Two eggs.Nov. 27:
One egg.Nov. 25:
As you might imagine, this dedicated daily accounting of egg production (while storm clouds massed over Europe, as we think we heard on a PBS documentary) has occasioned great hilarity among online commentators, whose postings are laced with the kind of late-modern snarkiness (some are too damn funny) we'd like to think Orwell would eschew, were he alive today and forced to take his smoke breaks on the sidewalk outside an office building.
Of course, these days Orwell probably would be diagnosed as an obsessive-compulsive depressive and coaxed into a regimen of medication and daily exercise after consulting with his primary care physician. But his diary entries---while far from scintillating reading---show a man who while publicly confronting imperialism, totalitarianism and the rampant phoniness of the Modern World remained privately engaged with the everyday, the ordinary, the basic. A remarkably sane man, in other words.