I was reading a graphic novel the other day – a library book that had caught my eye, about the adventures of Professor James Moriarty. It was dreary stuff, self-consciously dark and moody as these things tend to be. I ploughed my way through it late one evening, determined, like the half-hearted Holmesian I am, to finish it. For a while, it looked like I was going to drop off to sleep. And then this happened.
Yup, George Orwell turns up in Burma and hangs around for the rest of the book, looking 20 years older than the imperial policeman who served there in the 1920s. It’s not explicitly him – just an ‘Officer Blair’ who looks like him (Orwell’s real name was Eric Blair), dislikes the British Empire and inexplicably uses the phrase ‘big brother’ towards the end – but it was enough to keep me interested.
For fun, I posted an image on the Orwell Society’s closed Facebook page (for members only – there’s a parallel Facebook page for everyone else). “If Moriarty worked for the East India Company,” wrote fellow member Douglas Kerr, “no wonder it folded before ‘Officer Blair’ was born!”
For me, the most entertaining aspect of the book was how the American writer, Daniel Corey, mangled his British references from time to time. Sure, these slip-ups are forgiveable, but I was surprised to learn, for instance, that Durham University, roughly 20 miles from where I live, is actually in London.
“Oh bullocks, Moriarty,” says Blair towards the end. Apart from one letter, I couldn’t have put it better myself.