Down The Mine
August 18, 2007 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Down The Mine. An essay on coal mining as seen by George Orwell in 1937. [Via The Huffington Post.]
posted by homunculus (20 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
fascinating. i just went to get hitchens's why orwell matters and, after finding it had no index, idly flipped through the pages. the word "homoerotic" caught my eye and i knew immediately it must refer to this essay. he says: "is there a hint of the homoerotic here? it's difficult to argue confidently that there is not." i should say so.

also, from the essay: "Your miner friends". that made me curious about the context in which this was published (and not because i think it was intended to be read by people who have miner friends :o). but hitchens doesn't say.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:18 PM on August 18, 2007

Interesting read, also curious coincidence 150 miners are stuck in a mine in china.
posted by elpapacito at 3:32 PM on August 18, 2007

The Road to Wigan Pier affected me in some ways much more than 1984.
posted by localroger at 4:39 PM on August 18, 2007

andrew cooke, the essay is chapter 2 of the book I linked -- that's the context, and the whole of TRTWP gives much more of Orwell's perspective on the matter.
posted by localroger at 4:46 PM on August 18, 2007

ah thanks! shamefully, i've never read that. maybe now..
(but still, it may originally have been published as an essay in a magazine, perhaps?)
posted by andrew cooke at 4:49 PM on August 18, 2007

Feldman's gloss of Down The Mine is superfluous-- the essay speaks for itself.

Now, regarding the homoerotic bit-- maybe he was just being honest. If you do demanding physical work for twelve hours a day, you will probably have an impressive body. On the other hand, if you spend all day walking the streets picking up dog ends, you won't look so great. Orwell didn't hesitate to point that out.

From The Spike
"We stood shivering naked to the waist in two long ranks in the passage. The filtered light, bluish and cold, lighted us up with unmerciful clarity. No one can imagine, unless he has seen such a thing, what pot-bellied, degenerate curs we looked. Shock heads, hairy, crumpled faces, hollow chests, flat feet, sagging muscles—every kind of malformation and physical rottenness were there. All were flabby and discoloured, as all tramps are under their deceptive sunburn. Two or three figures were there stay ineradicably in my mind. Old ‘Daddy’, aged seventy-four, with his truss, and his red, watering eyes, a herring-gutted starveling with sparse beard and sunken cheeks, looking like the corpse of Lazarus in some primitive picture: an imbecile, wandering hither and thither with vague giggles, coyly pleased because his trousers constantly slipped down and left him nude. But few of us were greatly better than these; there were not ten decently built men among us, and half, I believe, should have been in hospital."
posted by Fimbaz at 4:54 PM on August 18, 2007

andrew cooke -- possibly so, w/r/t essay. I started reading, instantly recognized it, hit teh GOOG, and posted the link only to notice afterward that the Wigan Pier book and the essay are hosted by the very same Orwell historic site. There may be small differences and one probably precedes the other.

I just know that TRTWP is incredibly powerful, and speaks to today's concerns in ways you wouldn't expect.

Who would have thought people could get addicted to aspirin as a drug of abuse? Don't let the Feds know...
posted by localroger at 6:35 PM on August 18, 2007

I really enjoy Orwell's writing. This is no exception.
posted by nola at 7:18 PM on August 18, 2007

This is a brilliant, brilliant essay. The first time I read it, I was flicking through a collection of Orwell's essays, and it was one of those moments where you start to leaf through something completely casually, and you gradually get more and more absorbed, and without consciously realising it you're looking for somewhere to sit down, never taking your eyes off the page, and before you know it, you've reached the end. I come from a part of the world where coal mining was a big industry in years gone by, and I've been down a (non-working) mine; there's something in this essay that is so human, so immediate.
As an aside, after reading this essay, I read Shooting an Elephant, which is also an utterly brilliant piece of writing, but in a different way. If you haven't read that, do.
posted by hydatius at 5:11 AM on August 19, 2007

to partially answer my own question above, it seems the book was published by the "left book club" by gollancz (and was paid for with a large advance, implying, perhaps, that the text was not published elsewhere first). there are more details on wikipedia

and the second part of road to wigan pier seems much more interesting than the first (much of which is little more than well-written cataloguing).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:29 PM on August 19, 2007

Coal myths
posted by homunculus at 10:22 AM on August 20, 2007

I believe Devo has grossly misrepresented the coal mining experience.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:52 PM on August 20, 2007

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