Friday, 12 June 2015

Dagenham meets 1984

Unlikely literary mentions of Dagenham Part One: Dagenham (which was then officially part of Essex rather than part of a London borough) gets a couple of mentions in George Orwell's 1939 novel Coming Up For Air, which I've just read.

When the book's narrator George Bowling returns to his childhood home of Lower Binfield he finds the fields of his idyllic childhood market town built over with mock-Tudor suburban houses. Orwell comments: "Do you know the look of those new towns that have suddenly swelled up like balloons in the last few years, Hayes, Slough Dagenham and so forth? The kind of chilliness, the bright red brick everywhere, the temporary looking shop windows fill of cut-price chocolate and radio parts. It was just like that."

A few pages later he reiterates, "it had given me a jolt to see Upper Binfield swollen into a kind of Dagenham." Coming Up For Air, with its themes of impending war and totalitarian threats, is thought to have pre-dated many of the themes of his seminal novel 1984. And it seems Dagenham might have had a role inspiring Orwell to create Airstrip One.

1 comment:

  1. Credit where credit's due, Dagenham was in Essex in 1939. London County Council built it but it wasn't in London til 1965.