The roots of Orwell’s obsession with the totalitarian mind are strewn all over his life in the late 1930s and the early 1940s.1 Naturally, they can be found in the books he read and in the books he wrote himself, but they would also have been sharply apparent in some of the international news that sprang each morning from the pages of his daily newspaper. In the third category, he would certainly have taken an interest in the widely reported Soviet show trials of 1938, which led to the deaths of erstwhile pillars of the regime such as Genrikh Yagoda, Alexei Rykoff, and Nikolai Bukharin, and of which The Times’s special correspondent in Moscow remarked: “According to Soviet law, crime and...


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