Friday, August 28, 2009

'Mystery man'

Those who have been desultorily following George Orwell's diary for the last year or so as it has been posted on a website get the payoff this week and next, as Orwell reports the events leading up to the beginning of World War II. The entries are accompanied by photostats of newspapers of the day. Those accompanying today's entry are fascinating, as several pages from several newspapers are reprinted. Among them was this weird article from the Daily Mirror (from this page), a passage worthy of Graham Greene:

A mystery man who arrived in England by air yesterday spent three hours at the German Embassy in Carlton House-terrace, London. -- and is thought to have flown to Germany last night.

He arrived at the Embassy in a Diplomatic Corps car. All he would say when he left after three hours was: "I don't know who I am."

He said it rather sadly and shook his head. He spoke in good English, with the track of a foreign accent. Then he was driven away.

An hour later three men arrived in a car at Heston Airport. One was seen off in a German plane understood to be bound for Amsterdam and Berlin. The airport officials would not say who he was.

The visitor to the Embassy was a tall, sunburned man, in a grey striped suit and black Homburg hat, carrying gloves and an umbrella.

He jumped out of the Diplomatic Corps car shortly before 3 p.m.

He did not appear to know by which door to enter the Embassy.

After his three hours' visit, he left by the car in which he had arrived.

Having refused to tell his name, he was pressed to say if he had arrived by air from Croydon or elsewhere. He waved his hand in a gesture that might have meant agreement or denial and the car sped away.

He Watched Crowds

The car was driven into Belgravia by a roundabout route which included Pall Mall, The Mall Horse Guards-parade (where there were crowds of sightseers), Birdcage-walk and past Buckingham Palace where there were also a number of spectators.

The car slowed down near the Horse Guards-parade, as if the passengers wished to look at the crowds by the Foreign Office and in Downing-street, but did not stop. ...

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