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George Orwell

Biography

One way – and probably not the best way – to gauge the success of an author is to determine whether a catch-phrase from one of his/her books has entered the language. Shakespeare can, of course, claim hundreds but Orwell does pretty well with phrases from two of his books having become standard phrases. Big Brother is watching you is from Nineteen Eighty-Four and, of course, the title of that book is in itself a catch-phrase, even well after that date. Newspeak and Room 101 are also used frequently. Some are more equal than others. is from Animal Farm. This is a somewhat facile evaluation of Orwell. His left-wing views already had him in some difficulty and when, at the turn of the millennium, it was revealed that he was a snitch, the left turned on him. His widow, whom he married a year before his death, turned everybody off with her over-protection of his legacy. He was re-evaluated and resurrected and no-one is entirely sure where they stand with him now. Is he a good thing or a bad thing? Or just an interesting writer who happened to hit the Zeitgeist with a couple of books?

Eric Blair was born in 1903 in Motihari, India, near the Nepal border. His father worked in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service. The family returned to England, specifically to Henley, in 1907, though his father stayed on in India till his retirement in 1912. Blair won a scholarship first to Wellington and then to Eton. Blair had already decided he was going to be a writer and spent his time doing his own private reading rather than the schoolwork assigned. Because he did not study enough to win a university scholarship, he joined the Indian Imperial Police in 1921. He trained in Burma but resigned six years later and returned to England, not least because his left-wing views convinced him he was supporting an unacceptable system.

He lived in a poverty in London and then Paris, the subject of his first book. It was turned down so he started work on Burmese Days, based on his experiences there. However, in the meantime, Mabel Firez has rescued the manuscript of Down and Out In Paris and London, which she had been asked to destroy, and took it to Gollancz. It was published – with some editing – under the name of George Orwell. After a couple more books, which had little commercial success, he opened a shop in Wallington and got married. Further living with the poor led to The Road to Wigan Pier, though his publishers were not entirely happy with it, as it criticised British middle-class socialists.

He next travelled to Spain to write newspaper articles about the Spanish Civil War but ended up fighting for the Republican side and writing about his experiences in Homage To Catalonia. A bout of tuberculosis left him unwell and unable to participate in World War II. He worked for the BBC and Tribune and started writing Animal Farm. Gollancz turned it down but Secker and Warburg published it, to great success both in Britain and the United States. His wife died in 1945 and he went off to the island of Jura, where he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. The damp climate made his tuberculosis worse. In 1949 he married Sonia Brownell but was very ill at this time and died in January 1950.

Books about George Orwell

John Atkins: George Orwell
Bowker, Gordon: Inside George Orwell: A Biography
P. Buitenhuis and I. B. Nadel: George Orwell: A Reassessment
B. Crick: George Orwell: A Life
Peter Davison: George Orwell A Literary Life
Christopher Hitchens: Orwell’s Victory
Roberta Kalechofsky: George Orwell
Scott Lucas: Orwell
B. T. Oxley: George Orwell
P. Reilly: George Orwell: The Age’s Adversary
Michael Shelden: Orwell: the Authorized Biography
P. Stansky and W. Abrahams: The Unknown Orwell and The Transformation
William Steinhoff: George Orwell and the Origins of 1984
D J Taylor: Orwell: The Life
George Woodcock: The Crystal Spirit
Alex Zwerdling: Orwell and the Left

Other links

George Orwell
George Orwell
George Orwell
George Orwell
George Orwell
George Orwell
George Orwell (1903-1950)
George Orwell (1903-1950)
George Orwell (1903-1950)
George Orwell’s Biography
George Orwell’s Literature
Orwell Today
Political Writings of George Orwell
George Orwell and the Politics of Animal Farm
The Politics of George Orwell
The Orwell Reader
The Genius of George Orwell
George Orwell at the BBC
Orwell: the Observer years
George Orwell was Wrong
Blacklisted writer says illness clouded Orwell’s judgement
Blair’s babe Did love turn Orwell into a government stooge?
Orwell’s Life On Jura
George Orwell: a literary Trotskyist?
Is Bad Writing Necessary? (George Orwell, Theodor Adorno, and the Politics of Literature)
Collected Essays
You and the Atomic Bomb (article by orwell)
In Defence Of P. G. Wodehouse (article by orwell)
Sonia Orwell
Dedicated follower of passions (about Sonia Orwell)
Students for an Orwellian Society

Bibliography

1933 Down and Out In Paris and London
1934 Burmese Days
1935 A Clergyman’s Daughter
1936 Keep The Aspidistra Flying
1937 The Road to Wigan Pier
1938 Homage To Catalonia
1939 Coming Up For Air
1940 Inside the Whale, and Other Essays
1945 Animal Farm
1946 Critical Essays
1949 Nineteen Eighty-Four
1950 Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays
1953 Such, Such Were the Joys
1953 England, Your England, and Other Essays
1954 A Collection of Essays
1961 Collected Essays
1965 Decline of the English Murder, and Other Essays
1968 The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell
1984 The Penguin Essays of George Orwell