By George Orwell


George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in Bengal in 1903. His family moved to England in 1907, and he was educated at St Cyprian's (of which his account, Such, such were the joys, was considered too libellous to print in the UK until 1968.) In 1917 he entered Eton where he was taught by Aldous Huxley - a figure who was to influence his final work.

From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience which was to give him a hatred of imperialism and inspire his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). On returning to Europe, he lived in Paris for two years before proceeding to England where he continued to live in poverty. He actually spent a short time living with his family between Paris and London, and his experience amongst the capital's tramps came before not after his Parisian experience, facts and chronology that do not appear in the account of this experience, Down and Out in Paris and London, which was eventually published in 1933. The book paints a stark and often shocking picture of a life of poverty in late 1920s Europe. His experiences with the conditions enforced by penury were to inspire much of his thinking and writing. Down and Out... also saw the first use of the pseudonym George Orwell - used so not as to bring disrepute on his family's name.

Orwell also worked as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant - the last of which was to provide some of the inspiration for Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) the story of one man's rather pitiful struggle against the 'money-god'.

1936 was a significant point in Orwell's career and attitudes. That year he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass-unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, from which he wrote The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). Even before this trip, Orwell had regarded himself as committed to socialism, but was the first to admit a certain suspicion of socialists themselves. However, it was this journey, combined with his decision at the end of 1936 to go to Spain to fight for the Republicans that was to leave an indelible mark on his life and world-view. Following his experiences in Spain, chronicled in Homage to Catalonia (1938), he wrote that 'Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism as I understand it.' Spain did not only convince him of the good of socialism and the need to fight for it, but also turned him bitterly against the Stalinist brand of communism - encountered through Soviet 'contribution' to the Republican side.

Orwell was wounded in Spain and admitted to a sanatorium in 1938, from which point onwards he was never fully fit. During the Second World he served in the Home Guard as well as working for the BBC, literary editor of 'Tribune', as well as contributing various articles for 'The Observer' and later the 'Manchester Evening News'.

In 1943 he wrote Animal Farm, a stinging allegorical indictment of communist Russia - a book so politically sensitive at the time of the vital alliance with the Soviet Union that it was not published until 1945.

By the autumn of 1947, Orwell had completed an early draft of the novel that was to become Nineteen Eighty-Four, and despite suffering considerably from tuberculosis, revised the whole manuscript in the summer and autumn of 1948. Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in June 1949, just seven months before its author's death from tuberculosis, and in many ways the book represents the culmination of themes and ideas that Orwell had been pursuing in his fiction and political writing for the past twenty years.