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George Orwell

(1903—1950) political writer and essayist

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British novelist and essayist.

Orwell was born in India, where his father was in the Bengal Civil Service. After leaving Eton (1921), he joined the Imperial Police in Burma for five years. On his return to Europe he determined to reject his class and to develop his own brand of social philosophy by experiencing poverty at first hand; the result was his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), written under the new name he had chosen for himself. He followed this with his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). He also wrote provocative and influential essays and reviews, many of them published in the New Statesman.

Orwell was a passionate crusader for socialism in such books as The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), a trenchant study of the plight of the unemployed. Homage to Catalonia (1938) records his experiences in the Spanish civil war, when he fought on the republican side and was severely wounded. He also wrote the novels Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) and Coming Up for Air (1939), the latter a typical defence of the individual against the impersonal forces of big business and industrialized society.

His dislike of totalitarianism, whether of the left or the right, is explicit in his two best-known books, the political novels Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty Four (1949; filmed 1984). The former is a satire on communism as it developed in the Soviet Union under Stalin; the latter describes a nightmare Utopia of the future. Orwell died from tuberculosis.

Subjects: Literature

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