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1984--Great Books Symposium: Home

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10 Reasons Why 1984 Still Matters

Biography of George Orwell

Born Eric Arthur Blair in Motihari, Bengal, India, 25 June 1903. His father was a civil servant. Moved with his mother and sister to England, 1904. Educated at a convent school in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire; St Cyprian's, Eastbourne, Sussex, 1911-16; Wellington School, Somerset, 1917; Eton College, Berkshire, 1917-21. Served in the Imperial Indian Police in Burma as a subdivisional officer, 1922-27; resigned in disillusionment. Lived in London, 1927, spending time living among vagrants, then travelled to Paris, where he took on menial jobs and lived in poverty, 1928-29; wrote about these experiences in Down and Out in Paris and London(1933), for which he first used the pseudonym George Orwell. Returned to London, 1930, and subsequently worked as a teacher and bookshop assistant while establishing a career as a freelance journalist and writer. Reviewer for the New English Weekly,1935-36. Commissioned by the publishers Gollancz to travel around northern England, 1936, and wrote The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) for the Left Book Club. Married Eileen O'Shaughnessy, 1936 (died 1945): one adopted son. Moved to Wallingford, Hertfordshire, where he worked as a shopkeeper, 1936. Went to civil-war Spain as a journalist and fought on the Republican side in Catalonia in the United Marxist Workers’ Party militia (POUM): wounded in action, 1937. Broke with Stalinism and published Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of the conflict. Reviewer for Time and Tide, 1940-41, the Tribune, 1940-47 (literary editor 1943-45), and Horizon, 1940-49. Columnist of “London Letter”, Partisan Review, New York, 1941-46; co-editor, Searchlight Books series, Secker and Warburg publishers, London, 1941-42; regular contributor to the Observer, London, 1942-49; columnist of the Manchester Evening News, 1943-46. Served as a sergeant in the Home Guard, 1940-43, and worked as talks producer in the Empire Department of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), London, 1941-43. War correspondent for the Observer, 1945. Published the anti-Stalinist allegory Animal Farm, 1945. Suffered from deteriorating health because of tuberculosis, and retreated to the island of Jura in the Hebrides to complete the political satire Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), then was moved to various nursing homes in Scotland, 1947-49; transferred to London 1949. Married Sonia Mary Brownell, 1949. Died in London, 21 January 1950.

 

Selected Writings

Orléans, Elisabeth Charlotte von The Collected Works editions of the major texts are definitive. 

Orwell, George Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933; edited by Peter Davidson (Collected Works edition), 1986. 

Orwell, George The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937; edited by Peter Davidson (Collected Works edition), 1999. 

Orwell, George Homage to Catalonia, 1938; edited by Peter Davidson (Collected Works edition), 1999. 

Orwell, George Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays, 1950. 

Orwell, George Such, Such Were the Joys, 1953. 

Orwell, George Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949; edited by Peter Davidson (Collected Works edition), 1999. 

Orwell, George The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, 4 vols, 1968. 

Orwell, George The Penguin Essays of George Orwell, 1984. 

Orwell, George Selected autobiographical essays: “The Spike” (1931), “A Hanging” (1931), “Shooting an Elephant” (1936), “Bookshop Memories” (1936), “Marrakech” (1939), “Such, Such Were the Joys” (written 1947; published 1952). 

Further Reading

Campbell, Beatrix, Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and Politics in the Eighties, London: Virago Press, 1984. 

Carter, Michael, George Orwell and the Problem of Authentic Existence, London: Croom Helm, and Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes and Noble, 1985. 

Crick, Bernard, George Orwell: A Life, London: Secker and Warburg, and Boston: Little Brown, 1980. 

Davison, Peter, George Orwell: A Literary Life, London: Macmillan, and New York: St Martin's Press, 1996. 

Fowler, Roger, The Language of George Orwell, London: Macmillan, and New York: St Martin's Press, 1995. 

Ingle, Stephen, George Orwell: A Political Life, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1993. 

Meyers, Jeffrey, A Reader's Guide to George Orwell, London: Thames and Hudson, 1975, Totowa, New Jersey: Littlefield Adams, 1977. 

Meyers, Jeffrey, Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation, New York: Norton, 2000. 

Rae, Patricia, “Mr Charrington's Junk Shop: T.S. Eliot and Modernist Poetics in Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Twentieth Century Literature, 43/2 (1997): 196-220. 

Shelden, Michael, Orwell: The Authorized Biography, London: Heinemann, and New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 

Stansky, Peter; William Abrahams, The Unknown Orwell, London: Constable, and New York: Knopf, 1972. 

Stansky, Peter; William Abrahams, Orwell: The Transformation, London: Constable, 1979, New York: Knopf, 1980. 

Steinhoff, William R., The Road to Nineteen Eighty-Four, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975. 

Zwerdling, Alex, Orwell and the Left, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1974. 

Patricia Rae

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