Birthday: June 25, 1903
Died At Age: 46
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Eric Arthur Blair
Born Country: India
Born in: Motihari, Bihar, British India (present-day East Champaran, Bihar, India)
Famous as: Novelist
Quotes By George Orwell
Height: 6'2" (188 cm), 6'2" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Eileen Blair (m. 1936–1945), Sonia Orwell (m. 1949–1950)
father: Richard Walmsley Blair
mother: Ida Mabel Limouzin
siblings: Avril Blair, Marjorie Blair
children: Richard Blair, Richard Horatio Orwell
Died on: January 21, 1950
place of death: London
Cause of Death: Tuberculosis
education: Eton College
awards: 2011; 1984 - Prometheus Hall of Fame Award - Animal Farm; 1984
1996 - Retro Hugo Award for Best Novella - Animal Farm
George Orwell was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. He is best known for his novels ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ Both ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ are literary masterpieces. Born in India to a British civil servant, George Orwell’s birth name was Eric Arthur Blair; George Orwell was his pen name. A year after his birth, his mother took him to England. Orwell studied at ‘Eton College,’ an independent boarding school for boys. Since his family did not have the financial means to support his university education, he joined the ‘Indian Imperial Police.’ He served in Burma for five years and then resigned and returned to England in order to pursue his passion for writing. He adopted the pen name George Orwell when he took to writing; he did so because he did not want to embarrass his family. Initially, he struggled to make ends meet with his writing career. His writing career came into prominence with his 1945 novel ‘Animal Farm.’ It was an anti-Soviet satire with two pigs as its main protagonists. The pigs ostensibly represented Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky. His next masterpiece 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' explored how a totalitarian regime persecutes individualism. Orwell is still revered today and features in the list of the greatest writers of all time.
Childhood & Early Life
George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on 25 June 1903, in Motihari, Bihar, British India, to Richard Walmesley Blair and Ida Mabel Blair. His father was a British civil servant. Orwell had two sisters: Marjorie and Avril. Marjorie was five years elder to him and Avril was five years younger.
When Orwell was one year old, his mother moved to England along with Marjorie and Orwell, and settled at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.
Orwell was bitten by the writing bug early in his life. He composed his first poem around the age of four. He also had a poem published in the local newspaper at the age of 11.
He received his early education from a convent school in Henley-on-Thames. In 1911, he was sent to a boarding school named ‘St. Cyprian's’ in the coastal town of Eastbourne where he spent his next five years.
He won a scholarship and went to ‘Eton College’ for further studies. Orwell’s family did not have the means to support his university education. Therefore, he joined the ‘Indian Imperial Police’ after graduating from ‘Eton.’
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In 1922, Orwell joined the ‘India Imperial Police’ and was posted to Burma. He served there for five years. He then resigned and returned to England in order to pursue his passion.
His early career as a writer was hard as he had to struggle to even make both ends meet. He took up several odd jobs, including that of a dishwasher, in order to eke out a living.
Orwell’s first major work was ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ (1933). It detailed his struggles when he was trying to establish himself as a writer.
In 1934, he came up with his second novel ‘Burmese Experiences.’ At the time, Burma was a colony of British Empire and the book explored his experiences during his stint in Burma. It also exposed the dark side of British colonialism.
In December 1936, he traveled to Spain and joined a guerilla group, fighting against General Francisco Franco in the ‘Spanish Civil War.’
Orwell was badly injured in the ‘Spanish Civil War.’ He was shot in his throat and arm. He barely managed to return alive. He and his wife were indicted on treason charges in Spain, but they had left the country by then.
His experience during the ‘Spanish Civil War,’ where the communists brutally suppressed revolutionary socialist dissenters, turned him into a lifelong anti-Stalinist.
After returning from Spain, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1938. He spent several months recuperating at the ‘Preston Hall Sanatorium.’
During this period, Orwell took up several writing assignments in order to support himself. He became an essayist, journalist, and literary critic.
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When the ‘World War II’ started, he was rejected for military service due to heath issues. Between 1941 and 1943, he worked as a propagandist at ‘British Broadcasting Corporation’ (BBC).
In 1943, he left his job at BBC to become a literary editor for ‘Tribune,’ a weekly left-wing magazine.
His writing career came into prominence in 1945 with the publication of his novel ‘Animal Farm.’ The novel is set in a farmyard and features two pigs—representing Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky—as its main protagonists. It's based on Stalin's betrayal of the Russian Revolution. The novel was widely appreciated and it also brought in some much-needed financial gain into Orwell’s life.
‘Animal Farm’ was followed by another masterpiece titled ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ Published in 1949, it’s a literary political fiction and dystopian science-fiction novel. It gives readers a glimpse into the fate of people should the government control every aspect of an individual's life.
Orwell did not live long to enjoy the fruits of his success. He succumbed to his deteriorating health shortly after the publication of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’
Orwell is known for his two masterpieces: ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ The novels are considered two of the most famous novels of the 20th century.
His other important works include his non-fiction books: 'The Road to Wigan Pier' (1937), which gives an account of his experience in the north of England, and 'Homage to Catalonia' (1938), a memoir of his experience in the ‘Spanish Civil War.’
Awards & Achievements
In 2008, he was ranked second in 'The Times' list of ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.’
Personal Life & Legacy
Orwell married Eileen O'Shaughnessy in 1936. They had an open marriage and Orwell had a number of affairs with other women during his marriage to Eileen. The couple adopted a son named Richard Horatio Blair in 1944. Eileen died in 1945.
He married Sonia Brownell, editor at 'Horizon' literary magazine, on 13 October 1949, three months before his death.
Orwell died of tuberculosis on 21 January 1950, at the age of 46.
On 7 November 2017, a statue of George Orwell, which was sculpted by Martin Jennings, was unveiled outside ‘Broadcasting House,’ the headquarters of BBC.