Orwell, George

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Orwell, George

George Orwell, pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair, 1903–50, British novelist and essayist, b. Bengal, India. He is best remembered for his scathingly satirical and frighteningly political novels, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. After attending Eton, he served (1922–27) with the Indian imperial police in Burma (now Myanmar). He returned to Europe in 1927, living penuriously in Paris and later in London. In 1936 he fought with the Republicans in the Spanish civil war and was seriously wounded. His writings—particularly such early works as Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), Burmese Days (1934), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), and Homage to Catalonia (1938)—are highly autobiographical.

Orwell was a keen critic of imperialism, fascism, Stalinism, and capitalism, all of which seemed to him forms of political oppression, and although he espoused a sort of socialism, he refused to be formally associated with any ideology or party label. His works are concerned with the sociopolitical conditions of his time, notably with the problem of human freedom. Animal Farm (1946) is a witty, satirical fable about the failure of Soviet-style Communism, and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) is a prophetic novel describing the dehumanization of humanity in a mechanistic, totalitarian world. Orwell's other novels include A Clergyman's Daughter (1935), Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), and Coming Up for Air (1940). The master of a superbly lucid prose style, Orwell wrote many literary essays, which some critics find superior to his novels. His volumes of essays include Dickens, Dali and Others (1946), Shooting an Elephant (1950), and the Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell (4 vol., 1968, repr. 2000).

See S. Orwell and I. Angus, ed., The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell (4 vol., 1968, repr., 2000); P. Davison, ed., The Complete Works of George Orwell (20 vol., 1998), George Orwell: A Life in Letters (2010), and Diaries (2012); S. Orwell and I. Angus, ed., The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters (4 vol., 1968, repr. 2000); biographies by B. Crick (1980), M. Shelden (1991), J. Meyers (2000), G. Bowker (2003), and D. J. Taylor (2003); A. Coppard and B. Crick, ed., Orwell Remembered (1985); studies by J. Meyers, ed. (1975), R. Williams (1981), L. Hunter (1984), R. Alok (1989), J. Rodden (1989, repr. 2002), and C. Hitchens (2002).

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