Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Enduring Legacy of a Mr Blair

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Enduring Legacy of a Mr Blair

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

The man who gave us Big Brother and Room 101 was born a century ago - on June 25, 1903. Hence a rash of new books - including Gordon Bowker's biography, George Orwell. It's an exhaustive work - nearly 500 pages - yet it still leaves you with the impression of an enigmatic individual, hard to get to know.

Orwell (real name: Eric Blair) died in January 1950 at the age of 46. But as my opening sentence implies, he has never really left us. His literary legacy is a litany of phrases and concepts - often gloomy ones - which have entered the language. There's Big Brother, brought to life long before CCTV became a fact of life, and that particular room where each of us confronts our worst nightmare - and where Paul Merton and his guests have a good laugh.

You wonder if the writer would have appreciated the fact that some of his most chilling inventions, described in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, have been the inspiration for light entertainment programmes. At the very least, it seems hard that he couldn't have profited in some way. But Orwell wasn't around long enough to enjoy the wealth which came his way towards the very end of his life, when Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm made him famous.

The novels, required reading during the Cold War, have sold more than 40 million copies in 60 languages.

There are special reasons in the North-East to remember Orwell.

Newcastle theatre company Northern Stage has made a special study of him. Successful theatre adaptations of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four are to be followed next year by Homage To Catalonia, a version of Orwell's Spanish Civil War memoir.

Secondly, Orwell took as the model for Nineteen Eighty-Four a novel called We. It was written by the Russian writer Yevgeni Zamyatin who lived for a short time in Newcastle. A friend whom Orwell confided in rushed out to buy a copy but found it so boring that he left it on a plane. And thirdly, Orwell's long-suffering first wife (he married the second just before his death from tuberculosis) was from South Shields. …

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