George Orwell

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Orwell, George,

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 warSpanish civil war,
1936–39, conflict in which the conservative and traditionalist forces in Spain rose against and finally overthrew the second Spanish republic. The Second Republic
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 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).

Bibliography

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).

Orwell, George

 

(pen name of Eric Blair). Born June 25, 1903, at Motihari in Bengal, India; died Jan. 21, 1950, in London. English writer and publicist.

The son of a British colonial official, Orwell graduated from Eton College in 1921. After serving with the British police in Burma, he returned to Europe in 1927. For several years he lived in poverty in London and Paris and established close ties with petit bourgeois radicals. He fought in the Spanish Civil War of 1936–39 in the ranks of the POUM, an anarchist organization. He was seriously wounded and, disillusioned with revolutionary ideals, became a bourgeois liberal reformist and anticommunist. During World War II he served in the English home guard and was a commentator for the BBC and a correspondent for the newspaper the Observer.

As a writer, Orwell was greatly influenced by Jonathan Swift, Samuel Butler, Jack London, D. H. Lawrence, and E. I. Zamiatin. He first gained fame with his writings about the life of British miners in impoverished areas, his reminiscences of the war in Spain, and his literary criticism and publicistic works. However, his literary and political reputation rests almost entirely on his satire Animal Farm (1945), which advocates the pointlessness of revolutionary struggle, and his antiutopian novel 1984 (1949), in which he depicts the society that would replace capitalism and bourgeois democracy. This future society, according to Orwell, is a totalitarian hierarchical structure, based on sophisticated techniques for enslaving the masses physically and psychologically and on total scorn for the freedom and dignity of the individual. It is a society of material deprivation and universal fear and hatred.

From the standpoint of subjective idealism, Orwell examines the problems of freedom and necessity and of the truth value of knowledge. On this basis, he attempts to justify voluntarism in politics. His warnings against certain dangerous social trends and his protests against the suppression of individual freedom are intermixed with homilies on the uselessness of struggling for a better future. This attitude enabled the ideologists of reaction to make use of Orwell’s work to carry on an extensive anticommunist propaganda campaign, utilizing to this end millions of copies of his writings in many different languages and numerous radio and television broadcasts and motion pictures.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s there has been an increased interest in the West in Orwell’s ideological heritage. An intense struggle has been waged over his legacy between reactionary, ultra-right forces and petit bourgeois radicals, who view Orwell as a predecessor of the New Left and believe that many trends in modern Western society are epitomized in the Orwellian vision of 1984.

WORKS

Down and Out in Paris and London. London, 1933.
Burmese Days. New York, 1934.
The Road to Wigan Pier. London, 1937.
Homage to Catalonia. London, 1938.
Coming Up for Air. London, 1939.
Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters. Edited by S. Orwell and I. Angus. Vols. 1–4. New York, 1968.

REFERENCES

Morton, L. A. Angliiskaia utopiia. Moscow, 1956. Chapter 7. (Translated from English.)
Semenov, lu. N. Obshchestvennyi progress i sotsial’naia filosofiia sovremennoi burzhuazii. Moscow, 1965. Chapter 2, sec. 2.
Rees, R. George Orwell: Fugitive From the Camp of Victory. Carbondale, Ill., 1962.
The Works of George Orwell. Edited by M. Gross. New York, 1971.

E. A. ARAB-OGLY