George Orwell, which is actually the nom de plume of the man Eric Arthur Blair, was born on June 25th, 1903. As the renowned author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, many would argue that his works have only increased in prominence throughout the years, especially since in them he coined terms such as “Big Brother” and “doublethink.” In fact, the term “Orwellian” itself is used to describe a situation of high surveillance, manipulation, and other violations against a free and open society.
Orwell was born in British India, but after moving to England with his mother and sisters at the age of one, he spent most of his childhood in a typical English upbringing at boarding schools. Intrigued by the East as a young man and doing less than stellar in his higher studies at Eton, he went on to join the Indian (Imperial) Police and spent a few years with them in Burma. It was when he resigned from that career and moved back to England that he officially decided to become a writer.
While trying to make it in the literary circles during those early years, he spent his time teaching at an all-boys high school and working in a bookshop. Then, hearing about the fresh Spanish Civil War and zealous to fight against fascism, Orwell set out for Spain to pledge his allegiance. After a brief fighting career and a few loose alliances with communists (whom he believed were harmless), Orwell settled back in England with his wife Eileen. He was just in time to witness the beginning days of World War II. Eager to fight although declared “unfit for service,” Orwell was able to work with cultural broadcasting to India in order to counter-act the Nazi propaganda. It was during that time when he began working on Animal Farm, which was then published in August of 1945. His novel brought him worldwide fame, and he continued to publish articles and work on a new book, that would become the crown jewel of his literary contributions, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Having suffered from weak lungs his whole life, Orwell’s health declined in later years until he passed away in 1950 at the age of 46.
During his lifetime, George Orwell was known primarily for his journalism and essays. In his work “Politics and the English Language,” he offers six tips to budding writers:
- Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Today he is primarily remembered for his powerful dystopian novels that both described and predicted the trends he saw in our world.
The Gryphon Editions consultation has placed George Orwell on our list of the 100 Most Influential People because of his remarkable contributions to literature, which continues to enthrall readers and instigate discussion today. Orwell is proof that stories shape our hearts and minds, and in doing so, shape history. The story of this great man will be immortalized once again in our leather-bound biography, part of our 100 Most Influential People Library.