George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair.

Category:George Orwell Category:Nineteen Eight...

George Orwell, 1984. This self-made image is based on a picture that appears in an old acreditation for the BNUJ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His stark book, 1984, was published on June 8 1949, when I was almost two years old.

1984 and his other memorable book, Animal Farm, together, have sold more copies than those by any other 20th century author.

The English language now includes words and phrases from his writing:

  • Cold War
  • Big Brother
  • Thought police
  • Doublethink
  • Thoughtcrime.

1984 so starkly described the depths an over-reaching government could assume that his pen name is now synonymous with dysfunctional, intrusive government, Orwellian.

Orwell was born to a formerly wealthy British family in India, but returned to England with his mother at one year.

In his early years, he was shaped by his posting to Burma as an imperial policeman, which he used as the backdrop for his first novel, Burmese Days (1934) and two essays.

Having seen some of the harsh life of the Burmese, he sought out the slums when he returned to London.

He continued this exploration for the next two years in Paris, where he became a journalist.

During five years of writing at his parents’ home, back in England, he continued to explore the slums and poverty.

In 1932, he adopted the pen name George Orwell, so as not to embarrass his family when he wrote about his experiences in the slums.

On the suggestion of a friend, he spent several months in northern England, exploring the conditions of miners.

For the next twelve years, from 1936 to 1948, he was under surveillance by the British government, during which time his book describing the lives of miners, The Road to Wigan Pier, was published.

In 1936, after following the civil war in Spain, he decided to visit to assess conditions himself and traveled to Barcelona, where he was soon sent to the front as a volunteer.

Six months later, he was wounded and he and his wife, who had come to Spain to be near him, returned to England.

Living in war-time London during World War II and observing the Allies’ siding with Stalin against Hitler, Orwell observed in his diary,

“One could not have a better example of the moral and emotional shallowness of our time, than the fact that we are now all more or less pro Stalin.”

“This disgusting murderer is temporarily on our side, and so the purges, etc., are suddenly forgotten.”

In 1943, he started working on Animal Farm, published on August 17, 1945, a thinly-disguised criticism of Stalin, later describing it as his first effort to write fiction to make a political point.

The animals in the book, who take over a farm, come to live by one rule, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

This is Orwell’s nod to the corruption of the Soviet Union’s ruling Communist party under Stalin, which by then makes sure it takes care of its own members first, despite the argument that the reason they needed to throw over the czar was the corruption and luxury grabbed by the royal family.

The two pigs that take over the farm, Snowball and Napoleon, are based on Trotsky and Stalin.

Their society eventually comes to resemble the farm before the animals took over.

Between April 1947 and July 1948, Orwell lived on a remote Scottish island and wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, just before he went to a sanitorium for tuberculosis.

Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on June 8, 1949.

The title may refer to a poem by Orwell’s first wife, “End of the Century – 1984,” or may have been inspired by G.K. Chesterton or Jack London novels set in 1984.

The premise is that after World War II, the world falls into chaos and three superpowers emerge – Britain and the U.S, a Europe controlled by Russia, and Asia.

As no one can dominate the other but war keeps the leaders in power, the countries are always at war.

Post-war London, where the story takes place, ensures total control of the population by the leaders with televisions in every room that broadcast its inhabitants’ words and actions to anticipate and crush any dissent.

With the world separating after World War II into the Western Allied camp and Eastern Europe behind the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain, Orwell did not exaggerate much from the times he saw.

He saw his strength in throwing his words against totalitarianism.

On January 21, 1950, Eric Arthur Blair, known to millions as George Orwell, died of a burst lung artery.

He was 46.

Did you read Animal Farm in high school?


Have often have you told yourself that something is like the 1984 book?

To you and helping your grandchildren understand the world.

Click on the title and order a copy of 1984, and see how your interpretation now differs from when you read it in high school.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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