Under his chosen pen name of George Orwell, the English writer Eric Blair would produce enduring works of both fiction and non fiction that continue to draw widespread admiration.
Born in the Bengal region of India in 1903, Blair was the son of an official in the Indian Civil Service at a time when almost a fifth of the world’s population was under the control of the British Empire. Although he decided early in life that he wanted to be a writer, his first job was in Burma with the Indian Imperial Police. He spent five years in his post before resigning, disillusioned with the way the Empire was being run.
Choosing to live among the poor, he travelled to Europe and took a series of odd jobs, barely earning enough to support himself. His experiences were brought together in his first book, ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ which was first published in 1933.
Orwell then turned to fiction, writing three novels which met with only limited success. Returning to the kind of reportage that had served him so well in his first book, he wrote ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, a report of the working conditions and lives of mine workers in northern England, in 1937 followed by a memoir of his time fighting – and being wounded – during the Civil War in Spain, ‘Homage to Catalonia’.
Increasingly political, it was the two satires that followed that brought Orwell his greatest fame. ‘Animal Farm’ published in 1945 describes the betrayal of a farm revolution by its animal leaders. Written as a fairy tale, the book is a powerful commentary on the Russian Revolution. He final book, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, which was published in 1949, is a futuristic work warning of the dangers of an all-powerful government. Having finally achieved the fame and financial success he had longed for, Orwell had little time to enjoy it. In January 1950, he died of tuberculosis.