'George Orwell'

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George Orwell was the pen name, or pseudonym, of the English writer Eric Blair (1903 - 1950). He learned to dislike authority during his schooldays, at an English prep school and at Eton, and developed a strong anti-imperialism during service in the colonial service of the British empire in Burma, recorded in several essays and a novel, Burmese Days. His left-wing politics developed during a period of poverty after he left the Burmese police, described in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). He fought for the republican government against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), joining a Marxist militia in 1937. He was shot in the neck in 1937. He had become involved in the bitter arguments between factions of the left, and was being hunted by Stalinists when he was wounded; he escaped to recover outside Spain. He wrote of his experiences in Homage to Catalonia and various essays. The experience of Stalinist repression added to his hatred of fascism to make him strongly anti-totalitarian, and to reduce his commitment to any single political party or faction.

Anti-totalitarianism is at the heart of his two most famous novels, Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). The first is a famous allegory depicting a Stalinist take-over of government in the guise of animals taking over a farm. The second, 1984 (which it appears he chose as a reversal of the year in which he wrote it, 1948) is a dystopian vision of a world dominated by totalitarian states, in which people are under constant surveillance. The dictator of 'Oceania', the imaginary totalitarian state of the future which incorporates Britain ('Airstrip One') and the USA, is called Big Brother. (The practice of surveillance has given us the slogan 'Big Brother is watching you.')

A professional writer, Orwell wrote much that cannot be recorded within the scope of AWE, though we reproduce and recommend his rules of style. His work was mostly journalism, in the form of essays and other pieces, and a substantial body of novels. As a man of the left, much of his work was political and campaigning. He never became rich. He died of TB in 1950.

Orwell's name has entered the language in the form of the adjective Orwellian. This is used to mean 'reminiscent of (or like) the writings of George Orwell', and its most usual use the rather ironic 'like the horrible world described in 1984 [which of course the writer was attacking and satirizing]'. When used substantively, Orwellian can mean 'an admirer of or scholar in the writings of George Orwell'.