George Orwell

George Orwell

One of the great writers of English of the 20th century will be remembered as a man who wrote about conflicts and poverty, while upholding personal freedoms


Artwork by Stephen Case


Quick Facts

Profession: journalist, novelist

Famous for: writing novels that opposed social injustice

Born: June 25, 1903, Bihar, India

Died: January 21, 1950, London, Britain

Married: Eileen O'Shaughnessy, Sonia Brownell


"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

The life of an author

Find words that mean: develop (an illness), talented, didn't pay attention to, sent somewhere for a job

George Orwell was born Eric Blair in India. He changed his name when he became a writer. When he was one, his mother took him back to England.

Orwell was a gifted student. His family was not rich enough to give him a private school education. But he won scholarships to good schools, eventually going to Eton, one of Britain's best.

At Eton, though, Orwell became involved in a school magazine and neglected his studies. His results were poor, and his family did not have enough money to send him to university without a scholarship. Instead, he passed an exam and joined the Indian Imperial Police.

As an officer in the colonial police force, Orwell was posted to Burma (now Myanmar), which was then a British colony. He was there from 1922 to 1927, when he came down with dengue fever and returned to England.

He decided to resign from the Imperial Police and become a writer. He wrote the first of several famous novels - Burmese Days.

Down and out

Find words that mean the opposite: surrender to, wealth, skilled, kept

It took seven years for Orwell to find a publisher for Burmese Days. In the meantime, he began taking trips to the poor parts of London to find inspiration for his writing, and sleeping in homes for the poor. After some time, he decided to go all the way. He abandoned his possessions and dressed as a tramp.

With no money, he had to take menial jobs like washing dishes. He made his way from London to Paris, where he lived in poverty for nearly two years. Orwell's period living as a tramp produced the classic book, Down and Out in London and Paris.

In 1929, Orwell returned to England to live with his family, and taught for a while to earn some money. He remained interested in the conditions of poor people - there were a lot of poor people at that time. In 1936, his interest took him to the north of England, where he wrote The Road to Wigan Pier.

In July 1936, the Spanish War broke out. Fascist forces attempted to overthrow the Republican government. Orwell told friends he wanted to fight fascism and went to Spain. By January 1937, he was on the frontlines. But in March, a sniper shot him in the throat. Although he recovered, he was unfit for service, and had to escape from Spain. He recorded his experiences in Homage to Catalonia.

World war

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When the second world war broke out in 1939, Orwell was not enough to serve as a soldier. He joined the Home Guard, a group of volunteers who were also unfit for fighting outside Britain.

In his spare time, he worked on a novel that would become a classic - Animal Farm. In it, Orwell describes what had been happening in Soviet Russia. But he told the story by writing about animals on a farm that get rid of the human farmer and try to create an society.

Nobody wanted to publish Animal Farm at first because the Soviet Union was an ally in the war against the Germany. But when it came out in 1945, when the war had ended, it was an success. Orwell was finally famous.

Suddenly he had more work than he could deal with - and a novel he wanted to finish. It was called 1984. But he was very ill with .

Orwell was in a race against time to finish his novel before he died. It is about a terrible future in which everyone lives under a mysterious called Big Brother. He died less than a year after his masterpiece was published.

True or false?

To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.

1 Orwell was born in England.
2 Orwell went to Cambridge University.
3 Orwell's first novel was Burmese Days.
4 Orwell was wounded in the Spanish Civil War.



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