Off the shelf: George Orwell paints a horrific future that makes for great SBA material

Off the shelf: George Orwell paints a horrific future that makes for great SBA material

British author opposed dictatorship, and he expressed his views in his writing


Fun fact: George Orwell is a pen name; his real name is Eric Arthur Blair.

You probably know George Orwell (1903-1950) primarily as a novelist. Did you know that he was also a teacher, journalist and essayist? Orwell had strong political views and he expressed them in his writing, such as his two best-known novels, Animal Farm and 1984.

Whether you have read his works or not, here are some suggestions that could end up making you a fan of the well-known British author.

Must watch film

This 1984 version of 1984 starring John Hurt, aka Harry Potter’s Mr Ollivander, may be a bit too gruesome for younger viewers, but it’s a powerful adaptation of the dystopian novel. This is a good choice for those who don’t have the time or the desire to read the novel (it’s around 300 pages). As for those who have read the novel, wouldn’t it be fascinating to see how it has been adapted to film? It’s a bit old, but it’s still gold!

Must read ... poem

Orwell isn’t known for his poetry, but if you’re a fan, give this one a read. A Happy Vicar I Might Have Been is a quirky poem that laments the complexity of life.

Must read non-fiction

Down and Out in Paris and London is a memoir about poverty. The first part, set in Paris, is an account of living and working in restaurant kitchens. The second part, set in London, is a travelogue from a tramp’s perspective. For those of us living in affluent Hong Kong, it’s certainly an eye-opening read.


Must read novel

You must have definitely heard about 1984, a novel set in a future where the lives of citizens are controlled by the state. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink and thoughtcrime, are used even today. A famous quote from the book is: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”


Must read abridged work

Fighting in Spain is a humorous yet perceptive commentary of the Spanish civil war. It’s an abridged version of Homage to Catalonia, Orwell’s personal account of his experiences fighting against the Fascist uprising led by Francisco Franco, whose goal was to turn Spain into a totalitarian state like Nazi Germany.

Essential “children’s book”

At first, it seems like Animal Farm is a book for young children. After all, it’s about talking animals. But there’s a much deeper meaning to it: Animal Farm is a political allegory that warned against the dangers of Soviet Communism. All the characters in the story are actually based on people at the time!


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