Thursday, February 7, 2008

George Orwell and 1984 a biography

George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903, at Motihari, Bengal, in India. His father, Richard Walmesley Blair, was a relatively minor official in the Opium Department, the British civil service agency which regulated legalized opium trade with China as a government monopoly. Orwell’s mother, born Ida Mabel Limouzin, was of English-French background. She had lived in Moulmein, Burma, where her French father was a teak trader and boat builder and was eighteen years younger than her husband, whom she had married in 1896. Their first child, Marjorie, was born at Tehta, Bihar, India, in 1898. After Eric was born, the elder Blair’s almost annual changes in posting, often to remote towns within India, coupled with possibilities of better schooling, caused Ida Blair’s return to England with the children. Richard Blair did not see his family again until 1907 on a three-month leave; their last child, Avril, would be born as a result of this visit.

The pseudonym “George Orwell” was chosen to conceal the author’s identity and avoid embarrassment for his family upon publication of Down and Out in London and Paris. It came from a list of names which included P. S. Burton (the name Orwell actually used when tramping), Kenneth Miles, and H. Lewis Allways, and was mutually agreed upon by the author and Victor Gollancz, the book’s publisher. The Orwell was a river the author liked and knew well, and he believed that the whole name had a solid working-class ring to it. Even after he became an established author, however, Orwell never formally changed his name, and he continued to be called Eric Blair by those who had known him before his success.

nonfiction
The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937
Homage to Catalonia, 1938
Inside the Whale, and Other Essays, 1940
The Lion and the Unicorn, 1941
Critical Essays, 1946 (published in the U.S. as Dickens, Dali, and Others)
Shooting an Elephant, and Other Essays, 1950
Orwell: The War Commentaries, 1986
The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell, 1968 (4 volumes; Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, editors)
Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933
Such, Such Were the Joys, 1953

long fiction
Animal Farm, 1945
Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949
A Clergyman’s Daughter, 1935
Burmese Days, 1934
Keep the Aspidistra Flying, 1936
Coming Up for Air, 1939

miscellaneous
Orwell: The Lost Writings, 1985

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