Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fun facts about George Orwell.
1. Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction, and polemical journalism.
2. He’s best known for the allegorical novella Animal Farm and the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
3. His non-fiction works, including The Road to Wigan Pier, documenting his experience of working class life in the north of England, and Homage to Catalonia, an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, are widely acclaimed.
4. The Times ranked him second on a list of The 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945.
5. Orwell’s work continues to influence popular and political culture, and the term Orwellian, descriptive of totalitarian or authoritarian social practices, has entered the language.
6. Orwell joined the India Imperial Police Force in 1922, as he didn’t have the money for a university education after boarding school.
7. When he left the Imperial Police Force and returned to England, he began to write seriously.
8. Orwell’s first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, was published in 1933. The book explored the lives of working poor and transients. He started using the pen nae George Orwell because he didn’t want him family to suffer any embarrassment at the topics in his first book.
9. Orwell’s second book was Burmese Days. It was published in 1934 and was about British colonialism in India. It’s believed that the book sparked his interest in politics.
10. He married Eileen O’Shaughnessy in 1936.
11. In 1936, he fought in the Spanish Civil War, and was shot in the arm and the throat. Orwell and his wife left Spain, narrowly missing the treason charges brought against them.
12. Orwell had various health issues, and developed tuberculosis in 1938. He struggled with it for the rest of his life.
13. In 1941, he began working for the BBC, but resigned in 1943.
14. Animal Farm was published in 1945. The novel made Orwell famous and financially sound. The book was an anti-Soviet satirical story about two pigs representing Leon Trotsky and Josef Stalin.
15. In 1944, Orwell and his wife Eileen adopted a son. They named him Richard Horatio Blair.
16. Eileen passed away in 1945, and their son was then raised mostly by Eileen’s sister Avril.
17. In 1949, Orwell published Nineteen Eighty-Four. The book was also published as 1984 in later editions. The book was about the government controlling everything, even a person’s thoughts.
18. Orwell married Sonia Brownell in 1950.
19. During his time in Burma, he was able to speak Burmese fluently with the natives, and, according to some, acquired some tattoos, including a small blue circle on each knuckle.
20. In an essay titled You and the Atomic Bomb, Orwell became the first person to apply the term Cold War to describe the ideological and political scuffle between Russia and the United States.
21. A staunch socialist who traveled to the North of England’s industrial coalface and documented the hardships of the working classes for his landmark book The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell’s interviews for the book saw him placed under surveillance by Special Branch from 1936 until 1948.
22. When World War Two came about, Orwell wanted to go and fight for Britain but was knocked back due to the injuries picked up in the Spanish Civil War. As the fighting carried on he worked at the BBC, broadcasting for the India department. He later became a war correspondent.
23. Although he became a champion of the working classes, Orwell himself came from a pretty wealthy family. His great-grandfather Charles Blair was married to gentry, while he enjoyed a relatively comfortable childhood, winning scholarships to both Wellington and Eton colleges.
24. It was at Eton College where Orwell once practiced black magic on a wax effigy of a school bully. After the young man broke his leg, developed leukemia and died, Orwell reportedly spent the rest of his life believing that he’d killed him with the Voodoo spell.
25. “Beastly” is said to have been Orwell’s first word as a child.
26. Not only did the traumatic events of the Spanish Civil War inspire his bloodily frank Homage to Catalonia, but also future works of fiction, such as Animal Farm.
27. As an outspoken member of the anti-Communist movement, Orwell compiled a list of 37 other writers to the British government’s then Information Research Department of People who he suspected were sympathetic to Soviet thinking.
28. Over the course of two years, between 1928 and 1929, Orwell experienced near starvation as he forged for crumbs between working as a waiter and an author in Paris.
29. Orwell was openly homophobic, at a time when such prejudice was common.
30. Orwell’s will requested that no biography of him be written, and his widow, Sonia Brownell, repelled every attempt by those who tried to persuade her to let them write about him.