"In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

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George Orwell (June 25, 1903 – January 21, 1950) was an Indian-born English writer and journalist. He is best known for his novels 1984 (1949) and Animal Farm (1945), both written at the end of his life. His work is marked by a sharp-wit and a keen awareness of social injustice. Orwell was deeply influenced by what he witnessed of British colonialism while serving in the Indian Imperial Police Force in Burma. He also sustained injuries fighting against Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Orwell was an outspoken socialist and though his life was short, his work was recognized during his lifetime as some of the greatest of the 20th century.

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Orwell was born Erin Arthur Blair in Motihari, Bihar, India. His father, Richard Walmesley Blair, worked in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service.

His mother, Ida Mabel Blair, had been raised in Burma, the daughter of a Frenchman who worked in financial ventures. Orwell only spent a year in India before his mother brought him and his older sister back to England. Blair's father did not return often to England, and so the two never became close. (Image source)

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Blair's first attended a convent school for five years. Blair had been writing since the age of four, and by the time he was 11, he had a poem published in the local newspaper. In 1911, the Blair family received financial help from a public school headmaster at St. Cyprian's School so that he could attend. Spending five years at the school, it was the first time Blair was confronted with the English class system. Though he had no knowledge of the financial help his family was receiving to send him there, he said that he "soon recognised that he was from a poorer home." While at St. Cyprian's, he published two poems and received the Harrow History Prize, leading to scholarships to Eton and Wellington. He attended Wellington briefly before moving on to Eton in 1917, where he was tutored by the likes of A. S. F. Gow and Aldous Huxley.

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Upon graduation, when Blair and his family could not pay for university, Blair decided to join the Indian Imperial Police Force. He was posted in Burma for five years, from 1922-1927. He then returned to England to pursue his writing career. His first major work, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), dealt with transience and poverty, two things he had experienced when trying to make ends meet in each of those cities. He published under the name of George Orwell in an effort to preserve his family's reputation. (Image source)

In 1934, he published Burmese Days, which depicted British colonialism in Burma. Soon after, he met Eileen O'Shaughnessy and the two married in 1936.

In 1937, Orwell and his wife traveled to Spain to fight against General Francisco Franco. At one point, he was shot in the throat and arm, and it was after this incident that he began to experience regular health problems.

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Narrowly escaping treason charges, Orwell and his wife returned to England. In 1938, Orwell was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He would battle with the illness for the rest of his life.

Orwell published many essays and literary reviews to support himself. His publishers included Tribune, The Observer and the Manchester Evening News. In 1941, he became a BBC producer. He attracted such guests as T. S. Eliot and E. M. Forster, but by 1943, at the height of the Second World War, he was dismayed to find himself acting as a nationalist propagandist. He resigned and became the literary editor of a socialist newspaper.

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In 1945, Orwell published Animal Farm, an anti-Soviet satire. The work was well-received and brought him critical acclaim and financial success. In 1949, he published his dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four to critical and popular acclaim. By this time, Orwell's health was seriously failing.

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Orwell's wife Eileen had died in 1945 shortly after they had adopted a son who was ultimately raised by Orwell's sister, Avril. In 1949, Orwell courted and married Sonia Brown. When Orwell died in 1950, Brown went on to manage his estate.

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  • Birthday Date: Wednesday, 25 June 2014
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