George Orwell didn’t have time to collect many royalties on his phenomenally successful novel 1984.
The dystopic novel that has since influenced so many other writers and contributed words and even suffixes to our vocabulary, was published mid-1949. Orwell (birth name Eric Blair) died January 21, 1950.
I wonder what he would have thought had he known that just one copy of that book, a first edition, would be sold for $6,780 in 2008. (ABE.com’s most expensive books in 2008 )
Orwell’s best known novels are 1984 and Animal Farm, both condemnations of totalitarian government.
Two of his best known essays, often taught in freshman English courses, are “Shooting An Elephant” and “A Hanging.” Both describe his uncongenial experiences as a civil servant in Burma and reveal his hatred of imperialism.
Like every writer, Orwell’s work stems from personal experience, prejudice, and pain.
Born in 1903 to a family of modest means, his perceptions and passions mirror in a surprising way those of many idealistic young people living today.
Orwell didn’t live to be old. He died at the age of 46.
During his life he experienced class discrimination, poverty, and the horrors of war. He saw the way politicians manipulate language to keep the public in the dark. He wrote out of a deep hatred of economic injustice, imperialism, and totalitarianism, topics of lively concern in the 21st century.
Orwell didn’t have the money to attend university, but he received a good elementary and secondary education. He was in love with books and the English language and he developed a writing style that’s a model of precision, clarity, and persuasiveness.
Writers can learn much from Orwell. As I’ve not read everything he’s written, my writing-improvement resolution for 2009 is to read all his works, beginning with Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) and finishing by revisiting 1984 (1949).
Since I still prefer holding a book in my hand, I’ll head for my local library, but all his works are available as online texts.