Eric Blair (George Orwell), was born in Bengal, India, in 1903. Educated in England at Eton, he moved to Burma in 1922 where he joined the Indian Imperial Police for five years. He eventually resigned because of his increasing disillusionment with British imperialism.
After a period doing a variety of jobs in France he returned to England where opened a village shop. Using the pseudonym, George Orwell, he began writing articles for magazines. His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) described his experiences as a struggling writer. This book was followed by three novels, Burmese Days (1934), A Clergyman's Daughter (1935) and Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936).
In 1936 George Orwell was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to produce a documentary account of unemployment in the north of England for his Left Book Club. The Road to Wigan Pier established Orwell as one of Britain's leading writers and marked a high point in literary journalism. A. J. Ayer met him at this time. He later recalled in his autobiography, Part of My Life (1977): "Though he held no religious belief, there was something of a religious element in George's socialism. It owed nothing to Marxist theory and much to the tradition of English Nonconformity. He saw it primarily as an instrument of justice. What he hated in contemporary politics, almost as much as the abuse of power, was the dishonesty and cynicism which allowed its evils to be veiled.... His moral integrity made him hard upon himself and sometimes harsh in his judgement of other people, but he was no enemy to pleasure. He appreciated good food and drink, enjoyed gossip, and when not oppressed by ill-health was very good company. He was another of those whose liking for me made me think better of myself."
George Orwell, a committed socialist, went to Spain in December 1936 to report on the Spanish Civil War. He soon decided to join the struggle against the Nationalist Army and became a member of the Lenin Division in Barcelona, a unit under the control of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM).
In January 1937 George Orwell, given the rank of corporal, was sent to join the offensive at Aragón. The following month he was moved to Huesca. After 115 days at the frontline he was granted leave and he returned to Barcelona. While there he witnessed the May Riots.
Orwell returned to Huesca on 12th May. Promoted to second lieutenant, he commanded a unit of 30 men. Soon after arriving back at the front he was hit by a sniper's bullet which passed through his neck. As a result of the wound, Orwell's left side was paralyzed and he temporarily lost his voice.
While in hospital Orwell heard that the Workers Party of Marxist Unification had been declared an illegal organization. Orwell was now in danger of being murdered by communists in the Republican Army. With the help of the British Consul in Barcelona, Orwell was able to escape to France.
When George Orwell returned to England he wrote about his experiences of the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia (1938). In the book Orwell attempted to expose the propaganda disseminated by newspapers in Britain. This included attacks on both the right-wing press and the Daily Worker, a paper controlled by the Communist Party. Although one of the best books ever written about war, it sold only 1,500 copies during the next twelve years.
Orwell published Coming up for Air in 1939. In August 1941 Orwell began work for the Eastern Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). His main task was to write the scripts for a weekly news commentary on the Second World War. Orwell's scripts were broadcast to the people of India between the end of 1941 and early 1943. During this period Orwell also worked for the Observer newspaper.
In 1943 Aneurin Bevan, the editor of the socialist journal Tribune, recruited George Orwell to write a weekly column, As I Please. Orwell's plain, lucid style, made him highly effective as a campaigning journalist and some of his best writing was done during this period.
George Orwel's next book, Animal Farm, was a satire in fable form of the communist revolution in Russia. The book, heavily influenced by his experiences of the way communists behaved during the Spanish Civil War, upset many of his left-wing friends and his former publisher, Victor Gollancz, rejected it. Published in 1945, Animal Farm became one of Britain's most popular books.
Orwell's final book was influenced by his failing health and his disillusionment with a Labour government that had been elected with a large majority in the 1945 General Election but made little attempt to introduce the kind of socialism that he believed in.
In 1945 George Orwell reviewed the anti-Utopian novel We by Yevgeni Zamyatin for Tribune. The book inspired his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Published in 1949, the book was a pessimistic satire about the threat of political tyranny in the future. The novel had a tremendous impact and many of the new words and phrases used in the book passed into everyday language.
George Orwell died of tuberculosis in 1950.