George Orwell

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George Orwell (around 1940)
George Orwell (1943)

George Orwell (born June 25, 1903 in Motihari , Bihar , British India as Eric Arthur Blair , † January 21, 1950 in London ) was an English writer , essayist and journalist . From 1921 to 1927 he was an officer in the British colonial police in Burma . In 1936 he took part in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side . He wrote novels such as A Pastor's Daughter (1935) and Auftauchen für Luft (1939), social reports such as Done in Paris and London (1933) and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), and essays. Orwell became world famous through his dystopias, Animal Farm (1945), a satirical fable about Soviet communism , and 1984 (1949), a future vision of a totalitarian state. Today he is considered one of the most important writers in English literature .


childhood and education

St Cyprians boarding school sports ground in Eastbourne

Eric Arthur Blair was born on June 25th, 1903 in Motihari , Bengal . He was the second child of Richard Walmesley Blair (1857-1939) and Ida Mabel Blair, nee Limouzin (1857-1939). His mother came from an Anglo-French teak dealer family. His father was a colonial official for the Indian Civil Service , which was responsible for controlling the legal opium trade with China. In 1904 his mother traveled with him and his sister Marjorie to England , where the family bought a house in Henley-on-Thames , Oxfordshire. In the summer of 1907 he visited his family in Bengal. In 1911 he moved from the Anglican Convent School in Henley-on-Thames to the private boarding school Preparatory School St.Cyprian's, near Eastbourne in Sussex , whose visit was made possible by half a free place. He processed his boarding school experiences , which were unsatisfactory for him, in the essay Such, Such Were the Joys , published posthumously in 1952 (Eng. The joys of childhood , 1989). In 1911 his father finished his colonial service and returned to England with his family as a pensioner, where the family moved into a larger house in Shiplake . In 1915 the family moved back to Henley-on-Thames. In 1916, Blair applied for a scholarship and passed the entrance exam in 14th place for the elite school Eton . In December 1916 he left boarding school and spent the first trimester of 1917 at Wellington College . From May 1917 he was "Kings's Scholar" in Eton. The family moved into a house in the coastal town of Southwold in December 1921, and Blair finished school in Eton. His tutor at Eton was the classical philologist Andrew Sydenham Farrar Gow . Here he also met Cyril Connolly , who would later become editor of Horizon Magazine , who published many of his short reports and would become a friend for life.

In January 1922 he took a preparatory course for the Indian Office exam at P. Hope in Southwold; in the summer he passed his exams and decided to join the Burmese police force.

Police service in Burma

House on Portobello Road , London, where he lived in 1927
Orwell lived here in Wallington,
Hertfordshire , from about 1936-1940

On October 27, 1922, he embarked for Mandalay , where he arrived on November 29. In 1923 he began there as a candidate his training as assistant superintendent of police in the British police school, the Indian Imperial Police . He was taught law and the national languages Hindustani and Burmese . After the final examination, he worked from the beginning of 1924 as district manager in Myaungmya, Twante and Syriam in the floodplain of the Irrawaddy Delta . In 1926 he was deployed in Moulmein and Katha in Upper Burma. Until 1927 he assumed various functions in the colonial hierarchy.

Return to England

On July 12, 1927, he went on his home leave. Then he gave his police station without giving any reasons, was a freelance journalist and described his experiences during his service in 1931 and 1936 in the essay A man hanging , Shooting an Elephant , and in the Roman days in Burma (Engl. Burmese Days ). In 1928 Blair moved to Paris , where he did odd jobs and ended up doing dishwasher jobs. In 1929 he fell ill with severe pneumonia , which he cured in the Cochin hospital for the poor in Paris . Destitute, he returned to England at the end of 1929, where he led a vagabond life; in the meantime he lived repeatedly with his parents in Southwold , Suffolk, and worked temporarily as an assistant teacher. During this time, his journalistic work was published by his friend Richard Rees' magazine Adelphi . In October 1930 he wrote in a first version of the literary analysis of his last two years in Down and Out in Paris and London (Engl. Down and out in Paris and London ), in 1933 under the pseudonym George Orwell appeared. At times he worked as a teacher in Hayes, Middlesex . After another pneumonia in 1933, he stopped teaching in order to devote himself entirely to writing. In October 1934 he moved to the London borough of Hampstead , where he took a job in the Booklover's Corner bookstore .

1935 his novel A pastor's daughter (English. A Clergyman's Daughter ), which is a more vivid understanding of history a young teacher of the failed efforts of the mediation.

In January 1936 he completed the manuscript for the novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying , begun in 1935, and received an offer from the publisher Gollancz to write a social report on working conditions and the effects of mass unemployment in the industrial regions of northern England, whereupon he took up a job in the bookstore quit. In 1936 the police registered his "communist" activities in Wigan in northern England . He had, living in great poverty, for his social reportage researched English slum that eventually under the title The Road to Wigan Pier (Engl. The Road to Wigan Pier ) appeared. On June 9, 1936, he married the psychology student Eileen O'Shaughnessy, whom he had met in the spring of 1935 at a party.

Soldier in the Spanish Civil War

On December 15, 1936, Orwell traveled to Barcelona to serve as a volunteer soldier on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. Coming from Labor with a letter of recommendation from a left-wing splinter group , on December 30, 1936 he unwillingly became a member of the semi- anarchist militia of the POUM ( Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista ), a party of independent workers that had close ties to the British ILP ( Independent Labor Party ) and which wanted to introduce the socialist state of society through direct actionism while dismantling all governance structures. In Barcelona Orwell saw the beginnings of such an unconditionally liberal socialism, with abolished class barriers, vanished luxury and great solidarity among the population, realized. In early January 1937 he was assigned to the 29th Division on the Aragon Front in Alcubierre . At the end of January he was transferred as a corporal to the ILP contingent. He shared the correspondent's office with Ernest Hemingway , André Malraux and Leopold Kohr . Orwell spent a total of four months on the Aragon Front and at Teruel, but was not involved in real fighting due to a military stalemate reached in Aragon. When he joined the undogmatic Marxist POUM, the politically inexperienced Orwell did not know that this party was being persecuted with great hatred by the Stalinists , whose power in republican Spain was growing rapidly. It was only after spending five months in Spain that he recognized the real face behind the communist mask, which shaped him all his life: On May 20, 1937, Orwell became heavy with a wound through the throat that paralyzed his vocal cords, left him speechless for months and made his voice weak and thin over the long term wounded. When he returned from convalescence at the end of May from a POUM hospital on the outskirts of Barcelona , the political situation had fundamentally changed. The Russian arms deliveries were accompanied by political commissars who had started carrying out " purges " in the Soviet style. Orwell's life was in danger and had to hide repeatedly in order to avoid the threat of arrest by Moscow-loyal communists because of his membership of the POUM, which has since been banned. Together with his wife Eileen, he managed to escape to France.

Homage to Catalonia

Orwell returned to England in mid-July 1937 and wrote his book Mein Katalonien ( Homage to Catalonia ) in the second half of 1937 . His publisher Victor Gollancz , who at that time was pro-Russian like many English left-wing socialists, rejected the publication in 1938 without having read the book. The majority of the Labor press reacted similarly. Finally he found Fredric Warburg, a British publisher willing to take risks, who edited the text of Homage to Catalonia ; it was published in London in 1938. However, only a few hundred copies were sold in response to cautious criticism. Orwell, however, considered this book to be one of his best works. It is a field report and an analysis of the political and propaganda events during the Spanish Civil War and at the same time reflects Orwell's "deep disappointment over the communist 'betrayal' of Spain".

"Cure" in French Morocco

Orwell joined the ILP on June 13, 1938. To cure a tuberculosis herd in his lungs, the Orwell couple traveled to French Morocco in September 1938 , where they rented a house in Marrakech . The trip was funded by the writer Leo H. Myers. In Marrakech Orwell wrote the novel Coming Up for Air ( emergence to bring to air ).

Time of the Second World War

The Orwell couple returned to England on March 30, 1939 and moved back into their home in Wellington. With the conclusion of the Hitler-Stalin Pact , Orwell became a patriot. When Great Britain and France declared war on Germany, which had invaded Poland on September 3, 1939 , Orwell volunteered. However, because of his poor health, he was turned down. After 1939 Orwell worked increasingly as a book critic. In April 1939 he began work on his collection of essays Inside the Whale , which Gollancz published in 1940 . Orwell joined the Home Guard in June 1940 . In the autumn of 1940 he wrote the socialist-patriotic text The Lion and the Unicorn . On August 18, 1941, he began his work in the Southeast Asia department at the BBC . In 1942, still working for the BBC, he wrote a number of articles for various newspapers and magazines. On November 18, 1942, his Talking to India collection was published by Allen & Unwin . On November 23, 1943, he had to resign from the Home Guard for health reasons . The next day he quit his job at the BBC because of political disagreements and became the feature editor of the Tribune magazine , for which he also wrote the column As I Please . During these two years he gained significant experience with British, German and especially Soviet propaganda , which can be found in the work of Winston Smith in 1984 .

In June 1944, he and his wife adopted a boy born on May 14th, whom they named Richard Horatio. On June 28, 1944, they were bombed out of their house, after which they moved into the city apartment of the writer Inez Holden. In February 1945 he gave up his position as literary editor at the Tribune and went to Paris and Cologne as a war correspondent for the Observer and the Manchester Evening News , where he fell ill again. Meanwhile, his wife Eileen died unexpectedly on March 29th during an operation from the effects of anesthesia, which is why he immediately returned to England. From April 8 to May 9, 1945 he traveled for a month to Nuremberg and Stuttgart, where on May 8 he experienced the day of liberation , the end of the war in Europe. In August 1945 Orwell became Vice President of the Freedom Defense Committee , which campaigned for the preservation of civil rights. Orwell argued in an essay published in 1945 against imposing "outrageous peace conditions" on the Germans for their crimes. He wrote: "Vengeance is angry".

German first edition 1946, Amstutz, Herdeg & Co. Zurich

Breakthrough as a writer

1945 appointed Orwell his anti-Stalin book Animal Farm (Engl. Animal Farm: A Fairy Story ) finished in which he in the shape of a parabola, the failure of the Russian Revolution and the betrayal of socialist ideals by Stalinism describes. The satirical novel was a reckoning of the staunch socialist Orwell with the totalitarian system in the Soviet Union . It depicts the development in the Soviet Union under Stalin towards exploitation, privileged groups and terror. The book was rejected by several publishers, among others. a. because they were bothered by the fact that the ruling caste was portrayed as pigs of all things, which is why they feared that the sensitive Russians would be offended by it. Orwell wanted to self- publish the book or in a small anarchist publishing house, so it was accepted by Secker & Warburg in July 1944 . It was published later than planned in August 1945. Phrases from this book have become common linguistic property, such as All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others - or, for short, Some are more equal than others (“ Some are more equal than others ").

Moved to the island of Jura and published in 1984

Barnhill on the Scottish island of Jura : This is where Orwell worked on his
1984 novel

In May 1947 George Orwell moved to the seclusion of the Hebridean island of Jura off the west coast of Scotland. He lived in Barnhill, an abandoned farmhouse with no electricity or telephone, surrounded by a landscape of heather, peat and bog. On the lonely island in 1947 and 1948 he wrote a “utopia in the form of a novel”, which was to be called 1984 . His house on the far north island of Jura was partially dilapidated, difficult to heat with the available peat and undermined his health. In 1947, he was hospitalized in Glasgow , where significant damage to the left lung was diagnosed. He had to lie still for months and was treated with streptomycin . After his return he worked tirelessly on the manuscript from 1984 , which he sent to the publisher in December 1948.

In June 1949, the novel 1984 (English Nineteen Eighty-Four ) was published and became his most famous work. The novel is one of the bleakest future visions in literature. George Orwell paints the horrific picture of a totalitarian surveillance state modeled on the Soviet Union with analytical sharpness . Such a state, which is based on total surveillance and control, is now also known as the "Orwell State". The oppressive, dystopian vision has strongly influenced science fiction literature , among other things . Orwell's language creations from this work also passed into common usage, such as 1984 , Großer Bruder , big brother is watching you , doppelplusungut , Newspeak and Doppeldenk . The book has been translated into 30 languages ​​and has a circulation of many millions.

Orwell died of tuberculosis in University College Hospital, London

Marriage on the sickbed

The tuberculosis had accompanied almost a decade Orwell why he had lung problems again and again (but he also reported problems with a lung in childhood) and made cures in several sanatoriums. On October 13, 1949, in London's University College Hospital , he married Sonia Brownell (1918–1980), who was 15 years his junior and who was employed by his friend Cyril Conolly as an editorial assistant for the magazine Horizon . A few days before his planned departure for Switzerland, he suffered a lung haemorrhage from which he died on the night of January 21, 1950 at the age of 46.

Orwell's grave is in the All Saints' Churchyard in Sutton Courtenay in Oxfordshire .

Orwell's real name is on the tombstone in Sutton Courtenay : Eric Arthur Blair

Influences from other authors

In the course of his life, the book critic Orwell met many authors of his time personally or at least had correspondence with them, including:

Political stance

George Orwell was a socialist . His experiences in Burma , which resulted in a strong aversion to imperialism , and his temporary life in financial distress shaped him very much. In his essay Why I Write (1947) he placed all of his works from 1936 onwards in direct connection with his conviction for socialism and his fight against totalitarianism .

The kind of socialism that George Orwell had in mind differs fundamentally from the real socialist regimes like the USSR , which he condemned in his works. According to Orwell, “democratic socialism” is the only form of government with a promising future. For him, the idea of ​​a united Europe and an end to imperialism are important .

Secret service observation and contact

Eric Arthur Blair (Orwell's maiden name) was mentioned for the first time in a correspondence between the domestic and foreign intelligence services and the London police in 1929, because he published for left-wing organs in Paris and was presumed to have served himself up to the communist worker's life .

Secret dossiers, first published in early September 2007, show that Orwell was monitored from 1929 up to the years of the Second World War by a special department of Scotland Yard , the forerunner of the British domestic intelligence service MI5 , for suspected treasonous intentions and his revolutionary ideas and that he was for the time being “advanced communist Views ”attested. At the beginning of February 1942, an MI5 employee asked what exactly was meant by Orwell's “advanced communist views”. It emerged that Orwell's most recent works, The Lion and the Unicorn, and his contributions to Gollancz's symposium The Treason of the Left were directed against the Communist Party and that the party had a similar aversion to him. Enclosed with the file was a questionnaire dated November 1941 from the magazine Left , which documented Orwell's left-wing patriotic stance in the war. For this reason, MI5 did not object to Orwell's accreditation as a correspondent for the Sunday Observer at Allied headquarters in North Africa in 1943 .

In 1996 it became known that Orwell, for the sake of an acquaintance, submitted an assessment of 38 writers and artists to the Information Research Department (IRD), a semi-secret propaganda special department of the British Foreign Office founded in 1948 to combat communist infiltration. With the explanations he gave his opinion on pro-communist tendencies and the lack of distance to the Stalinism of those affected. This list mainly contained the names of journalists, but it also included actors Michael Redgrave and Charlie Chaplin . Everyone named by Orwell had previously expressed themselves publicly as pro-Soviet or pro-communist, but Orwell did not regard them as secret supporters, especially in the case of Chaplin and Redgrave. To Edward Hallett Carr said Orwell, he was simply a "appeasers" and Isaac German was "only sympathizer" listed with the remark. On the other hand, he assessed the journalist Peter Smollett , who was actually later identified as a Soviet agent, as " almost certainly agent of some kind " and "slimy", thus distinguishing who he considered unsuitable as an IRD author.


In 1996 Orwell posthumously received the Retro Hugo Award for his novel Animal Farm , an award for science fiction literature.

On May 23, 2000 the asteroid (11020) Orwell was named after him.

In 2017 Orwell was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame .

An Orwell museum in his birthplace in Motihari opened in May 2015.


  • 1933 - Down and Out in Paris and London ( Done in Paris and London )
  • 1934 - Burmese Days ( days in Burma )
  • 1935 - A Clergyman's Daughter ( A pastor's daughter )
  • 1936 - Keep the Aspidistra Flying ( The Delights of Aspidistra )
  • 1937 - The Road to Wigan Pier ( The Road to Wigan Pier )
  • 1938 - Homage to Catalonia ( My Catalonia ) see web links
  • 1939 - Coming Up for Air ( emergence to bring to air , even as the spilled life published)
  • 1945 - Animal Farm ( Animal Farm ); Edition revised by Peter Davison: Penguin Verlag London 1989, ISBN 0-14-012670-8 . In German: Amstutz, Herdeg & Co, Zurich 1946, Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt 1956. Many other editions.
  • 1945 - Notes on Nationalism ( On Nationalism , Munich 2020)
  • 1946 - Why I Write.
  • 1947 - The English People ( The English )
  • 1949 Nineteen Eighty-Four ( 1984 )
  • 1968 - The Collected Essays (posthumously edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, 4 volumes)
  • 1998 - The Complete Works of George Orwell (edited by Peter Davison and Ian Angus, 20 volumes)
  • George Orwell - Sources, texts, works, translations, media on Wikilivres (also known as Bibliowiki )




  1. Hans-Christoph Schröder : George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck, Munich 1988, p. 383 f.
  2. ^ A b Hans-Christoph Schröder: George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988, p. 384.
  3. Hans-Christoph Schröder: George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988, p. 385 ff.
  4. Hans-Christoph Schröder: George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988. pp. 484 f.
  5. a b c As the British secret service George Orwell observed - He dresses like a bohemian. In: Berliner Zeitung , 2007.
  6. Hans-Christoph Schröder: George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988, p. 387.
  7. ^ A b Hans-Christoph Schröder: George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988. p. 388.
  8. See the information in Kit Reed : Lektürehilfen George Orwell, "1984" (Barron's book notes) 4th edition, Klett Verlag , Stuttgart / Dresden 1993, p. 6 ff.
  9. Robert Welch: George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four . Longman York Press, Burnt Mill, Harlow 1983, ISBN 0-582-78240-6 , pp. 10 ff.
  10. George Woodcock : The Clairvoyant. George Orwell's work and activity. Diogenes, Zurich 1985, ISBN 3-257-01700-6 ; P. 170f.
  11. Wiklef Hoops, Traudl Hoops: Stundenblätter Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four . 2nd Edition. Klett Verlag 1989, ISBN 3-12-925161-8 , p. 15 ff.
  12. Hans-Christoph Schröder: George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988. p. 389.
  13. Hans-Christoph Schröder: George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988. pp. 389f.
  14. Hans-Christoph Schröder : George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988, pp. 390f.
  15. George Orwell: Vengeance Sucks. (dtb 20250) From d. Engl. By Felix Gasbarra . Diogenes 1975, ISBN 3-257-20250-4 .
  16. Hans-Christoph Schröder: George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988. p. 217ff, p. 390.
  17. George Orwell Biography. In: Retrieved July 19, 2013 .
  18. Hans-Christoph Schröder: George Orwell. An intellectual biography. Beck 1988. p. 217ff, p. 392.
  19. On Orwell's political stance, cf. the remarks by Reiner Poppe: George Orwell · Aldous Huxley · Animal Farm · Brave New World · Nineteen Eighty-Four · Vision and reality in literary utopia. Joachim-Beyer-Verlag, Hollfeld / Ofr. 1980, ISBN 3-921202-68-X , pp. 32-37.
  20. ^ Scotland Yard. Big Brother also monitored George Orwell. In: dpa / Der Tagesspiegel , September 4, 2007.
  21. Peter Davison: [Orwell and Politics (Penguin Modern Classics) (English) paperback - May 3, 2001, ISBN 978-0-14-118518-7 ].
  22. Leab, Daniel J. (2008) Orwell Subverted: The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm , 152. Penn State Press
  23. Timothy Garton Ash: Orwell's List. In: The New York Review of Books , Volume 50, Number 14, September 25, 2003.
  24. ^ Science Fiction Awards Database - George Orwell. Retrieved November 24, 2017 .
  25. - George Orwell's house in Bihar turned into museum
  26. George Orwell - The Call for Freedom , first broadcast on SWR , December 18, 2003.

Web links

Commons : George Orwell  - collection of images, videos and audio files

English websites

Reviews and appreciations