At a time where the literary world thought it had seen it all, there came a man who gave journalism something different and unique. His name was ‘George Orwell’.
Born as Eric Arthur Blair, on the 25th of June, 1903 in Motihari, Bihar, British India, he is popularly known by his pen name George Orwell. The only son of three to Richard and Ida Blair, George’s childhood wasn’t entirely rosy as he spent most of it without his father.
Despite his humble beginnings, George was always destined for greatness. His usual attitude of challenging the status quo and openly criticizing major political movements like totalitarianism, imperialism, and communism brought him fame like no other. He would go on to become one of the most significant writers of the 20th century.
We take you through 8 interesting facts you may not have known about George Orwell.
George Orwell Facts
1. He never went to college
George Orwell got his first taste of the British class system when he attended St Cyprian’s boarding school in Eastbourne, 1911. Even this bit of education was on a scholarship and Orwell in his time at St Cyprian’s witnessed first hand the discrimination that transpired in British society. He saw how the rich were treated better and more humanely than the poor.
He would go on to win scholarships to Wellington College and Eton college along the way, but still, found himself falling short in his bid to further his education. His family didn’t have the financial capability to send him to college so instead, he joined the Indian Imperial Police Force in 1922, an interesting fact about George Orwell.
2. Orwell was once a dishwasher
In 1928, he resigned from the imperial police due to his hate and distaste for Imperialism. Months before his resignation, he was overwhelmed with the guilt of having worked for the Imperial Police. He wanted to cleanse himself from class prejudices and privileges, which he felt would shape his mind and character.
Orwell took extreme measures by going to live in cheap lodging houses among laborers where he surrounded himself with beggars and spent time in the slums of Paris. He worked as a dishwasher in French restaurants and hotels. He also joined the people of London slums in annual meetings and get-togethers. His ordeal would go on to inspire his book in 1933 titled ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’.
3. He was an atheist
Orwell was an atheist and a humanist, an interesting George Orwell fact. He openly criticized religious doctrines and organizations but still actively participated in some of the rites of a Christian. He regularly attended the Church of England’s Holy Communion.
Orwell’s life was seemingly contradictory as many didn’t know where he stood. He was once criticized by fellow writer Stephen Ingle who wrote that “it is as if the writer George Orwell vaunted his unbelief while Eric Blair the individual retained a deeply ingrained religiosity.”
4. He was once a teacher
In 1932, Orwell started teaching at Hawthorns High School in Hayes. It was an all-boys school that offered private schooling to children of local tradesmen and shopkeepers. Orwell successfully published ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ whilst working as a teacher in Hawthorns.
5. Orwell suffered from tuberculosis
In 1936, Orwell went to report on the Spanish Civil War and stayed back to join the Militia. He got seriously injured as he was shot in the throat and arm during a battle.
While Orwell was recovering from the gunshot wounds that left him unable to speak properly, other health problems emerged. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, an illness without a genuine cure in 1938. And although he was treated at the Preston Hall Sanatorium, he would go on to battle tuberculosis for the rest of his life.
6. He is a two-time winner of the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.
The Prometheus Hall of Fame Award is an accolade organized by the Libertarian Futurist Society in 1983 and is awarded to writers of libertarian science fiction.
An interesting fact about George Orwell is that he first won the award in 1984 for his novel titled ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ It was the second year the award was being handed out. His second came much later in 2011. After being a multiple time finalist, his short novel titled ‘Animal Farm’ won the award to make it two for the legendary George Orwell.
7. BBC built a statue to honor him
Orwell worked as a producer for the BBC in 1941, where he described his time there as “useless and a waste of precious time ” due to the media being used as a tool to promote the national interest of the British empire.
Notwithstanding his disdain for the BBC, while he was alive, in November 2017, a statue of him was unveiled outside the headquarters of the BBC. The statue is eight feet and made of bronze by British sculptor Martin Jennings.
The Statue is memorable for the legendary phrase inscribed on the wall from Orwell’s award-winning novel ‘Animal Farm’. It said, “If liberty means anything to you at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”.
8. His novels have been adapted into filmography
Orwell’s novels and short stories enjoyed numerous successes in the 20th century and it is of little surprise that some of his works have been adapted on the big screen.
Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ was the first to be adapted in 1954 by the British television and was originally broadcasted by the BBC. Since then, more movie and drama adaptations of Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, Animal Farm, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying’ have been adapted into filmography.
If Orwell was anything, its honest. He did his best to stand for truth no matter how ugly it is. He considered keeping the truth from the public or tweaking it for selfish reasons as evil and a grand example of totalitarianism.
George Orwell died of tuberculosis at the University College Hospital in London on January 21st, 1950. He may have died at a young age of 46, but his works, ideologies, and opinions have lived on through his work.
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