The often-quoted author George Orwell was born 110 years ago today. Born Eric Blair in Motihari, India, in 1903. He won a scholarship to Eton and didn’t fit in because he was poor. Instead of going to a university, he escaped England to join the Imperial Police in Burma, but he quit after five years because, he said, “I could not go on any longer serving an imperialism which I had come to regard as very largely a racket.”
He decided he would become a writer. He lived as a tramp for four years, wearing ragged clothes and living with laborers and beggars in the slums of London and Paris. He worked in the hopfields in Kent and as a dishwasher in a French hotel, and wrote about it in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) under the pen name George Orwell, after the River Orwell in East Anglia. He published his first novel, Burmese Days (1934), the next year.
Animal Farm (1945) is a political fable about a group of barnyard animals that chase off their human masters and set up their own society. But then the smartest animals, the pigs, take control and turn out to be even more ruthless than the humans. He wrote, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” At first, Orwell couldn’t find a publisher for Animal Farm. But when it came out, it was an instant success and for the first time Orwell had some money in his pocket. Orwell used the royalties to buy a remote house on the island of Jura, off the coast of Scotland. He had tuberculosis, and when he wasn’t too sick to type, he smoked black shag tobacco and wrote his masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), a novel set in a future where the world is controlled by totalitarian police states. The book gave us words and phrases such as “Big Brother is watching you,” “Thought Police,” and “doublethink.”