“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell
Today marks the 60th anniversary of George Orwell’s death. He was born Eric Arthur Blair in Motihari, India, on June 25 1903, and died in London on January 21, 1950, at the age of forty-six. For the last three years of his life, he suffered from tuberculosis – a condition that was undoubtedly not helped by his habits of smoking and drinking, or the year he spent living on cold, wet Scottish island of Jura.
Orwell is predominantly known for his fervently political work; in particular, “1984″ and “Animal Farm.” He admitted that most of his life’s writing was penned with political intent, “against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.” I often wonder what Orwell would make of today’s world; how the likes of Google, Twitter and Facebook would feature into his bleak, Big Brother-dominated world of “1984″, or how he would react to the financial crisis and the ongoing debate over health care in this country. Doubtless, whatever his political opinions would be, he would have no hesitation in tackling them with his fiercely prolific typewriter.
Though we are generally more familiar with his novels, Orwell wrote an astonishing number of essays, with content that ranged from the political to the seemingly commonplace (on the best sort of English pub, or how to make a nice cup of tea – a subject close to my own heart). I’ve read many of his essays and am enamored of his clear prose and direct style; he begins the essay “England Your England“, written during the London Blitz in 1941, thus: “As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” My favorite, though, is his candid “Why I Write.”
And so, here’s to George: fearless soldier, compassionate chronicler, brilliant writer.