Dateline June 25, 1903 – Future, and futurist, English writer George Orwell is born as Eric Arthur Blair in Motihari, Bihar, India. Today “Orwellian” is an adjective everyone knows. That Big Brother is watching over us was his concept, as was the idea of “Thoughcrime” and “thoughtpolice,” words now used daily.
However, we only know Orwell as a novelist. In his lifetime he was best known as a journalist and Socialist. According to the WickiWackyWoo:
During most of his career, Orwell was best known for his journalism,
in essays, reviews, columns in newspapers and magazines and in his books
of reportage: Down and Out in Paris and London (describing a period of poverty in these cities), The Road to Wigan Pier (describing the living conditions of the poor in northern England, and the class divide generally) and Homage to Catalonia. According to Irving Howe, Orwell was “the best English essayist since Hazlitt, perhaps since Dr Johnson.”
Modern readers are more often introduced to Orwell as a novelist, particularly through his enormously successful titles Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The former is often thought to reflect degeneration in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalinism; the latter, life under totalitarian rule. Nineteen Eighty-Four is often compared to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; both are powerful dystopian novels warning of a future world where the state machine exerts complete control over social life. In 1984, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451 were honoured with the Prometheus Award for their contributions to dystopian literature. In 2011 he received it again for Animal Farm.
Here’s the supreme irony:
Maybe we already live in a dystopian society and we just don’t recognize it yet. I would have preferred to quote from the official George Orwell site. However, it’s been infected by malware. Clicking on it garners this message:
Warning – visiting this web site may harm your computer!
However, let’s forget all that unpleasantness and watch this wonderful BBC drama of 1984, broadcast in 1950, just two years after the novel was published. The more things change, the more they stay the same:
And, if you’ve never seen the animated Animal Farm from 1954, here’s a treat for you:
Finally, the late Christopher Hitchen at the 2002 Hay Festival, on his book “Why Orwell Matters.”
Remember: Some animals are more equal than others. Just ask today’s GOP.