George Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair, was an English author and journalist. Orwell is most famous for his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and the satirical novella Animal Farm, which both have sold more copies than any other books by a 20th-century author.
George Orwell was born in India in 1903, where his father worked as a British civil servant. When he was just one year old, his family moved to England, but his father's deteriorating health and financial difficulties meant that Orwell's upbringing was far from comfortable.
After his father's death, Orwell won a scholarship to study at Eton, one of England's most prestigious schools. However, he found the environment oppressive and was acutely aware of the class differences between himself and his wealthier classmates.
He left school early and began working as a police officer in Burma.
Orwell's experiences in Burma greatly influenced him, and he became increasingly critical of British imperialism. He returned to England and began writing.
His debut novel, Burmese Days, was first published in 1934. The story takes place in British Burma during the final days of the empire. The central character, John Flory, represents a solitary and flawed individual caught within a corrupt system that undermines the best aspects of human nature.
The novel portrays the rampant corruption among the native population and the imperial bigotry that characterized the society at the time. Orwell depicted the town of Katha under a pseudonym and renamed some of the characters based on real people because there were concerns about the book being potentially libelous.
In 1936, Orwell traveled to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War, where he was injured. His 1938 book, Homage to Catalonia, describes his experiences as a volunteer on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War.
Later the organization that he had joined when he joined the Republican cause, The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), was painted by the pro-Soviet Communists as a Trotskyist organization (Trotsky was Joseph Stalin's enemy) and disbanded.
Orwell and his wife were accused of "rabid Trotskyism" and tried in absentia in Barcelona, along with other leaders of the POUM, in 1938. However, they had escaped from Spain and returned to England.
Between 1941 and 1943, Orwell worked on propaganda for the BBC. In 1943, he became literary editor of the Tribune, a weekly left-wing magazine. He was a prolific polemical journalist, article writer, literary critic, reviewer, and poet, and considered, perhaps, the twentieth century's best chronicler of English culture.
Orwell is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the satirical novella Animal Farm (1945) — they have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author.
His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.
In addition to his literary career, Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma from 1922–1927 and fought with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War from 1936–1937.
Orwell's legacy continues to influence popular and political culture. He coined several new words and phrases, and "Orwellian" has become synonymous with oppressive and manipulative social practices that threaten freedom.