George Orwell: A Life

Bernard Crick’s ( biography puts the many forces that shaped Orwell ( and,,1000012316,00.html and into perspective. More than anything else Orwell feared the state. As an outgrowth of this fear, Orwell dissected propaganda and exposed the many ways in which language can be made a tool of tyranny. While he is known mainly for 1984 and Animal Farm, Orwell was far ahead of his time as a critic of literature and popular culture. He was one of the finest English essayists of the century.


For a more recent life, published only a few months ago on 24 October 2013, try George Orwell: English Rebel by Robert Colls ( This takes us on a journey through the many twists and turns of Orwell’s life and thought, from the precocious public school satirist at Eton and the imperial policeman in Burma, through his early years as a rather dour documentary writer, down and out on the streets of Paris and London and on the road to Wigan pier, and over his formative experiences as a volunteer soldier in the Spanish Civil War. Above all, the book skilfully traces Orwell’s gradual reconciliation with his country, a journey which began down a coal mine in 1936 to find its exhilarating peaks during the dark days of the Second World War.

An interest sparked in Orwell can be followed up with the book by Christopher Hitchens – Why Orwell Matters (2002,


Deeper interest may be satisfied by The Cambridge Companion to Orwell (2007) edited by John Rodden (


For a lifetime immersion in the writings and thought of George Orwell use the excellent bibliography in the Cambridge Companion as a launchpad.


Do listen to the BBC Radio 4 ‘Great Lives’ episode (30 minutes) on Orwell. Available at the link   Presented by Matthew Parris, with enthusiasts Alan Johnson and Jean Seaton. First broadcast Fri 21 Sep 2012.



672 pages in Penguin paperback edition

ISBN 978-0140058567



George Orwell                    Bernard Crick

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