O is for Orwell


George Orwell was born in 1903 as Eric Arthur Blair to English parents living in India but when he was 1 year old the family returned to England and settled there.

As a child he dreamed of writing a book in the style of HG Wells A Modern Utopia and whilst still at college produced the college magazine. Instead of attending University (the family couldn’t afford it) he returned to India as part of the Imperial Police and on a trip back home to England after suffering an illness he decided to quit the police and become a writer.

But it wasn’t until he visited his aunt in Paris and received her financial support that he began to write novels. On his return to England he began research into his a memoir entitled Down and Out in Paris and London, and changed his name for publication so that it wouldn’t embarrass his family.

The publication of Animal Farm in 1945 plunged Orwell into worldwide success and followed up by Nineteen Eighty Four in 1949 (which has sold over 25million copies to date) cemented his place amongst the great writers of the 20th century.

While he was alive, Orwell was best known for his essays and journalism. He died at the age of 46 having suffered from reoccurring symptoms of Tuberculosis (which troubled him for several years) leaving behind his own adjective “Orwellian”.

My Favourite George Orwell quotes:

“Rules on Writing – Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

“The best books…are those that tell you what you know already.”

“Good writing is like a windowpane.”

“For a creative writer possession of the ‘truth’ is less important than emotional sincerity.”

George Orwell’s Essay – Politics and the English Language

The first part of a documentary on Orwell.

Orwell went to great lengths to research his project Down and Out in Paris and London, to the point where he explored the slums of London, even staying the night in a common lodging house. You often hear of other authors who will go to great lengths to research their books. Personally, I haven’t, but what lengths have you gone to for research?

40 thoughts on “O is for Orwell

  1. Awesome post! I loved Animal Farm, that’s all I’ve read. I probably ought to read it again and see if I understand all the politics.


  2. Great quotes from Orwell. Love those rules for writing – worth hanging on the wall above one’s work space. My husband is preparing to teach 1984 in his high school literature class. I agree with Elizabeth’s comment just above. Thanks Vikki. I am enjoying these posts. God bless, Maria from Delight Directed Living


  3. I have traveled to Bamberg, SC – the most humid place in the middle of nowhere – to take photos of where places once were and of the geography. Good post again!


  4. What a wonderful choice for ‘O’ Vikki. Orwell is special to me (as an actress) because in the mid-1980s I played Madam F., in an adaptation of Down and Out in Pairs and London at the Latchmere Theatre, in London. Your wonderful post has wetted my appetite to read the book and script again. I’ve copied George Orwell’s rules to print them out and hang them above my computer in my study. How do you do it, Vikki? Every day another inspiring, interesting, and different post.


  5. Agree that Orwell’s five rules “for when instinct fails” is worth etching onto your computer keyboard. Down to earth, sensible and just ‘right’…he has probably had more influence on my life and politics than any other writer. Really recommend his essays and Homage to Catalonia (Spanish Civil War memoir) and his article on how to make a perfect cup of tea. And anything really….


  6. Pingback: A to Z Challenge – O for Orwell | The Artistry Collective

  7. 1984 was the first book that shook my assumptions about the world. It was also practically my anthem for teenage rebellion, haha. But yes, I read all his other works and enjoy the new perspectives he brings.


  8. Oh, I love that – ‘good writing is like a windowpane’ – it really is! My hub keeps on at me to read Down and Out in Paris and London so it’s on my to read pile. I’ve read Burmese Days which is totally brilliant and, of course, Animal Farm at school. Haven’t psyched myself up for 1984 yet – I know it’s bound to be brilliant but I can’t get excited about it. Maybe I’ve heard too much about it from too many people. Going on the to read pile, though! I haven’t done anything extraordinary for research – I usually write about what I know in one form or another. Imagination plays a massive part! I used to work in theatre and as my next novel is going to be set amongst theatre folk I will probably ask if I can go in and hang around/help in some way to get the feel back. Need to finish the novel I’m working on first, though! Actually – now that I think of it – I’ll be visiting a Medium as part of my research, but I have to admit it won’t be the first time! I want to ask some sneaky questions if I can!


    • It’s a great quote isn’t it Bel 🙂

      I’ve only ever read 1984 and that was quite a few years ago now…so engrossing though, and quite scary! Lol

      Oooooo, theatres, mediums, go you!

      I’ve written a novel about a social worker, but did all my research online. If I ever took that book further I guess I’d have to actually interview one though lol



  9. One aspect of college I definitely miss these days is reading literature. And then discussing it. I loved that. My favorite course of that kind was a non-fiction one. We read Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’, essays by C.S. Lewis, E.B.White, and Joan Didion, among others, and we did read the entire memoir you mentioned in your post, “Down and Out in Paris and London.” I think I would have liked to know Orwell. 🙂

    Great post!


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