Fun Facts About George Orwell
We are unashamedly all about #BannedBooksWeek at Pretty Literate lately.
From social posts to blogs, from Tik Toks to Reels, we just can't quit talking about #BannedBooksWeek, so a couple of weeks ago during a Pretty Literate LIVE when one of our Monthly Book Club Members (Hey, Rachel! 👋🏼) asked, Are you going to share about George Orwell? the answer was an enthusiastic, YES!
This is the week, Rachel, that we're sharing all about George Orwell, the featured author inside this year's classic Banned Book Box.
On Monday's Pretty Literate LIVE: the one all about George Orwell we shared tidbits & trivia gathered from the four corners of the internet because I really didn't know much about Orwell myself and I thought each little tidbit I found was insanely interesting (and I knew you would, too!).
Things like -
- What was Orwell's given name? (Did you know he wrote under a pen name?)
- Where was Orwell born?
- What are some of the odd jobs Orwell held during his writing career?
- Which title led to Orwell's fame?
During that LIVE, we had a great time centered around these (and other!) Fun Facts about George Orwell, so I wanted to continue that conversation on the Pretty Literate Blog this week, helping YOU get to know this year's featured Banned Book Box author a little better, as well.
Buckle up, Buttercup, because whether you consider yourself an Orwell aficionado or a baby-faced newbie like me, here are a few fun facts about the man behind the Most Banned Book in America of all time.
George Orwell was a pen name.
The classic author was born in 1903 and named Eric Arthur Blair by his parents, the name he went by for the first 30 years of his life. It wasn't until he published his first book (Down and Out in Paris and London) in 1933 that he chose the pen name George Orwell - a name inspired by a favorite location of his, the River Orwell in the U.K.
George Orwell was born in India.
Orwell was born in Motihari, Bengal, where his father worked as an Opium Agent in the Indian Civil Service. He was, however, a British citizen and returned with his parents to England at the age of one.
George Orwell was educated away from home.
Orwell attended a boarding prep school in Sussex beginning in 1911. His above average intelligence won him scholarships at two leading schools, both of which he attended. It was during his time at Eton (1917-1921), however, that he published his first writing (to a college periodical). And his French teacher at Eton? None other than Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World.
George Orwell held many odd jobs during his writing career.
Because Orwell sought to experience the plight of those he wrote about, he held many odd jobs during his writing career, including dishwasher, book store clerk, police officer, and teacher.
George Orwell had knuckle tattoos.
Orwell got small blue spots on each knuckle while he was a police officer in Burma (1922-1927). It is unsure whether he got them as a subtle form of rebellion to the establishment, or if he believed they would protect him against British bullets* (a Burmese tribal superstition).
*see the irony below
George Orwell was once jailed.
Orwell got himself arrested for being publicly "drunk & incapable" in order to relate better to the tramps and small time criminals that he wrote about. He recorded his experience in the unpublished essay titled Clink (August 1932).
(Read Orwell's 11-page essay titled Clink here.)
George Orwell served in two wars.
Orwell served as a soldier during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), where he was on the receiving end of a sniper's bullet in the neck. During World War 2, Orwell served as a journalist covering the war for the BBC.
George Orwell wrote both fiction and nonfiction.
At the time of his death, Orwell had published a total of 9 books - six fiction and three nonfiction. The title that led to his fame was his novella, Animal Farm (published 1945), an allegory with this message:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Lord Acton)
Orwell's final novel was 1984, published just 7 months before his untimely death.
George Orwell almost drown while writing 1984.
Orwell took his son, niece, and nephew on a boating trip to Scotland (Summer 1947) while writing his last novel, 1984, during which the boat became caught in a whirlpool and capsized. Thankfully Orwell and the children with him escaped harm, though none of them were wearing floatation devices at the time of the accident.
You can read more about the incident through Orwell's adopted son's own words here.
George Orwell coined a lot of phrases that are commonplace today.
Big Brother. Thought Police. Room 101. Newspeak. Memory hole. Doublethink. Thought crime. Cold War. All clever phrases coined in Orwell's writings.
George Orwell admired this American author.
Orwell deeply admired American author and essayist Jack London. He credited London with encouraging him to explore the poorer parts of London (which inspired the second half of his first published book, Down and Out in Paris and London, published January 1933).
George Orwell was married twice.
Orwell was married to his first wife for nine years before she tragically passed away, leaving him a widower. It was four years before he remarried, and this second marriage was tragically cut short when Orwell himself died the following year, leaving his 2nd wife a widow.
George Orwell died young.
Orwell was only 46 years old when he passed away. After being shot in the neck by a sniper during the Spanish Civil War (see above), Orwell became infected with tuberculosis while recovering in the hospital. He struggled with TB the rest of his life and it was a terrible bout with chronic tuberculosis that finally took the author's life in a London hospital bed in 1950.
What do you think?
Did you know the tidbits & trivia we shared about the Banned Book Box's featured author, George Orwell?
Does it make you want to read more? I invite you to check out the 2023 Banned Book Box, which ships the last week of September - just in time for #BannedBooksWeek delivery - a delicious way to get to know the author's last published work & participate in #BannedBooksWeek