Orwell: The Life
D. J. Taylor
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In the last fifty years, Animal Farm and 1984 have sold over forty million copies, and "Orwellian" is now a byword for a particular way of thinking about life, literature, and language. D. J. Taylor's magisterial assessment cuts through George Orwell's iconic status to reveal a bitter critic who concealed a profound totalitarian streak and whose progress through the literary world of the 1930s and 1940s was characterized by the myths he built around himself. But whether as reluctant servant of the Raj in 1920s Burma, mock down-and-outer in Paris and London, or Spanish Civil War soldier, the circumstances of his life are sharply at odds with the image Orwell so effectively stage-managed.
Drawing on previously unseen material, Orwell is a strikingly human portrait of the writer too often embalmed as a secular saint. This is the biography we have been waiting for-as vibrant, powerful, and resonant as its extraordinary subject.
have been in any doubt as to whom or what Orwell was referring. The letter brought a polite but indignant response from Raymond Mortimer (‘what you say is not quite true’) who had not had the full circumstances of the case explained to him by his editor. Persuaded that Orwell had been censored on grounds of policy, Mortimer had the grace to apologise. Although Orwell did not sever all relations with it, and subsequently reviewed for the paper on several occasions, immediate olive branches were
interest in Gissing, see Peter Morton, ‘Allusions to Gissing in the Complete Works of George Orwell’, Gissing Journal, xxxvi, no.1, 25–9, January 2000. For Avril’s memory of the remark about his temperature, see ‘My Brother, George Orwell’, Coppard/Crick, 31. On the departure from Jura, Wadhams, 201–2. 18. Endgame For the train journey south, see Rees, 151. Warburg’s memorandum is reproduced in CW, XIX: 478–81. For Farrar’s reaction, ibid., 482. On the plan to adapt Nineteen Eighty-Four for the
Voice, nature of 103–4 Women, attitude to 124–5, 152–3, 320, 362–5 Working classes, attitude to 181–2, 308 WORKS A Clergyman’s Daughter, 15, 19, 57, 115, 117, 121, 125, 131, 135, 136, 137–41, publication and reception of, 156, 163, 186, 293, 318, 377, 380 ‘A Day in the Life of a Tramp’, 95 ‘A Farthing Newspaper’, 95 ‘A Hanging’, 78, 79, 331 ‘A Happy Vicar I Might Have Been’, 15, 191 ‘A Smoking-Room Story’, 411 Animal Farm, 144, 319, origins of 322–3, composition of 327–8, 332–3, path
between these high-water marks there have been studies of Orwell’s fiction, of the intellectual climate in which his books were published and received, further reminiscences and dissections of the ‘Orwell myth’. This is a well-trodden path, and the scenery can be distressingly familiar. Writing once to a woman to whom Orwell had diffidently proposed marriage in 1946, I got back a letter which amongst other information listed the seven previous researchers who had come to interview her. What more
life were steadily reasserting themselves. He made a start on what was to become The Road to Wigan Pier, and wrote to Cyril Connolly asking him and his wife Jean to stay. Keep the Aspidistra Flying finally appeared on 20 April 1936. Receipt of the complimentary copies brought a good example of Orwell’s curious delicacy. Having sent a copy to Mrs Meade, his hostess in Manchester, he followed it up with a nervous letter to Rees, who he knew to be staying in the north on Adelphi business. Could Rees