George Orwell was a famous English novelist, journalist, essayist and critic. Long after his writing days, his lucid works are still known to address issues like societal injustices, democratic socialism and totalitarianism. Orwell, who is also famous for writing the widely-read allegorical novel Animal Farm also has to his name, a good number of fictions and non-fiction works, poetry and polemical journalism.
His works which strongly support democratic socialism, are known to influence various political cultures, hence, the term “Orwellian” came into use to describe a societal situation that totally destroys the welfare of a free and open society. Decades after the death of the critic, his works still remain prevalent both in the literary world and in the world’s political system. Here are some facts to know about George Orwell.
5 Surprising Facts About George Orwell
1. George Orwell is his pen name
It may sound quite surprising for many readers of George Orwell’s books to realise that the name which he is widely known with is not his real name but just a pen name. The writer is among the many notable people whose pseudonyms entirely overshadowed their real name. Orwell’s real name is Eric Arthur Blair. He was born June 25, 1903, into what he describes as a lower-upper-middle class family resident in Motihari, Bihar, British India. Being born when India was still part of the British Empire, Eric could be described as a British citizen.
The writer chose the name George Orwell in honour of the River Orwell located in Suffolk, England. He also thought that the name would be more accepted than his original name. Before settling for his pen name, George considered using names like Charles Chaplin, H. Lewis Allways, Kenneth Miles and PS Burton.
2. He was a prankster
The English novelist is one of the many famous personalities whose childhood exploits are a far cry from their adult personalities. The Motihari native is known not only for making fun of his fellow classmates but his teachers as well. Even his performance report in school suggested that he cared less about his academics.
Orwell was first sent to a convent in Henley-on-Thames before he was transferred to St Cyprian’s School, Eastbourne, East Sussex. Although he never liked the school, he studied there for five years and to express how much he disliked the school, he wrote an essay which he entitled “Such, Such Were the Joys” and in it, he bared his mind about the school proprietors attitude towards the students. He also described the institution as expensive and snobbish. Unfortunately, this essay was not published until eighteen years after his death on January 21, 1950.
Moreso, while Orwell was studying at a crammer school, he was expelled for attaching a dead rat to his birthday message to the town surveyor. Even while he was at Eton College, Orwell made a name for himself when he wrote a song about his school’s housemaster John Crace. The lyrics of the song had him mocking her appearance and penchant for Italian art.
3. George Orwell was an atheist
Although he held on to Christian traditions and morals, especially that of the church of England, George Orwell rarely believed in the existence of God. On the other hand, he believed in black magic. He even had his knuckles tattooed with small blue circles just to wade off bad luck.
4. He volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War
Like many with leftist learnings, Orwell got himself involved in the Spanish Civil War and at that time, fascism was widely spread across Europe. He joined to fight the widespread of fascism under republican militia. While fighting, he received a sniper shot on his neck but he survived it. He later detailed his experience during the war in his book titled Homage to Catalonia.
5. He had many mistresses
We know that George Orwell was married twice with his first wife being Eileen Blair (1936–1945) and his second, Sonia Orwell (1949-1950). However, when he gained fame, he turned out to be quite a womanizer, having many female friends, lovers and friends with benefits. His wives, especially Eileen, cared less basically because they were having an open marriage. Despite his multiple relationships, he never had a child of his own, not because he was proven sterile medically, but he always thought himself as one. When he was still married to Eileen, they both adopted a baby boy who they named Richard Horatio Blair. Orwell also has a goat he adored so much, he named the goat Muriel.