Eric Arthur Blair, best known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist who wrote two of the most famous novels of the 20th century, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Educated at Eton, he joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, then resigned in 1927 to become a full time writer. In 1928, he moved to Paris where lack of writing success forced him to take menial hotel work, which he described in his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London'. (He chose the name George Orwell shortly before its publication, taking his surname from the River Orwell in East Anglia). His powerful dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four has sold millions of copies worldwide and its terms such as "Big Brother", "doublethink" and "newspeak" became part of everyday language.
In 1946 David Astor, editor of the Observer newspaper, lent Orwell a Scottish farmhouse on the remote island of Jura, where Orwell lived when writing Nineteen-Eighty-Four. Struggling with ill-health, he used a battered Remington Home Portable typewriter, often revising and retyping entire chapters . He worked in bed, on what he called "the grisly job" of typing the manuscript on his "decrepit typewriter", kept going by chain-smoking ‘roll-up’ cigarettes, endless mugs of black coffee and strong tea, with only a foul-smelling paraffin heater to keep out the Scottish chill.
In one of his essays entitled ‘Why I write’ he famously said, "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist or understand. For all one knows that demon is the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention."
As well as his novels, Orwell’s famous six rules for writing, taken from “Politics and the English Language” have inspired writers ever since:
- 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.