George Orwell  

Monday Jan 23, 1950

  Mr. George Orwell, a writer of acute and penetrating temper and of conspicuous honesty of mind, died on Friday in hospital in London at the age of 46.   He had been a sick man for a considerable time.
  Though he made his widest appeal in the form of fiction, Orwell had a critical rather than imaginative endowment of mind and he has left a large number of finely executed essays.   In a less troubled, less revolutionary period of history he might perhaps have discovered within himself a richer and more creative power of imagination, a deeper philosophy of acceptance.   As it was he was essentially the analyst, by turns indignant, satirical, and prophetic, of an order of life and society in rapid dissolution.   The analysis is presented, to a large extent, in autobiographical terms; Orwell, it might fairly be said, lived his convictions.   Much of his early work is a direct transcription of personal experience, while the later volumes record, in expository or allegorical form, the progressive phases of his disenchantment with current social and political ideals.   the death of such a searching and sincere a writer is a very real loss.
  George Orwell, which was the name adopted by Eric Arthur Blair, was born in India in 1903 of a Scottish family, the son of Mr. R. W. Blair, who served in the
opium department of the Government of Bengal.   He was a King's Scholar at Eton, which he left in 1921, and then at the persuasion of his father, entered the Imperial Police in Burma, where he remained for five years.   After that he was, by turns, dish-washer, schoolmaster, and, bookseller's assistant.   The name he adopted comes from the river of Orwell - his parents were settled at Southwold, in Suffolk, at the time he decided upon it.   Orwell preferred to suppress his earlier novels.   "Down and Out in Paris and London," his first book, published in 1933, is a plain, observant and, for the most part, dispassionate piece of reporting, which achieves without faltering precisely what it sets out to do.   Orwell had starved in a Paris slum and in England had tramped from one casual ward to another, and the lessons of this first-hand acquaintance with poverty and destitution were never afterwards lost on him.   Although in time he grew fearful of a theoretical egalitarianism, he made no bones about the primary need of securing social justice.   In "The Road to Wigan Pier," which appeared in 1937, he described the lives of those on unemployment pay or public assistance and made his own contribution to Socialist propaganda.
  Next year he brought out his "Homage to Catalonia," an outspoken and at times impassioned account of his experience and observation as a volunteer on the Republican side of the Spanish civil war.   he had joined not the International Brigade but the militia organized by the small Catalan party - predominantly syndicalist or anarcho-syndicalist in temper - known as P.O.U.M.

  He was wounded during the fighting round Huesca.   With deepening anxiety and embitterment he had noted the fanaticism and ruthlessness of Communist attempts to secure at all costs - even at the cost of probable defeat - political ascendancy over the Republican forces.   It was from this point that his left wing convictions underwent the transformation that was eventually to be projected in "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eighty-Four."
  First. however, a few months before the outbreak of war in 1939, he published "Coming up for Air," the book which is his nearest approach to a novel proper.   It was not his first published essay in fiction.   In "Burmese Days," published five years earlier, he had written with notable insight and justice of the administration problems of the British in Burma and of the conflict of the white and native peoples, through the personal story tacked on to this treatment of his subject was weak and rather lifeless.   The book suggested clearly enough, indeed, that Orwell was something other than a novelist.   Yet, in "Coming up for Air," for all that it sought to present, in a picture of the world before 1914, a warning of the totalitarian shape of things to come, he recaptures the atmosphere of childhood with a degree of truth and tenderness that is deeply affecting.
  Here was the creative touch one sought in vain in the later books.   Rejected from the Army on medical grounds, Orwell in 1940 became a sergeant in the Home Guard.   He wrote spasmodically rather than steadily during the war years.   His picture of Britain at war, published in 1941 under the title "The Lion and the Unicorn," was a brave attempt to determine the relationship between Socialism and the English genius.   A volume consisting of three long essays, "Inside the Whale" one of which was the entertaining, if occasionally somewhat wrongheaded, study of boys' popular weeklies, preceded the appearance in 1945 of "Animal Farm."   In the guise of a fairy-tale Orwell here produced a blistering and most amusing satire on the totalitarian tyranny, as he saw it, that in Soviet Russia masqueraded as the classless society.   The book won wide and deservedly admiring notice.   In "Nineteen Eighty-Four," published early last year, the premonition of the totalitarian wrath to come had developed into a sense of fatalistic horror.   In Orwell's vision of a not too remote future in Airstrip One, the new name for Britain in a wholly totalitarian world, men had been conditioned to deny the possibility of human freedom and to will their subservience to an

omnipotent ruling hierarchy.   The book was a brave enough performance, though it fell a good way short of the highest achievement in its kind.
  Orwell married in 1933 Miss Eileen O'Shaughnessy.   She died in 1945 after an operation, and last year he married Miss Sonia Brownell, assistant editor of Horizon.