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George Orwell

George Orwell

George Orwell: Spanish Civil War & WWII

Orwell was excited when Britain entered World War II in 1939, hoping that the war would convert more people to socialism. He volunteered for military service but was rejected because of his poor health. Instead, he contributed to the war effort at the BBC, where he was hired in 1941 to produce propaganda radio programs to be broadcast in India. He worked there for two years but eventually grew frustrated with the BBC, which he described as a cross between "a girls' school and a lunatic asylum."8 He quit in 1943 and became the literary editor of the Tribune, a weekly left-wing newspaper where he wrote book reviews and a weekly column called "As I Please."

This was a difficult period in his personal life. His mother died in 1943. In June 1944 he and his wife Eileen adopted a baby boy whom they named Richard Horatio Blair. That very same month, a German bomb landed in their London neighborhood. No one in the family was injured, but their home was damaged so badly they were forced to move. Then in March 1945, Eileen O'Shaughnessy died unexpectedly during a hysterectomy operation. Following his wife's death, Orwell raised their son alone with the help of his younger sister Avril.

In August 1945, five months after his wife's death, Orwell published the novel he had finished the previous year. Animal Farm was an allegory of a totalitarian state—Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union, in particular—in which a barnyard uprising against the animals' human caretakers soon devolves into corruption and oppression. It was, he wrote, "the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole."9 Its publication was delayed because English publishers were afraid of offending the Soviet Union, Britain's wartime ally in fighting against Nazi Germany, and also because a Soviet spy working in the Ministry of Information found some success in suppressing it. Once the book was finally published, however, it found both commercial and critical success.

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