Peter Stansky

Warts And All

Orwell: The Life

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George Orwell

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Little, Brown 512pp £20 order from our bookshop

GEORGE ORWELL WAS born on 25 June 1903. To mark the event there are two new biographies as well as several planned television programmes and a conference in Boston. It is one examvle of how fiction usually triumphs over fact that the events of this year are not a patch on what marked 1984, although there was less biographical attention that year. As Orwell was so much an autobiographical writer and knew so many literary figures from the 1930s on, many of the studies of him that appeared in the first two decades after his death in 1950 had biographical aspects, but the first strictly biographcal study was probably The Unknown Orwell (1972), which I wrote jointly with William Abrahams. (It is indicative of Gordon Bowker’s rather cavalier attitude to facts that he gets some of them wrong: William Abrahams was not an academic, and the second volume, Orwell: The Transformation, was not published until 1979.) In our books, we had no interest in going beyond the Spanish Civil War, which we felt put the finishing touches to the creation of ~eor5~rwee ll. Because of her anger at us, Orwell’s widow, Sonia, responded by authorising Bernard Crick to write a full-length life (to her ultimate regret), which appeared in 1980. Michael Sheldon’s followed in 1991, then Jeffrey Meyers’s in 2000: approximately one a decade. Now the pace has accelerated.

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