Tag Archives: satirical novels

George Orwell 1903 – 1950

12 Sep

George Orwell

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

George Orwell

George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair (no relation to Lionel), but he changed it because Blairian sounds like a sub-standard soft rock band from the early 80s. He was a writer and journalist who coined the term ‘Orwellian’ which is used to describe authoritarian societies such as Oceania in Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and North Korea. He didn’t like pigs.

He was born in Motihari, India and then his mother moved them to Henley-on Thames when he was a small boy.  He attended St Cyprian’s Boarding School in Eastbourne, which he hated, and then attended Wellington while waiting for his place at Eton where, when finally getting there, he was taught French by Aldous Huxley (minus the LSD). He did pretty shoddily at school (Eton shmeaton) so instead of going on to University (which was too expensive anyway) he joined the Imperial Police in Burma, now officially called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. They have never won an Olympic medal.

To cut a long story short (it was a long story), he was posted to various places around India, but while on leave in England he decided to sack it off and become a writer in London. Living the dream, George, li-ving-the-dream. He lived in London long enough for them to commemorate his dwelling with a blue plaque on Portobello Road. Nice. I live in Royal Leamington Spa where we have some blue plaques of our own, the most exciting one being for John Ruskin who “lodged” here in 1841.

In 1928 Orwell moved to Paris which inspired him to write ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’. This title might give away the fact that his time in Paris wasn’t all Moulin Rouge and berets, and his writing career didn’t take off as planned. Like all brilliant writers through the decades he did a lot of crap jobs for mouldy cheese, cheap booze and the pong of failure.

Then he came back to Britain and did a bit of this and that, blah, blah, blah. Oh, he also did some teaching. This was his least exciting period.

In 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight as a Republican against the Nationalists, but was forced to flee for his life from the Russian communists. Haven’t we all. While there he was shot in the throat by a sniper and miraculously survived, although I bet it stung like billy-o. There is a square named after him in Barcelona. You know you’ve made it when they name something after you. For me maybe a rose, or a library, or a blunderbuss!

The facts that can’t be disputed in court:

  • Born 25th June 1903 (Cancer = moody, unsympathetic pain in the bum)
  • Attended Eton school
  • Wrote books and articles and stuff
  • Married to Eileen O’Shaughnessy from June 1936 until her death in March 1945
  • He had one adopted son, Richard Blair with Eileen
  • Married to Sonia Brownell in Oct 1949
  • He died in Jan 1950 of tuberculosis

The books:

The best place to go for your literary “in-joke” clobber is Redbubble. I particularly like this Nineteen Eighty-Four slogan t-shirt.

In 1941 Orwell started working for the BBC, countering propaganda from the Nazis.  It was okay, but he quit and went on to become the literary editor of the ‘Tribune’ (a left-wing magazine) where he wrote book reviews and had the best job ever. He also spent this time writing Animal Farm which was based on the Russian Revolution and was inspired by his time in the Spanish Civil war.  It has a pig in it called Napoleon. Not wanting to give anything away, but poor, poor Boxer. Sob.

He then wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four and died.

Both Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm appear in Time magazine’s 100 English language books of all time (since 1923) and the BBC’s Big Read list which cites the top 200 books voted for by the public (Terry Pratchett appears on it 14 times, just so you know).

I have a Nineteen Eighty-Four mug.

You can join The Orwell Society for a mere £20 per year. DO IT!

In summary, he wrote some marvellous stuff and was a pretty awesome guy.

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Evelyn Waugh 1903 – 1966

7 Jun

Evelyn Waugh

All this fuss about sleeping together. For physical pleasure I’d sooner go to my dentist any day

– Evelyn Waugh

 

Arthur Evelyn St. John (pronounced Sinjun because we Brits think we’re so very clever and have the right to laugh at people behind bejewelled hands and mocking smiles, with eyes that sing laughter but spell contempt) Waugh was an author and journalist. Of course he was an author, that’s the whole point of the blog. The clue’s in the title. It would be slightly weird if I started writing about Hitler. I know he was an author too but let’s face it, it wasn’t his main job. Not that I’m in any way comparing Waugh to Hitler, but they were both fascist and liked plaid.

Waugh was also a teacher, painter and *candlestick maker, but we don’t like to talk about it.

He was best known for writing satirical novels i.e. he liked to take the piss. Some of his most famous works are Decline and Fall, which was made into a film in 1968 called ‘Decline and Fall….of a Birdwatcher’ (sounds like bad porn to me, and a paltry 5.3 stars on IMDB probably confirms that) and Vile Bodies which was made into a film by Stephen Fry entitled Bright Young Things (the novel’s original title). I challenge anyone to find anyone who doesn’t love Stephen Fry like a favourite gay uncle. He could fart in a cinema and no one would judge him; we’d probably love him even more for his humility.

Waugh’s magnum opus (as described by him) was Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder. He wasn’t exactly modest, but it was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 English language novels since 1926 and the Modern Library ranked it at number 80 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, so I think he deserved to kiss his own backside a little. He was a frenetic socialite too, so he probably had a queue of flunkies puckering up for the job.

If you don’t have time to read all these novels then Brideshead Revisited was made into an eleven part BBC TV Drama in 1981 starring the marvellous Jeremy Irons, and because Evelyn and I both love a top 100, it was placed 10th on a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes compiled by the British Film Institute, AND  it was in Time Magazine’s list of the 100 best TV shows of all-time. Kazam! It also got 8.3 stars on IMDB, so I’ve just ordered it on Amazon for £9.83.

Here are your EW facts, with absolutely no made up stuff whatsoever:

  • He was born in 1903 in London; the capital of England, and the most visited of the European cities. In your face Ljubljana
  • He had red hair and you can buy a t-shirt confirming this
  • He was educated at Lancing College and Oxford
  • His first wife was called Evelyn Gardner. Indeed! She had an affair which ended the marriage, proving that it’s not always the fellas that can’t keep their socks on the right feet
  • His second wife, Laura Herbert, was Evelyn Gardner’s cousin
  • He converted to Catholicism in 1930. Best not to mock the churchys
  • He died in 1966 in Somerset; birthplace of Cheddar cheese and Jeffrey Archer. I’m toppling over with facts-within-facts today. Isn’t learning fun!

He wrote loads of books. See ridiculously elongated list below:

1928   Decline and Fall

1930   Vile Bodies

1932   Black Mischief

1934   A Handful of Dust

1938   Scoop

1942   Put Out More Flags

1945   Brideshead Revisited

1947   Scott-King’s Modern Europe

1948   The Loved One

1950   Helena

1952   Men at Arms

1953   Love Among The Ruins

1954   Tactical Exercise

1955   Officers and Gentlemen

1957   The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold

These are only his works of fiction (the word prolific wouldn’t be an exaggeration). He also wrote lots of factual work about his travels and interests and plenty of short stories. I won’t name them here but I’m sure they’re wonderful.

If you would like to learn more about Evelyn Waugh then please read this charming interview in the Paris Review. The interviewer meets Waugh in the hallway of the Hyde Park Hotel, then when they go to his room Waugh pops on his PJs, lights a cigar and crawls into bed.  I would like to conduct all business in that way, however there’s only one job where you get to meet clients while in bed, and even though it’s one of the oldest professions, I feel it might be career limiting and a bit sticky.

Here is the Evelyn Waugh Society website, of which membership is $30 (or about 25 quid).  I think that gets you the privilege of being able to say “I’m a member of the Evelyn Waugh Society, what what”, and not much else.

*There is no evidence to suggest that he was a candlestick maker

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