George Orwell

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Overview

Gordon Bowker's biography includes material which brings the writer's life into unfamiliar focus. Bowker writes revealingly about Orwell's family background, the lasting influence of Eton on his work and character, his superstitious streak and youthful flirtation with black magic, and his chaotic and reckless sex life, which included at least one homoerotic relationship. It highlights the strange circumstances of his first marriage and provides evidence of his experiences in Spain and their nightmarish consequences. It also offers a fresh look at his peculiar deathbed marriage to a woman 15 years his junior.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This biography is the best of the many since Orwell’s death…In all his complex contradictions, Orwell comes to energetic life.”  —Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
An outstanding, if somewhat superfluous, account of "one of the great misfits of his generation."With Jeffrey Meyers's recent Orwell (2000) on most library shelves, it's hard to see the need for yet another comprehensive biography. But English literary biographer Bowker (Through the Dark Labyrinth, 1997, etc.) is determined to leave no stone unturned in flushing out the artful political writer's emotional life, especially the distressing contradiction between his public honesty and his private furtiveness. The avid Orwellian will soon be won over by Bowker's amiable prose and thorough familiarity with his subject's milieu. While the text is long, it moves swiftly from Eric Blair's "golden age" growing up in Edwardian Oxfordshire through the dreadful St. Cyprian's boarding school (immortalized in the essay "Such, Such Were the Joys") to Orwell's puzzling yet life-defining five-year service as a policeman in colonial Burma. (Emma Larkin's Finding George Orwell in Burma, p. 403, offers superb treatment of this period.) The author authoritatively traces the evolution of "George Orwell" through Blair's repudiation of his colonial bourgeois roots (Down and Out in Paris and London), the forging of his socialist conscience (The Road to Wigan Pier) and his deep suspicion of Soviet communism (Homage to Catalonia) toward the prophetic clarity of his political perception (Animal Farm, 1984). As well, Bowker provides excellent historical context and a nice sense of the personalities involved. He does not attempt to gloss over Orwell's less savory qualities, acknowledging the writer's misogyny and recently exposed tendency to "pounce" on undefended women. The final chapter takes an intriguing look athow Orwell's work was posthumously co-opted to serve the right-wing Cold War cause due to the naivete of Sonia Brownell, the bride he took virtually on his deathbed in 1949. No matter how many incursions are made into his life, the compelling fascination of this politically and morally crucial author always comes through.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780349115511
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 495
  • Sales rank: 980,938
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Gordon Bowker has written highly acclaimed biographies of Malcolm Lowry (a New York Times Recommended Book of the Year) and Lawrence Durrell, and articles and reviews for the Observer, the Sunday Times, the New York Times and the Times Literary Supplement.
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Table of Contents

Preface xi
1 The Inheritance 1
2 'The Golden Age' 13
3 Pathos and Nightmare 28
4 'Absorbing Wisdom Unawares' 51
5 'The Pain of Exile' 75
6 Picking up the Thread 96
7 Getting a Footing 116
8 The Invention of George Orwell 134
9 Tory Anarchist Meets James Joyce 154
10 Journeys of Discovery 180
11 The Spanish Betrayal 201
12 The Road to Morocco 228
13 One Character in Search of a War 253
14 War of Words 281
15 Tribune of the People 304
16 The Dark Side of Solitude 323
17 The Man Who Loved Islands 348
18 The Nightmare and the Novel 366
19 The End of the Beginning 391
20 Life After Death 419
Notes 435
Bibliography 470
Acknowledgements 472
Index 475
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