Tomorrow, June 25, 2015, marks the 112th celebration of the birth of Eric Blair. Blair was a simple man who went on to become a famous author - known to the world as George Orwell.
Orwell wrote a number of pieces of literature. However, he is most famous for two - the satirical tale entitled Animal Farm, and one of the greatest Dystopian novels ever written - 1984.
Oh George, we hardly knew you
It should be noted up front that Orwell died in 1950, at the ripe old age of 46. Heck, 46? That was almost ten years ago in my age continuum. Suddenly I feel old, almost useless. But I'm sure that will pass.
Had he lived another ten years there is no telling of what he may have written next. Was he good for another two, maybe three books? If he would have lived to, say, 66 - what could he have accomplished with an additional 20 years?
Many of us read Orwell in School
One of my neighbors groaned when I told her I was writing a new novel; something similar to 1984 I mentioned. "Oh dear God," she moaned. "I had to read that one in high school." I could describe her face to you, recalling the novel from her younger days. But we all remember the expression of our classmates, assigned some obscure piece of literature our teachers assured us was Classic. "Yeah, right, we all answered. "Classically boring."
In my school, back in the mid-70s, it was Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. As a side note, some of us read 1984 for fun. I still recall starting Solzhenitsyn's dark classic. I was just sure I was going to hate every word of it. And at first, I did. But only because I told myself it was a terrible book.
And then something odd happened
I must be honest; seventeen-year-old me loved the dark dystopian (and very real) world of the mid to late 50s Soviet penal system. At least I loved the author's engrossing, gripping description of it - and his life inside the Gulag (Russian for prison). It takes a special talent to describe to a person a sunny day in a dull and oppressive gray world. While the novel ebbs and flows your spirits sink, knowing our protagonist is always in peril.
Orwell created a whole new world for 1984. Most of my reading friends marvel at how people like George RR Martin did this with Game of Thrones. Let me fill you in on a little secret, brother (or sister): authors, great authors, have been doing this for centuries.
Dickens, and Tolkien, and Lewis - oh my!
Many of us toil nowadays, attempting to create something as magnificent as 1984, Tale of Two Cities, The Hobbitt, or even The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Most of us, almost a guaranteed 100% of us, will fall short. But that shouldn't stop us from trying.
Orwell (Blair) wrote under a pen name because he was sure no one would buy anything written by Eric Blair. Legend has it that the first title to his classic was 1980 - because he planned on finishing it in 1940. From there it changed to 1982, finally settling on 1984. None of this deterred the man from his goal of writing this new form of literature. And I thank God for that. To this day it is one of my all-time favorite reads.
So Happy Birthday - George Orwell. May your unique brand of writing live on for centuries to come. Always available to torture poor school children, those lucky kids.
Until next week, here is the link to the Amazon page for Animal Farm. Give it a try!
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