Cover image for Inside George Orwell
Inside George Orwell
Bowker, Gordon, 1934-
Personal Author:
First Palgrave Macmillan edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvi, 495 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6029.R8 Z5893 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PR6029.R8 Z5893 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Big Brother, Newspeak, Room 101, Doublethink. Few writers can boast the brilliant legacy of George Orwell, both in his numerous additions to the English language and in his profound influence on world literature. This book attempts to bring to life the man behind the words. It explores the influence of his childhood and Eton education, his experience as a policeman in Burma, his deliberate plunge into poverty and his experiences in the Spanish Civil War in the creation of the consciousness of the man who produced Animal Farm and 1984. The book includes new material on Orwell's complex and sometimes reckless sex life, new evidence of his being hunted and spied on in Spain, his paranoia about possible assassination, the strange circumstances of his first marriage and his deathbed wedding to a woman fifteen years his junior. This new material enables this biographer to cast new light on Orwell, the inner man, as well as on Orwell, the great author.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bowker's centenary biography is the best of the many since Orwell's death at 46, of tuberculosis, in 1950. Whether in memorable essays on contemporary culture or in novels in which the bleak Orwellian landscape remains consistently familiar, George Orwell-born Eric Blair-was a moral conscience of his age. He seemed to forget nothing of his experiences, exploiting them vividly and imaginatively, and the texture of his childhood, adolescence and young manhood, as well as their impact upon his writing, has never been better or more fully told. An Etonian who slipped social caste to become a policeman in colonial Burma; a tramp in London and a dishwasher in Paris; a radical, soon-wounded volunteer in the Spanish Civil War-he never made a living until, as a medical misfit during WWII, he wrote for the BBC: his education in bureaucracy. But he needed none of that, he explained, to understand the fragility of human decency. "The brutal side of public-school life, which intellectuals always deprecate," he explained, "is not a bad training for the real world." Bowker, biographer of Malcolm Lowry and Lawrence Durrell, has a retentive eye for striking Orwellisms, and one can have no more effective model for lucid prose than the writer of "Politics and the English Language." Orwell's life also never lacked drama. Rarely a deskbound author, he always pushed himself beyond his limits. Dying by degrees, he ignored the symptoms of tuberculosis recklessly, even scratching out a living on a desolate island in the Hebrides that had nearly no amenities. Finally, he wed his long-lusted-for second wife at his hospital deathbed, having promised her a wealthy and famous widowhood. In all his complex contradictions, Orwell comes to energetic life. Illus. (For another life of the author of 1984, see Orwell by D.J. Taylor, reviewed on p. 269.) (Oct. 30) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This centenary year of George Orwell's birth has produced two major British biographies following lives by Bernard Crick (1980), Michael Shelden (1991), and Jeffrey Meyers (2000). Bowker (Pursued by Furies) covers the now-familiar terrain of Orwell's short life in fascinating-and sometimes controversial-detail. What emerges is the "human face of Orwell," as Bowker explores Orwell's complicated sexuality and womanizing, his persistent practice of deception, and his strong prejudices. He also assesses the impact that chronic illness had on Orwell's life and writings. As for new revelations, Bowker claims several: the influence of Orwell's early Catholic education, his obsession with black magic, his illicit liaisons in Burma, and a long-running affair with an early girlfriend. Finally, Bowker expands on new evidence about the Soviet pursuit of Orwell during the Spanish Civil War and Orwell's subsequent collaboration with the British Foreign Office in World War II (when he allegedly "named names" of Communist sympathizers). In Orwell, Taylor (Thackeray) fills in some gaps of his own-chiefly through the unpublished writings of Orwell's friends and contemporaries. Starting with a moving description of Orwell's funeral in 1950, Taylor vividly presents the years in India, the "down and out" adventures, fighting in Spain, Orwell's work with the BBC during the war, and his final great novels. Taylor breaks the chronological flow with nine brief, interpretive essays (e.g., on Orwell's face, voice, and paranoia). While light on literary analysis of Orwell's writings, Taylor's book is a fresh and compelling life of the man he calls "a light glinting in the darkness." Bowker and, to a lesser extent, Taylor each make understanding the life of this "secular priest" a lot easier. Both biographies are highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The centennial of Orwell's birth sees publication of two new biographies--D.J. Taylor's Orwell: The Life (2003) and the present volume. Bowker--biographer of Malcolm Lowry (Pursued by Furies, CH, Mar'96) and Lawrence Durrell (Through the Dark Labyrinth, 1997)--notes three previous major biographies of Orwell: Bernard Crick's George Orwell (CH, Jul'81), Michael Shelden's Orwell: The Authorized Biography (CH, Apr'92), and Jeffrey Meyers' Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation (2000). Though Orwell requested in his will that no biography of him be written, his interesting life, personality, and association with major social and political movements of the 20th century account for the interest in him. Benefiting (as did Shelden and Meyers) from the 20-volume Complete Works of George Orwell (1986; reprinted, 1997), Bowker's biography includes new material on Orwell's relationships with women and his experiences in Spain and provides interesting viewpoints on the effect of Orwell's environment on his writing. Whether there is enough new material to justify another major biography of Orwell might be questioned, but Bowker's work is a competent, well-researched, and thorough look at the man born Eric Blair and read and remembered as George Orwell. ^BSumming Up: Optional. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. H. Benoist Our Lady of the Lake University of San Antonio

Table of Contents

""The Golden Age""]
Pathos and Nightmare
""Absorbing Wisdom Unawares""
""The Pain of Exile""
Picking up the Thread
Getting a Footing
The Invention of George Orwell
Tory Anarchist Meets James Joyce
Journeys of Discovery
The Spanish Betrayal
The Road to Morocco
One Character in Search of a War
War of Words
Tribune of The People
The Dark Side of Solitude
The Man Who Loved Islands
The Nightmare and the Novel
The End of the Beginning
Life after Death