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Description - George Orwell by Gordon Bowker

George Orwell was one of the greatest writers England produced in the last century. He left an enduring mark on our language and culture, with concepts such as 'Big Brother' and 'Room 101.' His reputation rests not only on his political shrewdness and his sharp satires (Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four) but also on his marvellously clear style and superb essays, which rank with the best ever written. Gordon Bowker's new biography, written to coincide with Orwell's centenary, includes fascinating new material which brings his life into unfamiliar focus. He 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 remarkable new evidence of his experiences in Spain and their nightmarish consequences. It also offers a fresh look at his peculiar deathbed marriage to a woman fifteen years his junior. All this has enabled Bowker to give Orwell's life a brilliantly fresh and distinctive interpretation.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349115511
ISBN-10: 0349115516
Format: Paperback
(196mm x 126mm x 34mm)
Pages: 512
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 1-Apr-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - George Orwell by Gordon Bowker

Book Reviews - George Orwell by Gordon Bowker

UK Kirkus Review » George Orwell, one of the most significant literary icons of the 20th century, was, as Gordon Bowker says in this exceptionally detailed biography, a man haunted by nightmares: the guilt of childhood sin (he believed he had killed another boy through black magic while at Eton); the guilt of working as a high-handed repressive colonial during his years as a policeman in Burma; and the nightmare of rock-bottom poverty lived through in his first novel Down and Out in Paris and London. The best-known - and also the best - books, Animal Farm and 1984, are an odd mixture of high Tory values and fundamentalist Marxism. Like him or not, Orwell's is an endlessly fascinating character, and any readers who want to understand the complex man behind his strange and often marvellous books will have to read this biography, which though flawed in parts is a remarkable work of psychological insight and completely compelling to read. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » 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 at how 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. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Gordon Bowker

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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