George Orwell



Burmese Days

Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, was a police officer in Burma in the 1920's. His description of the all-day life in Kyauktada, a fictive, remote town in Burma in 1926, is convincingly realistic.

George Orwell

'George Orwell'

George Orwell, alias Eric Arthur Blair (1903 - 1950), is seen as the most significant author of the 20th century. There is more literature written on Orwell than written by him. Blair used the nowadays world famous pseydonym for he wanted to avoid his family being identified as that of the author of his writings.

There are only eight Europeans living in town, partly businessmen, partly officials. They meet frequently in the European Club, where are only white people allowed as members. They are rather uneducated, blunt and ignorant. Alcohol plays a large role in their lives, as prostitutes and rassistic attitudes do. They remind quite much to a great deal of contemporary Westerners living especially in Thailand, drinking, whoring and complaining that it would have been better if Siam/Thailand would have been a colony once.

In Burmese Days, however, the "glorious" days of the British Empire were over; it was already in decline. It's a great book about injustice and corruption and how people have to stand it, seen from both sides: the colonialists and the colonialized.


George Orwell

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in British India and died in 1950 in London. For five years (1922-1927) he was a police officer in British Burma. He quit service for reasons of disagreement with British colonial politics. That was a very altruistic decision, because he didn't have the financial means to lead an alternative life. He also had an excellent education and was a very gifted man. He doubtlessly could have made a carreer in the Imperial British Service. His intention to become a writer failed financially, although his writings were talented. He suffered long years bitter poverty and was even homeless and starving for a time. Blair also took part in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the anarchists, suffered a serious injury when getting shot through his throat. Persecuted by Stalinistic communists he left Spain.

In the Second World War Blair worked for the Indian Section of BBC's Eastern Service, creating war propaganda. In this time he collected many ideas which he expressed in his later work "1984". Although earning good money there he quit again for suffering under the strict censorship. His breakthrough as an author came 1945 with "Animal Farm", an allegory about the Russian Revolution and it's development towards a dictatorship. Most famous he became for "1984", a book about a totalitarian future of the world. Soon after it's publication he died on tuberculosis, which he caught probably in his homeless days ('Down and out in Paris and London').
In 2007 it came out that George Orwell was himself observed by Big Brother, in this case the British Secret Service MI5. That was already from 1929 on the case.
Eric Blair was a socialist. His political preference was a democratic socialism and had nothing in common with the "real existing socialism" in East Europe, what was actually a kind of state capitalism". George Orwell is counted among the most meaningful British authors.


On Pleasure

In 'Pleasure Spot', an essay published in 1946, Orwell describes modern man's taste of pleasure according to contemporary advertisements of pleasure and recreation resorts. Although it's already 70 years old, it's fascinating how up-to-date the description is. It fits nowadays very much to the Oriental taste as it does to the Western one - it's about the alienated mass people of advanced modernity:

1. One is never alone.
2. One never does anything for oneself.
3. One is never within sight of wild vegetation or natural objects of any kind.
4. Light and temperature are always artificially regulated.
5. One is never out of the sound of music.

The music-and if possible it should be the same music for everybody-is the most important ingredient. Its function is to prevent thought and conversation, and to shut out any natural sound, such as the song of birds or the whistling of the wind, that might otherwise intrude. The radio is already consciously used for this purpose by innumerable people.

The lights must never go out.
The music must always play,
Lest we should see where we are;
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the dark
Who have never been happy or good.

It is difficult not to feel that the unconscious aim in the most typical modern pleasure resorts is a return to the womb. For there, too, one was never alone, one never saw daylight, the temperature was always regulated, one did not have to worry about work or food, and one's thoughts, if any, were drowned by a continuous rhythmic throbbing.


The question only arises because in exploring the physical universe man has made no attempt to explore himself. Much of what goes by the name of pleasure is simply an effort to destroy consciousness. If one started by asking, what is man? what are his needs? how can he best express himself ? one would discover that merely having the power to avoid work and live one's life from birth to death in electric light and to the tune of tinned music is not a reason for doing so. Man needs warmth, society, leisure, comfort and security: he also needs solitude, creative work and the sense of wonder. If he recognised this he could use the products of science and industrialism eclectically, applying always the same test: does this make me more human or less human? He would then learn that the highest happiness does not lie in relaxing, resting, playing poker, drinking and making love simultaneously. And the instinctive horror which all sensitive people feel at the progressive mechanisation of life would be seen not to be a mere sentimental archaism, but to be fully justified.

For man only stays human by preserving large patches of simplicity in his life, while the tendency of many modern inventions-in particular the film, the radio and the aeroplane-is to weaken his consciousness, dull his curiosity, and, in general, drive him nearer to the animals.

Orwell, George:
'Pleasure Spots', 1946

The observation in Southeast Asia is very much that the people here play the game quite rough, and recreation all too often runs wild. The Orientals go, when escaping poverty and coming to material means, directly from a primitive state of living to decadence. They skip the level of cultivation.

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Published in October 2011

George Orwell

Last update on April 12th, 2016