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"Nineteen Eighty-Four" revealed George Orwell as one of the twentieth century's greatest mythmakers. While the totalitarian system that provoked him into writing it has since passed into oblivion, his harrowing cautionary tale of a man trapped in a political nightmare has had the opposite fate: its relevance and power to disturb our complacency seem to grow decade by decade. In Winston Smith's desperate struggle to free himself from an all-encompassing, malevolent state, Orwell zeroed in on tendencies apparent in every modern society, and made vivid the universal predicament of the individual.
George Orwell (pseudonym of Eric Blair [1903-50]) was born in Bengal and educated at Eton; after service with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, he returned to Europe to earn his living penning novels and essays. He was essentially a political writer who focused his attention on his own times, a man of intense feelings and fierce hates. An opponent of totalitarianism, he served in the Loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. He was critical of communism, but considered himself a socialist. He hated intellectuals, although he was a literary critic. He despised cant, lying, and cruelty in life and in literature. Upon his death, he left behind a growing reputation for greatness and a substantial body of work that bore out his conviction that modern man was inadequate to cope with the demands of his history.