Orwell: the Transformation
by Peter Stansky & William Abrahams
Published by Constable and Company Limited
London, UK. 1979
This book tells the story of how a self-absorbed minor novelist with little
or no interest in politics became an important writer with a view and a mission
and a message. It covers the period of four crucial years in the life of Eric
Blair, novice writer, which transformed him into George Orwell as we think
of him today.
The first book bearing the pseudonym 'George Orwell', Down and out in
London and Paris
, was published at the start of this period, and three
other novels followed in very quick succession., But their author in no way
became George Orwell
until almost the end of these years. Political
fervour and conviction were entirely absent from all these books; and one
of the fascinating things to emerge from Peter Stansky's and William Abrahams's
important study is how politically ignorant Orwell was, for how long.
Once he had begun to travel, he moved fast. In early 1935 he went north,
commissioned by Victor Gollancz to report on the conditions among miners and
the unemployed: he returned two months later, a political polemicist, to
write The road to Wigan Pier
. His political education, however, was
far from complete. A few months later, armoured in the belief that he was
fighting for 'honour and decency', he set off for Barcelona to join the forces
of the Left. That shattering experience transformed him into the man who
would write Homage to Catalonia, Animal farm,
This period was important to Eric Blair/George Orwell in other ways too.
He met the lovely and spirited woman he was to marry; he resumed lapsed friendships
with fellow-Old Etonians in the literary world; and he learnt that he could
support himself by what he wrote. The authors, drawing on Orwell's work and
on interviews with those who knew him at the time, discuss these crucial four
years in affectionate but by no means uncritical detail; revealing the growth
and unfolding genius of one of the major writers of our time.
and William Abrahams
are authors of The
(a study of Eric Blair from his birth in 1903 through Eton,
The Imperial Police in Burma, and his down-and-out days in Paris and London).
Together with The Unknown Orwell
and Journey to the frontier
(whose subject was John Cornford and Julian Bell), the publication of Orwell:
completes the authors' original purpose - a study of
three British writers of the early 1930s, and the reasons for their involvement
in the Spanish Civil War.
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