Remembering George Orwell
1903, June 25. - 1950, January 21.

Stansky - Unknown Orwell
The Unknown Orwell
by Peter Stansky & William Abrahams
Published by Constable and Company Limited
London, UK. 1972
Advance Review Copy

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, and 1984.

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.

Peter Stansky and William Abrahams are authors of The Unknown Orwell (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: the transformation 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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