Born Eric Arthur Blair, George Orwell (1903-1950) occupies a special place in 20th century literature for his dystopian, satirical contributions to literature and language. When searching for a pseudonym, he settled on George Orwell as it was a "good English name." He is best remembered for his six novels, but also wrote nonfiction narrative essays, literary reviews and journalistic articles. Orwell identified strongly with democratic socialism. Throughout his writing, themes surrounding social injustice, government and religion recur, and many of his works can be read on both a literal level and a metaphorical one. Orwell's writing was so pervasive that phrases of his creation are still used, such as the Thought Police, Doublethink, Big Brother and more. To this day, any overtly controlling regime or power is often referred to as Orwellian.
His best-known novels are Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which, along with his fourth novel Coming Up for Air (1939) almost never existed, as Orwell was shot in the throat by a sniper in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. He had already published three novels, Burmese Days (1934), A Clergyman's Daughter (1935) and Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936). Animal Farm (1945) was controversial. Using farm animals as citizens and political figures, the novel satirizes Stalinism in the years leading up to and including WWII. The book effectively highlights illogical policy and differentiation within the Communist party by having the animals divided and further subdivided based on arbitrary distinctions. The pigs rule with the promise of a utopian society for all animals if they band together to overthrow the humans. However, they soon prove corrupt, brutish and self-serving, and become the oppressors.
Orwell's dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four details the day-to- day struggles of an office worker named Winston, living in the highly-regulated super-state of Oceania. His home is a squalid apartment, outfitted with cameras and microphones transmitting his every move to the Thought Police. One of the most memorable passages of the book describes the "Two-Minute Hate" in which workers are daily brainwashed by being forced to watch footage of enemies and reaffirm their hatred before returning to work.
Nineteen Eighty-Four was first published in June of 1949. Orwell died from Tuberculosis in January of 1950. As such, while all signed copies and first editions of Orwell's books are very collectible, signed copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four are extremely rare and highly sought-after.