Saturday, 27 June 2009

Political Prophet

The name George Orwell is synonymous with political criticism owing to his two uber famous novels: the satirical Animal Farm and the dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four. He was a journalist, a literary critic, and a Democratic socialist who loathed totalitarianism and was not afraid to say it. He believed that nothing is mightier than the word and that language, when used right can be the most powerful weapon against mankind.

His immense contribution to the English language continues to inspire and school writers. What young writer has not come across Orwell’s six rules of effective writing, used them and never looked back? I sure have. The lexicon he developed for his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four has entered the English language and become a part of our everyday speech. It is said that Orwell was the first to use the term ‘cold war’ in his essay You and the Atomic Bomb.

Eric Arthur Blair’s persona was quite the opposite of what his books and essays portrayed. His alter ego, the one he named George Orwell and unleashed onto the world was the most outspoken critic of the Second World War. Who believed in bringing the truth to the people no matter how harsh it may be and set out to do it. But the person behind this tough, injustice-fighting machine was a shy man. Eric Arthur Blair was a man who although spent most of his short-lived life fighting for the common man he didn’t really mix with any and always kept to himself.

He contracted tuberculosis, which forced him to write from the confinement of his hospital room. The most vivid memory the hospital staff recall of Orwell is the sound of typewriter keys resonating in the hallways all through the night. While his body was fighting for survival, his mind was engaged in an image of the future. A bleak image that he managed to paint using innovative word choice and unparalleled imagination. At first glance Nineteen Eighty-Four may seem like a science fiction novel but the political satire and Orwell’s message to future generations is unmistakable. Although it was published in 1949 many of its elements are still relevant to this day, people take head of growing government powers for you will be the ultimate sacrifice.

Orwell wrote from a hospital bed, Blair got married in one. Two very different people living in the same body. This body took its last breath on the 21st of January 1950. One soul lives on through its passionate, influential work and the other lives on in the heart of the son it left behind. And although Orwell was gone too the tombstone carries an epitaph that simply reads: "Here lies Eric Arthur Blair, born 25 June 1903, died 21 January 1950" as if to say he never really left us.

This piece was published in The Gulf Today Newspaper on June 27, 2009.

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