Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Happy birthday, George Orwell!

Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell (June 15, 1903-January 21, 1950), would have turned 111 today. He is of course best known for his much-read and much-quoted masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, which depicts the bleak, anti-individualist dystopian state of Big Brother and the Thought Police, and for Animal Farm, the farmyard allegory of communist collapse.

Like our last birthday boy, William Shakespeare, Orwell is also responsible for the introduction of a variety of new vocabulary into English. He is credited with coining “cold war,” “Big Brother,” “thought police,” and “Room 101,” among others. 

Considering that much of his life was spent in poverty and ill health, it is something of a miracle that in only forty-six years George Orwell managed to publish ten books and two collections of essays.

Last year, celebrating Orwell’s 110th birthday, Dutch artists Front404 drew attention to today’s Orwellian surveillance by decorating CCTV cameras in Utrecht’s city center…with cheery party hats. The stunt was a viral online success, but we’ve yet to hear if it’s been repeated this year. 

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