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16 Things You Didn't Know About George Orwell

Readers across the globe revere George Orwell - and for good reason. He wrote some of the most important books of the 20th century, including Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. He had a knack for identifying the ways governments over-reached and the term Orwellian was invented in honor of his writing. 

But beyond the writing, who was George Orwell? This quick George Orwell biography gives some pretty surprising insights into the personal life of the amazing writer and thinker. For example, he changed his name  and just wrote under the name George Orwell. Check out these George Orwell facts to learn all the fascinating and strange details of his extraordinary life.

  • He Wrote Under a Pen Name

    Photo: Abee5 / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Just to clear things up right away, George Orwell isn't actually George Orwell. Eric Blair just used George Orwell as his pen name. After returning from Ipswich, through which the Orwell River runs, he told a friend that he was "going to call myself George Orwell, because it's a good round English name."

  • He Was Born in India

    Though George Orwell grew up in England, he was born in modern-day Bihar in British India in 1903. His mother was the daughter of a French businessman who lived in Burma, and his father worked in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service. Orwell moved with his mother to England in 1904.

  • Orwell Spent Christmas in Jail - On Purpose

    Photo: National Archives via Wikicommons

    Ever the hard-hitting journalist, Orwell attempted to spend Christmas in jail so he could write about the experience. Orwell would drink almost an entire bottle of whiskey, become drunk and disorderly, and try to get cops to arrest him. And it worked! He was arrested and jailed under the false name of Edward Burton, and he spent 48 hours locked up in jail.

  • He Joined the Imperial Police

    After graduating from Eton, Orwell joined the British Imperial Police in India. While he did "not know at all what was required for candidates for the India Police," he was accepted and served in Burma.