It is seventy years since the first full-length biographical study of George Orwell (1903–50) appeared in 1953, a forty-page overview of his career written by a casual acquaintance and fellow left-wing London journalist, Tom (later Sir Henry Thomas) Hopkinson. While Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) had been a commercial success, catchphrases such as “Big Brother,” “thoughtcrime,” and “Newspeak” were not in wide usage. Not even Hopkinson and the rest of literary London cited them—indeed, not even Orwell’s close friends and acquaintances.

Fast-forward to 2023. The reputation of Orwell has come a long way in seven decades; its arc is without precedent or rival. And yet: do we really need a new “life” of George Orwell?

We already have five...


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