The Night George Orwell Died 71 Years Ago

George Orwell died on January 21, 1950. To commemorate the seventieth anniversary, the Orwell Foundation created a 7-minute short film about the people, events, and items surrounding his final months.

Biographer D.J. Taylor says of Orwell’s death that it is “not wholly a tragic story.” Consider the reasons why it is not only “not wholly tragic” but even, quite simply, a story.

Indeed Orwell was a noteworthy figure and a prominent writer. But the story of his death was, in a sense, not so much written by him as by those who surrounded him. What makes the story “not wholly tragic” is the satisfaction he took in managing to finish writing 1984 amidst being in “wretched health”; that he had many visitors at the hospital; that he had a hospital room wedding a few months before he died; that he experienced solemn visits from friends at Christmastime; and that he had a phone call to hear about his son’s time at the zoo.

Reflecting on his father’s legacy, Orwell’s son Richard Blair said, “Contrary to what he thought, his position in the world of literature has elevated him to one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, indeed he will be read for many years to come in a world that has become more and more ‘Orwellian.'”

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