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Alphabet of British Writers (Part 5)

Milne, Alan Alexander (1882-1956)

Alan Alexander Milne was born on 18 January 1882 in London. He attended Henley House School, which was run by his father. One of his teachers was the science-fiction writer G.H. Wells. Milne continued his education at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics. While at university he edited a student magazine Granta. His literary works caught the attention of the publisher of the satirical magazine Punch, where Milne soon started publishing his poems and essays. In 1906 he became the magazine’s assistant editor. Milne’s first novel, Lovers in London, appeared in 1905 and a few years later he also earned a reputation as a playwright. In 1913 he married Dorothy de Selincourt, with whom he had a son, Christopher.

During World War I Milne joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and in 1916 he served in France. The horrible experience of the war made him want to return to the peaceful and idyllic world of childhood. That is why in 1924 he published a collection of poems for children entitled When We Were Very Young, and two years later his most famous book, Winnie the Pooh, appeared. These were followed by another book of poems, Now We Are Six (1927) and the continuation of the adventures of Pooh Bear, The House at Pooh Corner (1928).

The Pooh books depict a boy, named after Milne’s son Christopher Robin, and talking animals inspired by his son’s stuffed toys. The most important of them are: the bear Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit and Eeyore. The stories about Pooh Bear were later made into popular animated films by The Walt Disney Company. Besides the stories and poems for children Milne continued writing essays, novels, verse and plays. In 1922 he wrote a detective novel, The Red House Mystery, and in 1938 he published his autobiography, It’s Too Late Now.

In 1952 Milne underwent brain surgery after which he was an invalid. He died in Hartfield, Sussex, on 31 January 1956.

Naipaul, Vidiadhar Surajprasad (1932-)

V. S. Naipaul is a British writer of Indo-Trinidadian origin. He was born on 17 August 1932 in Chaguanas, Trinidad as the eldest son of second-generation Indian immigrants. First he was educated in Trinidad at Queen’s Royal College. But after winning a government scholarship he moved to Britain, where in 1950 he started studying literature at University College, Oxford. After graduation he worked for the BBC hosting the Caribbean Voices program. In 1955 he married an English woman, Patricia Ann Hale, and they lived in London. After Patricia’s death in 1996 he married a Pakistani woman, Nadira.

Naipaul’s early works concentrate on depicting Trinidadian society. The most significant of them is A House for Mr. Biswas, which was published in 1961. The novel, based on his father’s life in Trinidad, won him recognition all over the world.

In 1963 Naipaul wrote Mr. Stone and the Knight’s Companion, his first novel set in England. From that time his novels became dominated by political and philosophical themes such as decolonization, freedom, imperialism, etc. One of these novels, In a Free State (1971) won the Booker Prize for fiction. In 1987 he published a semi-biographical book, The Enigma of Arrival, which was an account of his life in England.

Besides fiction Naipaul has also published a number of non-fiction works based on his travels and personal experiences. These are books about India, Islamic countries, and the Caribbean, as well as collections of essays.

In 1989 V.S. Naipaul was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and on 11 October 2001 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Orwell, George (1903-1950)

George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair, was born on 25 June 1903 in Motihari, India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. When he was one year old his mother brought him and his sister to England. He attended the prestigious public school for boys, Eton, where he was taught French by the writer Aldous Huxley.

Having no prospect of winning a scholarship for university, in 1922 Blair went to Burma and joined the Indian Imperial Police. The five-year service resulted in his deep resentment of imperialism. He decided to resign and become a writer. He later included his Burmese experiences in the novel Burmese Days (1934) and in a number of essays. After returning to England in 1927 he lived in poverty, dressing like a tramp, and one year later he went to Paris, where he wanted to work as a freelance writer, but he ended up doing a low paid job in a hotel. The happenings of the two years of hardship and poverty were later described in Alphabet of British Writers (Part 5) a book entitled Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). Ill with pneumonia, he came back to England in 1929 and settled in his parents’ house. He started writing for the New Adelphi magazine and he adopted the pen name George Orwell. In 1936 he married Eileen O’Shaugnessy. Every now and then he tried to mingle with workers and miners in order to experience the difficulties of the lower social classes. As a result he produced an account of the situation of the unemployed entitled The Road to Wigan Pier (1937).

In 1936 Orwell, who had strong socialist views, went with his wife to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War against the Francisco Franco’s nationalist uprising. He joined the militia of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification and during service he was shot through the throat and nearly died. When the communists started their purges and some of Orwell’s friends were arrested, he and Eileen escaped. In 1938 he wrote Homage to Catalonia, a book recounting his Civil War experience.

During World War II he worked for the BBC, where he was responsible for propaganda aiming at getting support from Indians. He was also a war correspondent for The Observer and the editor of The Tribune. At the same time he was working on Animal Farm, an anti-Stalinist allegory, which was published in 1945. In the same year on 25 March Eileen O’Shaugnessy died.

After the war Orwell moved to Jura, an island off the west coast of Scotland, and lived in a farmhouse where he wrote his masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty Four, which was published in 1949. In the same year Orwell married Sonia Brownell, but he died of tuberculosis three months later, on 21 January 1950 in London. He was buried in All Saints’ Churchyard in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire.

Monika Oracz


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