George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903 in India, the son of a British colonial civil servant. He was raised and educated in England as an adult joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, then a British colony. He resigned in 1927 and decided to become a writer. He was not initially successful as a writer, leading him to work in a series of menial jobs.
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Author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury was best known for his books Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man. He began writing his own stories at age eleven during the Great Depression. He grew up in Los Angeles, California entranced by the Hollywood scene and determined to become an actor, but later set his sights on screenwriting. When he graduated from high school in 1938, Bradbury couldn't afford to go to college, so he went to the local library instead. "Libraries raised me," he later said. "I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression, and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years." He sold newspapers to support himself while he wrote. He published his first major work, The Martian Chronicles in 1950. Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury's best-known work was published in 1953, becoming an instant classic in the era of McCarthyism for its exploration of themes of censorship and conformity. Ray Bradbury wrote for several hours every day throughout his entire life, which enabled him to publish more than 30 books, almost 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, screenplays and plays. Bradbury won a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize board in 2007 for his “distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy."
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Franz Kafka was born into a middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family on July 3, 1883 in Prague, Bohemia, which is now known as the Czech Republic. His three younger sisters who outlived him died in concentration camps during World War II. Kafka and his sisters were mostly raised by governesses while their parents worked. Their father was reported to be quite overbearing and disrespectful of Kafka’s writing career. Kafka obtained his Doctor of Law degree in 1907 but was uninterested in practicing. Kafka had a nervous temperament worsened by his father’s attitude toward him. He seems to have suffered from clinical depression and social anxiety all his life. Excessive stresses and strains induced migraines, insomnia, constipation, boils, and other ailments. He worked a job at an insurance institute to pay the bills and wrote in his spare time, producing novels and short stories. Kafka began to feel the effects of tuberculosis in 1917 and it was the cause of his death in 1924 at age 40.
George Orwell was politically active, becoming an anarchist in the late 1920s, and by the 1930s he had begun to consider himself a socialist. In 1936, Orwell travelled to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War, joining the Spanish Republicans against Franco's Nationalists. Orwell was shot in the throat and arm during the conflict; for several weeks, he was unable to speak. Orwell and his wife, Eileen, were charged with treason in Spain, forcing them to flee in fear of their lives from Soviet-backed communists wh were suppressing Spanish revolutionary socialist dissenters. The experience turned him into a lifelong anti-Stalinist.
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Amy Brody, NMSBVI Librarian