How George Orwell Was Nearly Killed While Writing One Of His Books

You've likely heard of George Orwell, the crafty English novelist whose writing was equal parts science fiction and societal critique. In 1949, the acclaimed author scribed "1984," a dystopian story that eerily predicted many elements of our modern world (via Biography).

The novel "1984" is a literary marvel for many reasons. What particularly stands out in the writing is its prognosticating nature. It is a work that we have witnessed come to fruition, the pages drawing strong parallels to the technological advancements of today.

The book coined terms for conditions that did not even exist at the time of its publication. Some of the most enigmatic examples include terms like "Big Brother," "Thought Police," and "Newspeak" to name just a few. In fact, this author has become so intertwined with contemporary oppression that when we speak of mass surveillance and totalitarian regimes, we often claim to be living out an "Orwellian" future. 

"No novel of the past century has had more influence than George Orwell's '1984,'" George Packer of The Atlantic claimed. The Guardian refers to the book as the masterpiece that killed its author. While both may be true, it can also be said that since George Orwell's life depended on it, "1984" was the novel that almost never got written at all.

George Orwell almost drowned

In order to take a break from the pressure to craft another masterpiece following the highly successful book "Animal Farm," George Orwell took a leisurely boat ride along the Gulf of Corryvreckan, which incidentally houses the third-largest whirlpool on Earth (via Mental Floss). Ensnared in the whirlpool, his boat capsized, and Orwell almost didn't survive to tell the tale. He nearly drowned on that fateful day as freezing waters propelled his boat away. When he returned from the near-death experience, he worked feverishly to complete his novel.

George Orwell was already dying when he fleshed out rewrite after rewrite of "1984," staining the paper in multiple different inks (via The Guardian). His desperation to meet deadlines was only exacerbated by an illness that left him spitting blood and spewing consciousness. Toward the end of his composition, George Orwell was bedridden, his lungs inflamed, and his head whirling with doubt.

In a bittersweet twist of irony, Orwell succumbed to tuberculosis and passed away just months after narrowly escaping death by drowning. He lived just long enough to complete his acclaimed work of fiction, but certainly not long enough to see the mark he'd leave on modern culture. While it is possible that the boating incident worsened the illness Orwell already suffered from, evidence suggests that he contracted tuberculosis many years prior to the boating incident, during the Spanish Civil War (via The Guardian).