Retro Review: Orwell by Pierre Christin and Sébastien Verdier

Review by Luke Williams

Orwell by Pierre Christin and Sébastien Verdier

The Book: George Orwell’s most celebrated work, 1984, and the prescient vision it contains of a society governed by Big Brother predates the constant monitoring of people and data we are familiar with today by almost 70 years. But his life was every bit as fascinating and forward-looking as his books. Orwell studied at Eton, joined the police in Burma, fought in the Spanish Civil War, fiercely opposed Stalinism, and lived in London’s slums while working as a journalist…

Orwell by Pierre Christin and Sébastien Verdier

The Review: The erstwhile Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, is possibly the most cited author of recent times. “Orwellian” has become an ever present adjective pertaining to anything vaguely dystopian or authoritarian used by both the right and the left.

With a “lower middle class” upbringing, and a life summarised in the title pages to this volume as “Old Etonian, copper, prole, dandy, militiaman, journalist, rebel, novelist, eccentric, socialist, patriot, gardener, hermit, visionary”, Orwell is a fascinating character. His education as a “poor” boy at prep school and Eton and his career as an Imperial police officer in India and the civil service informed his opinions on class and power.

Orwell experienced life at both ends of the spectrum – from the relative comfort of his upbringing to the destitution of his homeless days in London, before focussing on a career as a journalist.  It’s remarkable he was so staunch in his beliefs that he risked his life to fight on the side of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.

Orwell by Pierre Christin and Sébastien Verdier
Orwell by Pierre Christin and Sébastien Verdier

The fact that this book has been created by a French team exemplifies the esteem Orwell is held in other countries, not just his homeland. Verdier’s finely detailed, beautifully inked black and white art lends an atmosphere of austerity and seems appropriate for a man whose work is not known for its positivity. An effective and occasional use of colour for sequences drawn by “guest” artists Andre Juillard, Olivier Balez, Manu Lacenent, Blutch, Janji Guardino and Enki Bilal for excerpts from Orwell’s works or highlight specific object for storytelling purposes.  Interspersed with quotations directly from Orwell, Christin’s script portrays the author as an occasionally difficult though brave and very principled man.

Orwell by Pierre Christin and Sébastien Verdier

A book like Orwell can only ever be a brief summary of  a complicated and intriguing man’s life. It’s a very readable treatment of a fascinating person whose life was brought comparatively short, remains hugely influential and looms like a colossus over modern life and continues to inspire.

Luke Williams

Orwell by Pierre Christin and Sébastien Verdier is available here from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link) | Publisher: SelfMadeHero (May 2021) | ISBN: 978-1910593875

Pierre Christin

Pierre Christin is the creator of the bestselling Valérian series. Inspired by research into the world’s communist regimes, he went on to produce the classic European graphic novels The Town That Didn’t Exist, The Black Order Brigade, and The Hunting Party.

Sébastien Verdier

Sébastien Verdier a self-confessed graphic-novel addict since college days, published his first book, Ultimate Agency, in 2004, with a text by François Corteggiani.

His acclaimed collaborations have since included work with Didier Quella-Guyot, Éric Corbeyran, and – a long-standing team – Pierre Christin.

Categories: British Comics - Current British Publishers, British Comics - Graphic Novels, Comics, Features, Reviews

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