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An indispensable guide to Orwell; George Orwell, by Bernard Crick. New York: Penguin Books. 655 pp. $8.95.

Without Eric Blair's struggle to become writer George Orwell and without his political baptism in the fires of the Spanish Civil War, his satirical attacks on totalitarianism would not have been written. Both were products of an imagination in which art and politics were subtly and unshakably fused.

Bernard Crick's painstaking biography makes the point as no previous book has. Orwell grew to be a master of clean, crisp prose. Crick, however, is a biographer who sometimes bogs down in an abundance of evidence.

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