Every now and then, the world produces someone so intelligent, so creative, or just so different that they change everything. But history isn’t always smooth sailing. Those people with the brains or ideas to transform our culture sometimes nearly perish before they can even get started.
#10. George Orwell Nearly Died In Spain (Twice)
Two days before Christmas in 1936, George Orwell boarded a train and vanished into the madness of the Spanish Civil War. At the time, Moscow-backed communists and independent anarchists were fighting General Franco’s fascist forces in a battle that would claim 500,000 lives. Arriving in Barcelona, the young writer immediately took up arms with the anarchists—only to be shot through the throat and nearly killed by a fascist sniper. At the time, Orwell was a respected journalist and the author of five novels. However, he was still over a decade away from writing the book that would cement his fame: 1984. In early 1937, this dystopian masterpiece (like the similarly famous Animal Farm) wasn’t even a glint in its author’s eye. Had Orwell died on the front lines in Spain, he’d today only be remembered as an idealistic reporter instead of “one of Britain’s greatest and most influential writers,” and opponents of authoritarianism would be lacking their favorite adjective. Yet this wasn’t the only time this hugely important writer nearly died in Spain. After the communists turned on the anarchists, Orwell only just avoided being murdered in the Red Terror.