Monday, 1 July 2013

Book #39 1984 by George Orwell


Length Of Time In Possession : 6 yrs minimum

1984 is the incredibly famous final work from George Orwell. Despite not having read it, I came to it feeling like I knew "too much" about it, simply because it has seeped into popular culture so much. Particularly for me, I'd had the novel completely spoilered by the BBC series done by Sebastian Faulks 'On Fiction' so I always knew the end and several aspects of the storyline which in a way was frustrating.

Somehow knowing what was coming added pathos to the novel for me in many areas. Winston Smith lives in a totalitarian regime which constantly reminded me of what is known of modern day North Korea, in many ways the novel, published in 1949, proves prophetic not just for societies like North Korea but also for our own.

In particular I wondered what Orwell would have made of the TV series that bears the name of omniscient overseer 'Big Brother' - basically a series which regularly exhibits the worst of society.
Again the series 'Room 101' a jocular take on a place which was, truly, the stuff of nightmares.

Winston Smith is a subversive living in Oceania : a conglomerate of the English speaking Western States perpetually at war with the others. Winston Smith seeks to be part of the revolution, and join 'The Brotherhood' those working against 'Big Brother'

There were parts of 1984 in terms of the prose that I really enjoyed. I particularly liked these quotes :

 "Why should it be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?"

"Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one. At one time it had been a sign of madness to believe that the Earth goes round the sun : today that the past is unalterable. He might be alone in holding that belief, and if alone, then a lunatic. But the thought of being a lunatic did not greatly trouble him : the horror was that he might also be wrong"

That last quote particularly I thought was sheer brilliance.

Where the experience of the novel faltered for me was the lengthy 25 page inclusion of the treatise of Emmanuel Goldstein which struck me as a polemic and a sociology lesson. At this point, I felt not that I was reading a novel for enjoyment but that I was back in Sixth Form studying for my A Levels.

All in all for me, this book is a permanent must read for the human race as a whole, not just for its content but for the prose of itself. Though I did know many of the things that came to pass, it did not stop me marvelling at how good this book is and how pertinent it remains today.

Verdict : 9/10

Destination : Pass on or charity shop 


  1. I read this only a few years ago, whilst on holiday in Mexico surrounded by Americans. A few of them said how much they liked the book, but none of them seemed to see the funny side of my quips about their country being practically indistinguishable from the Oceania Orwell describes. What I find most astonishing, and in no small part disturbing, is just how many parallels it is possible to draw with Orwell's world and the one in which we now reside. The ministry of truth, for example, and the spin doctoring of modern politics to make any words fit the party narrative.

  2. Totally, so many things in there. Reduction of education and language. A friend of mine compared Twitter outrage storms to "Two Minutes Hate" recently and now I see how right he was. And the constant warring with East and Eurasia was reminscent of Western interference in other cultures.