Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

3*

I bought a paperback copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four (its original title) in 2008, but have only just read it. It is George Orwell’s last novel, written in 1948 and presents his vision of a dystopian society, a totalitarian state complete with mass surveillance, where individuality is brutally suppressed.

Synopsis from the back cover:

In Orwell’s frightening vision of the future, society is under the control of Big Brother. Every aspect of life is closely monitored, whilst any hint of unorthodoxy is ruthlessly suppressed by the Thought Police. The Ministry of Truth, where Winston Smith works, is the Party’s Propaganda Machine. A secret rebel, Winston yearns for liberty and finds new hope when he falls in love with the earthy, uncomplicated Julia. Instead he discovers a nightmare world of terror where the price of freedom is betrayal.

Winston Smith’s attempt to find liberty and individuality plunges him into a truly horrific version of hell. The world is ravaged by war with three superstates, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia battling for total control. Winston lives in Airstrip One (Britain) in Oceania. His job is to rewrite history and destroy the old records, in accordance with the current circumstances. He secretly opposes the Party’s rule, led by the mysterious Big Brother, and dreams of rebellion. But faced with the Thought Police, the Hate Week sessions the surveillance through the television screens, cameras and hidden microphones monitoring his every move and thought, he realises it is a futile hope and that he is likely to be caught.

This really is the most depressing book and in places it is boring, especially in the middle section of the book devoted to Goldstein’s book. Goldstein, the leader of the Opposition Party to Big Brother, is always the subject of hatred at the Hate Week sessions. There are also passages that I could hardly bear to read – torture scenes that I did not want to visualise – it is a harrowing book. But it was interesting to see where the terms, Big Brother is Watching You, Room 101 (you do not want to be sent there!) Thought Police, Newspeak, Doublethink, holding two contradictory thoughts at the same time, and Thoughtcrime originated.

Nineteen Eighty -Four has received very many accolades and 94% of the people who have rated it on Goodreads ‘liked’ it – 79% giving it 5 or 4 stars .This is possibly the least enjoyable book I’ve read, horrific in content, lacking in convincing characterisation, and has a poor plot. It is depressing and dreary in the extreme, but I can see why it can be considered a brilliant book in its depiction of a dystopian society. It is seriously thought provoking!

‘George Orwell’ was the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950). He ‘was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.’ (Goodreads)

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: 1984 by George Orwell

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

1984 is one of the books I’m currently reading. It’s one of those books I’ve had for years and never read.

The Book Begins:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘By 2050 – earlier, probably – all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron – they’ll exist only in Newspwak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be.

Summary:

The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia”—a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions—a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time. (Goodreads)

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What have you been reading lately?