Format: Audio (via BorrowBox)
Read: October 2033
The second part of the “George Orwell collection” as read by Stephen Fry was 1984, the first part was of course Animal Farm, and you can read by thoughts on that through the link. I had read 1984 when I was a teenager, probably around 16 (many years ago now!) but didn’t remember much about it so this was almost like reading a new book but better because Stephen Fry was reading it to me!
I felt quite depressed after reading Animal Farm and this one was no better. It’s really a novel length expansion on ideas in Animal Farm, and it offers a very bleak future no hope against the tyranny of totalitarian regimes. Really it just goes unto more detail on all the specific, horrible, ways humans can manipulate each other for power.
Many of the tactics used to control the populous by the ruling Party in Oceania are easily recognisable in 2023. It was the idea of doublethink, holding two contradictory ideas at the same time and believing both to be true, that resonated most with me as it become so blatant in politics and the media. By 2023 we are solidly in an era where “alternative facts” is a phrase used by a member of the USA President’s office without embarrassment. They don’t even try to disguise it any more.
I think it’s a worthwhile read for the ideas, or rather warnings, it contains for allowing governments to have too much control over the daily lives of citizens and the many tactics used. It contains much fuel for thought. However as a novel.. it’s certainly not without flaws!
The characters are rather thinly sketched, and it feels like they both passively just get swept along. There is an uncomfortable fixation on Julia’s “young body”, but at least Orwell allows a woman to be proactive about her sex drive. The middle chunk of the book is a political thesis which completely destroys any momentum the plot has and shot to pieces any engagement I had over the fate of Winston!
Oh also this was written in 1949 so brace yourself for descriptions of people with “yellow faces.”
Mainly though it’s just so fucking depressing.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever.O’Brien to Winston