1984 is a dystopian story set in the future of a statist world. The main character, Winston Smith, struggles to live in a world where there is no privacy, and the government controls every aspect of your life. The symbol of the government is Big Brother, a fictitious leader who is said to benevolently watch over his people. In practice, the citizen... (See the whole review)
Yes, Orwell, the unrepentant socialist, writes a brilliant expose of totalitarianism. He hits his target with unerring accuracy, and it's a fantastic albeit harrowing read. The appendices are ingenious.
This makes Orwell both a wonderful evocator and a complete fucking idiot. Shame.
Orwell is my favourite author, in spite of his flaws. If I could write anything close to "Animal Farm" or "1984" that had the same impact, I would be happy indeed. Ayn Rand just wasn't as good at political fiction, although her books were much more ambitious in scale than Orwell's. Orwell, if he ever would have tried to write a book like Atlas Shrugged, I am sure he could done it in quarter of the size. The two authors had a similar sense of life in that they both wanted to liberate the individual and to get through the lies and convey the objective truth of reality, it is just that Orwell sought the wrong political means. Nevertheless, Orwell did retain a lot of the old conservative values too, and the hardcore left-wing still (pretend) to hate his guts for it. They often try to brand him a homophobe, an anti-Semite, racist, sexist - and even the latest allegation that resurfaced again just last year - that he helped the British secret service in a “McCarthy” type purge of potential communists. This allegation is not new, neither is it true.
Orwell, "unrepentant?" Give me a break. What about the fact that he said in an interview that 19th-century American capitalism was actually beneficial to the "proletariat"? You can check that out on the "free Radical" website. Orwell may have been mistaken about many things, but to arbitrarily dismiss him as a "total fucking idiot" is hardly befitting a reasonable person. Even Rand had foibles and personal flaws. (Look for instance at her sexual agenda -- a socio-political outlook based on "rational egoism", and a sexuality based on "Men ruling women who were 'worthy' of being posessed.' Add in the "no female president" thing, and her description of Dagny Taggart as possession the "most feminine characteristic -- that of being CHAINED" -- and you've got yourself a very good case for misogynistic outlook, no? I'd wager if somebody looked at those things, and dismissed Rand as a "total fucking idiot" -- in the same breath used to plead her absolute brilliance -- you'd call it a severe disconnect.
Orwell always believed in the perceived morality of socialism but railed against the viciousness of totalitrianism. He believed in the attainability of egalitarianism without the drawbacks of dictatorship. He was smart enough to understand the inherent justice and efficacy of capitalism but chose collectivism instead. He was a prototypical utopian socialist. He held contradictory thoughts in his head on purpose and as such was guilty of his own brand of doublethink. Ironic.
You discuss Rand's contradictions if you like, I'm on about Orwell. My point about him being a complete fucking idiot was that he knew the truth of totalitarianism and described it brilliantly but either refused or was not intellectually rigorous or honest enough to decry the very socialist ideology that would lead, inexorably, to totalitarianism, as indeed it had already done, manifestly, in his lifetime.
And, yes, he was unrepentant about it. He held fast to his left-wing views until he died in 1950. In Orwell's utopian socialist state, 1984 would have been the first book on the pyre.
I always thought the internal contradiction in his own thinking lead to the books (this and "animal farm") "bummer endings." I guess when you see your ideal lead to such suffering and misery it tends to kill your belief in ideals.
When I first read 1984 and Animal Farm, I looked past the socialistic subtleties and instead saw the novels as visions of societies free of reason.
I did not itemize Emmanuel Goldstein's excerpt in the middle of the book; instead, I related the three-minute hate to patriotic sensationalism and the dangerous role it has played throughout history and today. I did not agree with Winston's statement, "the power must lie in the proles," but instead kept the meanings of Syme, duckspeak, newspeak, ingsoc, Julia, telescreens, rats and torture, 2+2=5, contradictions, and the decline of language and reason towards barbarism.
In short, I like 1984 better than I do Orwell. It was the book that got me thinking about government and the individual, and the mutual exclusivity of freedom and a mental vacuum.
I just saw "1984" the opera last weekend as composed by Lorin Maazel. It was a fantastic production despite most of the music being atonal. However, there were flashes of inspiration muscially as well - for example there was a Big Brother national anthem that sounded like a rendition of Soviet "Internationale".
Also there were patches of sweet melodious music in love scenes between Julia and Winston. When these parts came they hit you like a ton of bricks and were so moving they brought the audience to tears.
What I think many don't get about the book "1984" is that represents a symbolic psychological truth. That when individuals are no longer able to differentiate between objective truth and lies and use their faculty of reason to say 2+2=4 - then the State can wield total power over them.
In fact, I now believe that 1984 is also an exaggeration of conditions during WWII Britain. There was the constant bombing of buildings by the Germans, censorship and propaganda by the Government, food rationing and also cheap nasty tasting things like "victory pie" and "victory gin".
Orwell hated fascism and supported Churchill and the Britain 100% during the war. He wasn't a left-wing peacenik or commie by any standards.
I think he just speculated what if such war time conditions became a regular state of affairs under a dictatorship. And the product of that speculation was "1984".
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