1984 – George Orwell


I might be one of the last people on earth that had not read 1984. I ony read Animal Farm a few years back. Absolutely loved it. Since then I’ve been reading a few of his essays here and there. I’m a huge fan of Orwell. I know he’s not a terribly literary type of writer, and some people may disagree with his style of writing with a political purpose, but I’m inclined more to his side rather than the other extreme of “art for art’s sake”.

In his essay Why I Write (1946) – which I read a while back, but it really made an impression on me even though it’s only a few pages long – he mentions 4 great motives for writing prose for any author. The last point is political purpose – “using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”

From the get go I roughly knew what 1984 was about. A dystopian novel was my impression. And it is. But it is bolder and even more political than what I imagined – almost like a political essay dressed in a novel. The scary thing is, it’s still as relevant today than it was when it’s first published in 1949. North Korea definitely came to mind. In fact, just the weekend after I finished the book, I met someone from Angola who told many stories about how she and her family went through the communist regime – which lasts to this day. A lot of what she described was very similar with what is described in 1984.

From pop culture point of view, I’m glad to have read the origin of things like Big Brother, Room 101, and doublespeak. It’s amazing how the book has penetrated many aspects of society and culture, and not just Western society, as I remember an occasion when an author from a communist regime at a literary event told the story of how 1984 was the book that everyone was smuggling between revolutionaries. It’s like a secret code. A shorthand for the worst society humanity could possibly become. But it’s not a mere distant possibility, not just a cautionary tale. Some elements are too familiar. They make you realise how easy it is for humanity to slip into this kind of regime – and in fact it does exist in some parts of the world, at different times perhaps, but it never totally goes away. We are still part of the 1984 world! The book is important in many ways, and there is still no other book like it.

Another quote to close this, again from Why I Write, at the very end: “I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.” 

I feel like he allows me to have a political purpose in my own writing. Thank you Orwell.

Mee’s Rating: 5/5

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I hadn’t finished a book in 2-3 months (don’t even mention how many I started and put aside to continue later). I went to Hay-On-Wye for Hay Festival last weekend and apparently our phones don’t work over there (at least not for O2!). No internet for 2-3 days, and I finished one book. Sensing desperate need to unplug. And yes I can see the irony of this post…

So to the book! Animal Farm is a fantastic little read and it probably resonates for most people even vaguely interested in politics or leadership. It is fascinating how relevant the content is until now. Orwell wrote this with Stalin and Russia in mind, but the book reminded me of North Korea – almost every aspect of it. A timeless fable of revolution goes wrong, which only proves that humans (pigs?) don’t change very much, sadly.

This is my first Orwell, can you believe it? I can’t wait to read more! I have 1984 ready on my shelf, so anytime now.

The whole literary atmosphere and the fact that I was able to finish a book kind of energized my reading life. Hope I can keep the momentum and finish more books. I am looking at novellas, short books, or even graphic novels and short stories. Something doable!

I am also currently enrolled in one of coursera.org free course on The Fiction of Relationship and starting Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost, which is a French classic that’s the first book in the syllabus and I never heard of prior to this, but it’s a short book and it’s free on Kindle, so who knows, it could be the next book I finish?!

I went to tons of literary/author events in May on top of Hay Festival, so lots of things in store. Hope to share them with you in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, happy reading, as always!

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