Earlier today, I posted the following thoughts on George Orwell’s novel 1984 (my number one all-time favorite book) at SF Signal as part of their new social community, and it’s worth cross-posting here:
There are very few writers whose work have been so profound that their names have become adjectives. Shakespearean. Kafkaesque. Orwellian.
1984 remains George Orwell’s greatest legacy, a fact shared by Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666; both books with a four-digit number as the title, both written frantically by authors who knew they were dying, both profound in their exploration of human cruelty, both lifting the veil of propaganda and rhetoric to get to the Truth underneath.
I try to re-read 1984 every few years or so, so as never to forget Orwell’s powerful message (We Must Not Let This Future Come To Pass), and to rekindle the tingling literary joy I experienced when I was first exposed to the book in my last year of high school. The clandestine budding romance between Winston and Julia; the ever-present terror evoked by the telescreens and the Thought Police; the Party’s final solution of engineering humanity out of every human being; the hope and optimism that lives in Winston’s heart, which is then crushed by O’Brien in the Ministry of Love’s Room 101, and which returns, oddly enough, in the form of the book’s appendix on Newspeak.
Totalitarianism is still very much a reality around the world, with civil liberties always under attack, and so it’s important to keep the nightmare world of Oceania and Airstrip One alive in the mind. One must be ever vigilant for signs of the watchful eyes of the Thought Police in CCTV cameras and internet wiretapping, of the destruction of language resulting from devolution into contextless acronyms and SMS-speak, of the censorious invasion into our very minds by authoritarian and corporate influence.
1984 can only be described as a tragedy. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy loses self. With the final lines, Winston Smith gloriously professes his love for Big Brother and thereby takes the final step in becoming an unperson, but his suffering and rebellion serve as inspiration for us all to never take our lives and freedom for granted. Orwell’s literary sacrifice of his most human protagonist remains one of the greatest contributions to the world of letters and to the continuing species of humanity.