Books I love –

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (pseudonym for Eric Blair)

Published in 1949 it has sold millions of copies in countless languages. It describes a totalitarian state in the future, which represses the population ruthlessly. The figurehead of the regime is Big Brother – and he is watching and listening– with any actions or thoughts against the state punished by him. It is a bleak novel showing the hopelessness of living under such a crushing regime.

The main character is Winston Smith, he works at the Ministry of Truth (Lies) where he alters past articles in The Times to reflect the accuracy of Big Brother. Other Ministries are Peace (War – which maintains constant war), Plenty (Famine – which supplies little food or goods), and Love (Hate, which breaks individuals suspected of thought crime).

Winston has an inner urge to rebel, to be an individual, but feels totally powerless, until he meets Julia. They have a crude, passionate relationship and in a way a loving one. Their realisation they would be caught in the end, and they would have to betray each other is a sad testament to them, a hopelessness that they could not stand against Big Brother.

This is one of my favourite books, I read it in 1984 as the media attention was intense. It blew me away; I read it almost in one hit. I have read it many, many times over the years since 1984. In fact, sometimes I just dip into a few chapters and enjoy Orwell’s writing.

Another fascinating part of the book was the idea of Newspeak, working on removing expressive language and hence eradicate thought crime, as there would be no ability to have illegal thoughts.

As an aside, The Eurythmics were commissioned to provide the soundtrack for the film (starring John Hurt and Richard Burton) and the album was released at the end of 1984, although the Director’s Cut had a different soundtrack. I love this album, for me at least, it captures the dissolute feel of the novel with my favourite track – Julia – giving some hope and beauty to the darkness of the rest of the album. I digress but I can’t read the book without the music circling in the background.

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