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Nineteen Eighty-Four

📅 2017-Oct-23 ⬩ ✍️ Ashwin Nanjappa ⬩ 📚 Archive

 

To be honest, I did not really believe that Nineteen Eighty-Four would be any different from the other two of the dystopian triad: Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. While I was proved right, this work by George Orwell turned out to be the most terrifying of the three. In 1984, the world is a surveillance state where everyone is constantly monitored by telescreens. Any deviant behavior will lead to re-education, hard labor, torture or even death. The protagonist Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth, where he (ironically) alters past news articles to match the present reality. Everything from books, to communication to thoughts have to toe the Party line. Everyone is beholden to the ultimate Party leader, the Big Brother, whose face is plastered everywhere, but whom no one has seen. The Party pummels the citizens with 24/7 propaganda, with hate speeches about counter-revolutionaries, faked successes of the Party and Big Brother.

Winston constantly wonders if he is the only one who can see how fake the entire setup is. He cannot talk or write about this due to the constant surveillance by Spies and the Thought Police. After a lifetime of this hell, he finally finds a like-minded companion in Julia. And they seem to have discovered some counter-revolutionaries who plan to overthrow the Party too. But the world is not what it seems as they are about to find out.

1984 has three clear acts. The first part sets up the surveillance state. Written in 1949, this futuristic imagination of the state by Orwell is easily the best and most memorable part of the book. The details of life, language, work, family and love in this state are meticulously described and it is quite believable. You will walk away with an entire dystopian jargon that Orwell has created for this world: words like doublethink, thoughtcrime and NewsSpeak. I would not be surprised if this book was and is still banned in many countries, like China, Russia and North Korea. The second act of the book is quite weak, with a fairytale romance and long chapters from the counter-revolutionary book. But the entry to the third act is a total shocker, it blew my mind. The climax is pure horror and insanity. The ending is meh, but then there is no way Orwell could have satisfactorily beaten his fantastic premise anyway. Nitpicks aside, 1984 is a brilliantly imagined vision and a sucker punch of a book.

Rating: 4/4

ISBN: 9780141391700