Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

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‘In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five and you would have to believe it.’

It is clearly facile and even rather childish to make any comparison between George Orwell’s dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four and the rise of Donald Trump. But it is also fun, so let’s give it a go. Many liberal handwringers have already pointed out that Trump’s elevation – and the sleepwalking state of our saturated, confusing media culture – is more akin to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In other words, rather than being actually oppressed, we – the masses – simply can’t be bothered because we are enjoying the soma too much. I’m not sure that invalidates the comparison with Orwell. This is, after all, an era when the Leader Of The Free World™ can say, quite openly, that the evidence of the eyes of those watching his inauguration is simply wrong. There were more people there than you saw – in fact, more people saw me than have ever seen anyone before. Fact. This is, for want of a better word, insanity. And if President Trump were detained in a clinical environment for his own protection, then this is no doubt the conclusion that the doctors would come to. But he’s not with the men in white coats, he’s in the White House. His extraordinary pronouncements are fast becoming commonplace. In a few months, I suspect that his particular form of madness will not even raise eyebrows. It will simply be. In Orwell’s narrative, Winston Smith knows all about this. He works in the Ministry of Truth, one of the four über-Shards (or more benign Trump Towers) which rise above London’s wasted skyline. Winston falsifies reports in back issues of The Times so certain things never happened – thus he creates not ‘alternative facts’ but the acknowledged facts themselves. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. My crowd was the biggest. It’s striking how influential Nineteen Eighty-Four has been. The people who put together the Daily Mail’s home page, for example, clearly had the Two Minute Hate in mind. Oh well. Enough.

‘Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.’

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4 thoughts on “Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

  1. Ideal Pleasure Drug be damned:

    I am reminded of William Cobbett in his Rural Rides:

    “I defy you to agitate a man on a full stomach”

  2. I hadn’t read it since my teenage years – and in fact I don’t think I’d actually read the whole thing at all. Loads of it didn’t ring any bells. It’s excellent – not as stodgy and outdated as I’d feared – in fact, very modern with many familiar ideas. It’s also a lot more brutal than I’d remembered – relentlessly so in the final section. So be warned. Am going to seek out the John Hurt/Richard Burton film version. The misplaced Annie Lennox soundtrack aside, I suspect it is visually very faithful to the novel – it’s essentially set in 1940s bombed-out London with 4 Shards on the skyline.

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