8 March 2012

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

I have just finished reading Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.  It is an incredibly prescient, thought provoking and complex read which was first published in 1949.  It is astounding to think that Orwell imagined what he thought the world would be like in 35 years from the date he wrote the book and came up with a fictitous story which is remarkably uncanny.  In many ways, although it is a work of fiction, it is entirely believable and parts of the book bears a strong resemblance to life as we know it today. 

"Nineteen Eighty-Four (first published in 1949) by George Orwell is a dystopian novel about Oceania, a society ruled by the oligarchical dictatorship of the Party. Life in the Oceanian province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control, accomplished with a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (Ingsoc), which is administered by a privileged Inner Party elite. Yet they too are subordinated to the totalitarian cult of personality of Big Brother, the deified Party leader who rules with a philosophy that decries individuality and reason as thoughtcrimes; thus the people of Oceania are subordinated to a supposed collective greater good. The protagonist, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party who works for the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record is congruent with the current party ideology. Because of the childhood trauma of the destruction of his family — the disappearances of his parents and sister — Winston Smith secretly hates the Party, and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.

As literary political fiction and as dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, and memory hole, have become contemporary vernacular since its publication in 1949. Moreover, Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which refers to official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of the past in service to a totalitarian or manipulative political agenda."

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