After all these years I finally put 1984 on my to-read list and about three weeks ago it finally made it to its top. With totalitarian movements being on the rise and more and more authors referencing George Orwell’s famous book I simply wanted to finally get to know the source material.
Much has been written about it since its release in 1949 by folks far more knowledgable than myself but I just want to write down a couple of thoughts about it anyway. The first thing I need to get out of the way, though, is that the book was far more approachable than I had anticipated. Admittedly, I read the German translation but I don’t think that distracted from the experience. In summary: I enjoyed the book. Very much so.
The story takes place in a fictional, future 1984 in which three super-nations are in constant war with each other. The main protagonist is Winston Smith, a citizen of one of these nations: Oceania. Oceania is governed by a single political party which not only controls the political life but also the collective memory by manipulating all media and also putting all citizens under constant threat of being arrested for so-called “thought-crimes”. Under this scrutiny and these criteria Mr Smith is definitely not innocent and the reader learns the ins and outs of this regime through the points of him🙃
Some of the means employed here, sadly, should be quite apparent to many of you: The party had so-called “telescreens” installed in every home in order to (a) broadcast propaganda to its citizens and (b) though built-in microphones and camera to keep an eye on them. Smartphones, CCTV, voice assistants like Alexa, anyone?
Another big theme is the way opinion is controlled in this fictional London: Since the party controls all media and also all archives they can change the written memory of the people. What’s left is the memory in their heads which is mostly done through making it the far more comfortable option to stay on the party-line. Trump’s “alternative facts” are a clear implementation of such tools but also self-amplifying thought-bubbles are another. When it’s becoming easier and easier to just follow someone’s thoughts and spreading rumors with simple clicks, it doesn’t help either.
When I started reading 1984 I was expecting something that just contained some ideas that I’d recognize in modern society. I did not expect it to be justso relevant while still being quite “enjoyable” and easy to read. Not bad for something written in the 1940s 😅
Over the years I've written quite a few reviews 🙂 You can find them at /reviews/.