Having gained my Masters AND Doctorate in Chemistry in 1974, I started to feel very ignorant, uneducated and ill informed. For 5 intensive years I had watched virtually no news programmes, had no interest in politics (except to vote once for the SNP in Glasgow despite being an Englishman), and had read very few novels and virtually none of the so-called Classics. I could hardly answer a question on University Challenge unless it referred to the Nernst Equation, polarography, spectroscopy, or atomic structure. Depressing!
I began my re-education with Tolstoy and followed this with all of Dostoyevsky and the complete works of Zola. Then into Ancient Classics ….. Virgil, Homer, Pliny …. This led to a change of tack and English Classics from JB Priestly, Arnold Bennett, and Anthony Powell. Even deeper with Aldous Huxley and ……. George Orwell.
I have just started to re-read 1984 having first read it around 1981. It was an enjoyable read but I’m not sure I saw it anything other than a fine novel of a dystopian world that seemed terribly far fetched in democratic Britain. A bit like those SciFi novels of an Earth with ftl travel to the stars and meeting other civilisations across the galaxy.
Here are a few interesting quotes from the book’s introduction by Thomas Pynchon:
“Our nominally free news media are required to present ‘balanced’ coverage, in which every ‘truth’ is immediately neutered by an equal and opposite one. Every day public opinion is the target of rewritten history, official amnesia and outright lying, all of which is benevolently termed ‘spin’, as if it were no more harmful than a ride on a merry-go-round. We know better than what they tell us, yet hope otherwise.”
“He imagined for Nineteen Eighty-Four, the European nationalisms he was used to somehow no longer exist, perhaps because nations, and hence nationalities, would have been abolished and absorbed into more collective identities.”
“The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as ‘This dog is free from lice’ or ‘This field is free from weeds’. It could not be used in its old sense of ‘politically free’ or ‘intellectually free’, since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.”
What will I find as I read 1984 today? Any truisms, was it prophetic, do the Thought Police actually exist but in the shadows, are we dominated by extreme left wing thinking? And how about the concept of Newspeak? Are we already living in an Orwellian 1984 in Brexit Britain, Trumps America, and Merkels EU?
Answers below please which I’ll follow up as I read the book.