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Sunday, April 29, 2018
George Orwell’s ‘1984’ (1954)
George Orwell [1903–1950] and his most famous written work, Nineteen Eighty-Four (also called 1984), in a 1954 Sunday Night Play for the BBC-TV; the novel was adapted by Nigel Kneale and starred Peter Cushing as “Smith,” André Morell as “O’Brien” and Yvonne Mitchell as ”Julia.”
The novel’s dystopian view of the world was formed even before the Second World War and the Allied Powers fight against fascism, but as far back as 1936 Spain and his commitment to the Spanish Republic against Franco and fascism, which Orwell viewed as a moral fight. His side lost and Spain became fascist. Then WWII. Combined with the horrors of war, many personal tragedies befell George Orwell, including the death of his wife, the destruction of his flat by a German V-1 flying bomb (a “doodlebug”), and his declining poor health.
Orwell was a writer who was always interested in language. This is a novel that looks at the morality of language, where language is twisted and distorted, where fact becomes fiction and fiction becomes fact, and in the novel’s case serving the nefarious purposes of a fictional totalitarian state, “Oceania.” Language in such a case becomes captive, and in the service of evil ends.
There are no shortage of totalitarian states that were created in the 20th century: Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Imperial Japan, Franco’s Spain, the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, North Korea, Syria, to name only the most well-known and cited. Such are places where citizens have (had) little freedom to exercise any dissenting political views. In totalitarian regimes, citizens have less ability than in democracies to access information, where censorship is comprehensive, persistent and pernicious.
While communication technology today makes it easier and quicker to spread propaganda, information technology and the Internet also helps citizens “get at the truth.” Democracy is always preferable to totalitarianism. Thus, George Orwell’s novel is important to read or watch, since it gives us a clear warning of what happens when democracy veers into totalitarianism, first by misusing and abusing language, by disguising itself as people’s democracy, when it is not. Always Important Knowledge.
And such knowledge can help citizens build a strong interior life, even (or especially) when the world around them seems without meaning or without sense. The novel was originally published in 1949, after the end of the Second World War, and shortly before Orwell died. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].