1984 by George Orwell

1984 by George Orwell is a book Kelly and I decided to review today, read her review on her blog. It was just the nudge I needed to pick up this book. I’ve read other books by Orwell and loved them, so I was sure I will enjoy this one too, and I did. The book is in three parts and I will share a few points from each part, but without getting into many details, so there aren’t any spoilers. The book is a must read and incredibly relevant today.

1984 by George Orwell

In the first part we were told about the Ministry of Truth, the place where Winston Smith works. Also, I found the choice of name for the character quite intriguing. He is busy with modifying the history to better suit the present-day demands. Orwell’s vision of the future is really visionary. For example, he writes about a TV screen who can watch and hear people, following their every move. This is happening today. The smart appliances, including TVs and devices such as Alexa are listening to what the users are saying. It’s something nicely presented in Privacy is Power by Carissa VĂ©liz, another book I reviewed. Phones are pretty good at tracking too, from where we’ve been to what we had for lunch, especially if we mention it on social media. At least in Orwell’s dystopia the people did not have a choice, but now we are spending hard earned money on devices that track us so that we are told about other things we might want to spend money on.
Also, in China what people say on social media affects their social score and that means they can be restricted to what services they can get, including train tickets. In the west we are surveyed mainly by companies, at least for now, if that is “reassuring”.

From the second part of the book I will talk about Victory coffee. This is how the coffee was called. I thought it was hilarious because that was what communist countries were experiencing, a “patriotic coffee” which was not coffee at all, but cereals. While now I buy the coffee substitute, it’s a choice I make, back then it was imposed because the party wanted that. Same with meat (which was mixed with soy), something that appears in the book and also in communist realities.
The 3-year plans also sounded very much like the 5-year communist plans, which were, of course, beaten by better production, better quality, and so on.

Last part was about imprisonment and torture, which sounded so familiar with what was happening in communist Romania. Intellectuals, priests, and people whom were disliked by the communists were taken into hard-labour camps (as late as the 1980s, when ~10,000 died building the canal), torture was normal and natural. After the fall of the communists some TV shows were made and showed the tragedy of what happened in there. I was hoping for a slightly different ending, but that last sentence is truly heartbreaking.

In the end the book has a short essay on the The Principles of Newspeak, which is a fantastic depiction of power of language. I loved that part too. I cannot recommend enough this book. It was published in 1949, but it is so relevant today.

1984 by George Orwell

Details about the picture: a cup of coffee, but not Victory coffee
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: YES!
Published by: Penguin Modern Classics
Year it was published: 2003 (first published in 1949)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Contemporary
Pages: 355

About the author: Eric Arthur Blair, known by his pen name George Orwell, was a well known English author and journalist. In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma from 1922-1927 and fought with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1937. Orwell was severely wounded when he was shot through his throat.
Between 1941 and 1943, Orwell worked on propaganda for the BBC. In 1943, he became literary editor of the Tribune, a weekly left-wing magazine. He was a prolific polemical journalist, article writer, literary critic, reviewer, poet, and writer of fiction, and, considered perhaps the twentieth century’s best chronicler of English culture.
Books by Orwell – Nineteen Eighty-Four; Animal Farm; Homage to Catalonia; Down and Out in Paris and London; The Road to Wigan Pier.
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6 thoughts on “1984 by George Orwell”

  • I’m glad you loved this one – for me it’s one of the most powerful books ever written. Back then most people in the west didn’t know what was going in the Communist regimes, so it was an eye-opener for them. But it was also a warning to the future of what could happen if we didn’t pay attention, and sadly we’re not paying attention. I think of it all the time, especially when listening to the news from America, which is on a dark road. But we’re not immune either. The distortion of truth, by governments, by media, and most of all by fanatical groups brainwashing the gullible on social media is terrifying, and yet we’re letting it happen and we get upset whenever anyone suggests putting in any form of restraint. I’d make everyone read this book once a year and write an essay on it before they were allowed to vote…

    • Yes, the power of social media is incredible and it is unregulated. A few Russian trolls helped by bots can create an issue where there isn’t one, can make people go out to protest, as it happened in US. What is allowed online is so very different of what is allowed offline.
      The idea of making this book a required reading before being allowed to vote is not bad at all. 🙂

  • I find it downright creepy how our phones (and other devices) track us. Something popped up as a suggestion for me solely on the fact it was mentioned aloud in a phone call. And while it might just be marketing ploys for the most part, I’m still not sure how much “surveillance” my government is doing (on it’s own citizens).

    Of course I don’t know all the nuances in brainwashing techniques or torture, but I’ve always felt information gained in this manner would be unreliable. Wouldn’t many people just say whatever they thought their captors wanted to hear in order to stop the pain?

    Thanks for reading along. It made it more fun!
    Kelly recently posted…Nineteen Eighty-Four by George OrwellMy Profile

    • I saw a documentary about algorithms (Coded Bias) and in that someone said that they trust the current government. It was mind-blowing. Even if I trust this government and the alternative government offered by the opposition, it doesn’t mean that I will trust every single government from now on till the day I die and beyond (I do care about what I leave behind, hence me being vegan and so on). This is scary stuff.

      Torture is not reliable. I’ve read about torture throughout the history, from the medieval age to US’ army shady dealings in Iraq (Abu Ghraib). It never works for gathering information, but it works for breaking the spirit of people.

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