Author: George Orwell
Publisher: Secker & Warbung
Publishing Date: 8 June 1949
Genre: Political fiction
Cost: Rs 95 (Paperback) Rs 250 (Hardbound) Rs 49 (Kindle) Rs 873 (Audio CD)
An iconic book in the history of dystopian and political fiction, Nineteen eighty-four takes place at place at an imaginary future (Note that the book was written in 1949 but the storyline revolves around 1984). The writer paints a world that is under the English socialist regime of a ruling ‘Party’. Under the leadership of the ‘Big Brother’, the party takes to constant surveillance of its citizens through telescreens. Those who initiate anything that does not conform to the parameters set by the Party are reprimanded.
The protagonist, Mr. Winston Smith is an employee of the ‘Ministry of Truth’ who secretly opposes the Party’s rule. Throughout the novel, the ideas of nationalism affect his life. He falls in love with Julia only to realize that she is not interested in politics. The other characters such as Mr. Charrington, O’Brien and others have their unique personality traits and the same is discussed in detail. The book traces the journey of Winston as he is first captured, tortured and eventually released. The effect of all such political happenings on the love life of Winston and Julia is beautifully spoken in the book. The ideas of futurology, censorship, and surveillance are spoken at length in this book.
The most beautiful part of this book is the light in which the author perceives the world. At the first look, one would say that the book paints a grim picture of the world, one where there is no room for hope. However, in retrospection, you will realize that the author just aims to shock the reader to resistance.
The book touches many psychological aspects that an average reader might find difficult to shun. The society that is discussed in the book has no written laws and individuality is not much appreciated. Expressing one’s individuality is seen as cheating the Party and acts like these are punishable by death.
The book gives the reader a lot of food for thought. The author mentions that the act of writing is in itself a time travel. One will pen things down at one point in time. Others will read the same sometime later (which may be minutes, days or even centuries). The two acts will happen in different time frames. If you look at it, the writer does make sense, doesn't he?
Talking of time, the entire book is written in the past tense. The writer goes at length recounting events and explaining society. Long paragraphs are used and ideas are often repeated. One would think that these factors will make the book a boring read. The fact is, it is these very factors and Orwell's wonderful storytelling abilities that hold the reader engrossed for hours. The writer proves that for a reader to experience the emotions that the characters go through, it is not necessary to have it written in the first person. Although the book is written entirely in the third person, through the book the reader develops an attachment to Winson.
The writer gets to the touchy points of the human psyche and hints at how we often need to be at war. Whether this war is with one’s inner self or with others is another question. Amidst all of this, the writer had a surprise planned. The tone of the book was such that one would not expect a love story in it. However, the profound love between Julia and Winston was simply beautiful. The reader’s heart would palpitate to learn about whether Julia betrayed herself to the Party or not.
In retrospection, if you look at it, the book centers around the ideas of brainwashing and censorship on society. However, the telling of the story is such that the sign will vary from reader to reader. Even for the same reader 1982 will hold different meanings at different points in life. All in all, this is one book that needs to be read (and re-read) by everyone.
About the Author:
Born on the 25th of June 1903, Eric Arthur Blair was more popularly known by his pen name George Orwell. A prominent journalist and literary critic, he was an avid supporter of democratic socialism. He was a successful novelist of the times and some of his most famous works include ‘Animal Farm’, ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ and ‘Homage to Catalonia’.
‘Nineteen eighty-four’ is his ninth book. At the time of writing the book, the author was living on the island of Jura recovering from poor health. The author breathed his last on the 21st of January 1950 after a prolonged battle with tuberculosis. The Times magazine ranked him the second among its list of the top 50 greatest British writers since 1945. His writing was so farsighted that they continue to hold significance even today.