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1984 (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – Unabridged, July 1, 1950
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"Outside, even through the shut window pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no color in anything except the posters that were plastered everywhere."
The year is 1984; the scene is London, largest population center of Airstrip One.
Airstrip One is part of the vast political entity Oceania, which is eternally at war with one of two other vast entities, Eurasia and Eastasia. At any moment, depending upon current alignments, all existing records show either that Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia and allied with Eastasia, or that it has always been at war with Eastasia and allied with Eurasia. Winston Smith knows this, because his work at the Ministry of Truth involves the constant "correction" of such records. "'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'"
In a grim city and a terrifying country, where Big Brother is always Watching You and the Thought Police can practically read your mind, Winston is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions. He knows the Party's official image of the world is a fluid fiction. He knows the Party controls the people by feeding them lies and narrowing their imaginations through a process of bewilderment and brutalization that alienates each individual from his fellows and deprives him of every liberating human pursuit from reasoned inquiry to sexual passion. Drawn into a forbidden love affair, Winston finds the courage to join a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life in a deadly match against the powers that be.
Newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrime--in 1984, George Orwell created a whole vocabulary of words concerning totalitarian control that have since passed into our common vocabulary. More importantly, he has portrayed a chillingly credible dystopia. In our deeply anxious world, the seeds of unthinking conformity are everywhere in evidence; and Big Brother is always looking for his chance. --Daniel Hintzsche --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
Yet before one has finished reading the nearly bemused first page, it is evident that this is fiction of another order, and presently one makes the distinctly unpleasant discovery that it is not to be satire at all. --New York Times --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Today Kellyanne Conway announced that we were given alternate facts. Shades of changing the past and controlling the present
Get ready to party like it's 1984
Another worthwhile book is "A Nation of Sheep" by William J. Lederer
1984 tells the story of Winston Smith, a man who lives in THE totalitarian government, wants to fight back, and isn't entirely sure how. He is watched almost all the time, must be constantly on guard against showing dissent from the party, or else he will be disappeared. While he and similar characters aren't exactly brimming with personality, they don't need to be to make this book good.
The greatest thing about this book is the government itself. A common saying in this book is [paraphrased] 'he who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past'. Orwell goes into detail on how to accomplish this, and delivers on all of the horror, both stated and unstated, that goes along with it. The even more classic line 'War is Peace' is brought up, and explained in such a way that I even found it plausible in a severely twisted sort of way. And the worst part? All of this misery, terror, and oppresion? It's entirely believable that it could happen to us. The government doesn't need any sci-fi tech to take absolute control, and they don't need it. Heck, North Korea is doing something similar right now!
One minor thing I have to say I like is the prose. A lot the book I've read that are sixty years have a lot of archaic grammar and word choice. 1984 doesn't for the most part.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in classic literature, second only to 'Catch-22' in my list of books you should read. So, you know, buy it.
I would like to make some comments about the second book, "1984". That book was written near his death, when he was suffering from tuberculosis, what might have had a lot to do with the gloominess that is one of the essential characteristics of "1984". The story is set in London, in a nightmarish 1984 that for Orwell might well have been a possibility, writting as he was many years before that date. Or maybe, he was just trying to warn his contemporaries of the dangers of not opposing the Soviet threat, a threat that involved a new way of life that was in conflict with all that the English held dear.
Orwell tried to depict a totalitarian state, where the truth didn't exist as such, but was merely what the "Big Brother" said it was. Freedom was only total obedience to the Party, and love an alien concept, unless it was love for the Party. The story is told from the point of view of Winston Smith, a functionary of the Ministry of Truth whose work involved the "correction" of all records each time the "Big Brother" decided that the truth had changed. The Party slogan said that "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past", and they applied it constantly by "bringing up to date" the past so as to make it coincide with whatever the Party wanted.
From Winston Smith's point of view, many things that scare us are normal. For example, the omnipresence of the "Big Brother", always watching you, and the "Thought Police" that punishes treacherous thoughts against the Party. The reader feels the inevitability of doom that pervades the book many times, in phrases like "Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you".
Little by little, Winston begins to realize that things are not right, and that they should change. We accompany him in his attempt at subversion, and are unwilling witnesses of what that attempt brings about. This book is marked by hopelessness, but at the same time it is the kind of distressing book we all NEED to read...
Why do we need to read "1984"?. In my opinion, basically for two reasons. To start with, Orwell made in this book many observations that are no more merely fiction, but already things that manage to reduce our freedom. Secondly, and closelly linked to my first reason, this is a book that only gets better with the passing of time, as you can read in it more and more implications. One of Orwell's main reasons for writting this "negative utopia" might have been to warn his readers against communism, but many years after his death and the fall of communism, we can also interpret it as a caution against the excessive power of mass media, or the immoderate power of any government (even those who don't defend communism).
Technological innovation should be at the service of men, and allow them to live better lives, but it can be used against them. I guess that is one of Orwell's lessons, probably the most important one. All in all, I think you can benefit from reading this book. Because of that, I highly recommend it to you :)