1984 (Signet Classics)

Review: “1984” by George Orwell


Thumbs up for 1984 by George Orwell. Science fiction.

I know, you’re shocked I haven’t read this already. Well, I like to shock you now and then. I did in fact read about a third of this back as a teenager when I was “supposed” to read it, but that was on a computer screen and my eyes could only take me so far. Unless you are also in that miniscule fragment of the English-speaking population who is literate but somehow missed this one, my saying “You should read this!” is a ridiculous business. A word, however: If you have already read it, I suggest caution in deciding to re-read it no matter how much you remember liking it, for the simple reason that what you probably remember is the stirring beginning, while blocking from your mind the 32 brilliant but somehow still excruciating pages of political analysis in the middle and the exceedingly tedious torture scenes at the end. I love Orwell’s writing, but no genius flows of prose can rile suspense in those last 75 pages – when we all know exactly how it’s going to end.

“He took up his glass and sniffed at it. The stuff grew not less but more horrible with every mouthful he drank. But it had become the element he swam in. It was his life, his death, and his resurrection. It was gin that sank him into stupor every night, and gin that revived him every morning. When he woke, seldom before eleven hundred, with gummed-up eyelids and fiery mouth and a back that seemed to be broken, it would have been impossible even to rise from the horizontal if it had not been for the bottle and teacup placed beside the bed overnight. Through the midday hours he sat with glazed face, the bottle handy, listening to the telescreen. From fifteen to closing-time he was a fixture in the Chestnut Tree. No one cared what he did any longer, no whistle woke him, no telescreen admonished him. Occasionally, perhaps twice a week, he went to a dusty, forgotten-looking office in the Ministry of Truth and did a little work, or what was called work. He had been appointed to a sub-committee of a sub-committee which had sprouted from one of the innumerable committees dealing with minor difficulties that arose in the compilation of the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. They were engaged in producing something called an Interim Report, but what it was that they were reporting on he had never definitely found out. It was something to do with the question of whether commas should be placed inside brackets, or outside. There were four others on the committee, all of them persons similar to himself. There were days when they assembled and then promptly dispersed again, frankly admitting to one another that there was not really anything to be done. But there were other days when they settled down to their work almost eagerly, making a tremendous show of entering up their minutes and drafting long memoranda which were never finished – when the argument as to what they were supposedly arguing about grew extraordinarily involved and abstruse, with subtle haggling over definitions, enormous digressions, quarrels – threats, even, to appeal to higher authority. And then suddenly the life would go out of them and they would sit round the table looking at one another with extinct eyes, like ghosts fading at cock-crow.”

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