1984 – George Orwell
Crappy translation and numerous typos aside, I loved this book. There was something so powerful and unremitting about it, like a quiet, but ever-present force. I could not put it down.
Orwell’s nightmarish vision of the future (or, is it the past?) kept me up and alert for hours. I barely slept or ate. Things like brushing my hair or feeding my cat didn’t seem so important anymore (sorry, Eli). How could they be when I feel like we’ve narrowly escaped this bleak, horrible world described in the novel? A few maniacal propositions here, a bit of fire there, a few wrong choices, mix it well and add a dash of lunacy and there you have it – “the perfect world.”
I’m not exactly sure which frightens and shocks me the most – a world where literature is being rewritten and simplified, a world where language is being altered in horrible ways or a world where history is being rewritten and, in some cases, even completely destroyed, to the point of being rendered as non-existent. Good or bad, history is history. It should not be touched, only learned from.
This domineering, totalitarian society reminds us of many past and present ones. However, the people in charge of it have taken their reign to a whole new level. Eliminating basic human emotions, suppressing natural human impulses, suffocating free will and exterminating all and any bonds of friendship and love among people. Turning children against parents, propagating hatred and violence and controlling all aspects of one’s life, to the point where one has to discipline gestures, face movements and even thoughts. Reality is no longer what it is, but what they tell you it is. A chill ran down my spine just writing that sentence.
This is the bleak, depressing world the protagonist introduces us to. His greatest crime is buying a diary, a way of emitting his thoughts and ideas without constant vigilance and fear of being discovered and charged with ‘thoughtcrime’. He is not sure himself why he has gone to all the trouble of buying a diary and keeping one. In time, he comes to realise that this life he and millions of others are living is not how it should be lived. He wants to educate younger generations the way older generations failed to educate and help him. A natural rebellion of the mind that quickly shifts into a rebellion of the body once he meets Julia. I loved the early scenes between them. I loved that they cursed and drank and ate the forbidden fruit. I loved that their love-making was a political act of rebellion. I loved that they turned out not to be so similar after all. Variety is the spice of life. It can never truly be extinguished. People can never truly shut down their emotions and turn into robots. The human mind and the human spirit will always find a way to re-emerge, even if one was taught to block humanity from the very beginning.
At least, that’s what I strongly believed. And then I read the novel in its entirety and my jaw hit the floor. They got to him! In the end, they managed to break him and brainwash him and plant their own babies in there. I never, not even for one second, thought that it would happen. There wasn’t even a possibility that allowed that in my mind. And yet they broke him. How? Isn’t the human mind and spirit supposed to be impenetrable? ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but regardless of what you do, you’ll never be able to change my mind’, or something like that? But, I guess I was wrong. Nothing’s impenetrable, not even the mind.
In the end, we have a broken person. He is no longer the inquisitive, feisty rebel, he can no longer love, just thinking about certain things aches him. He has become a hollow shell, a mere shadow of his former self. He loves Big Brother. For the first time, he loves him for real.