“1984”: Haunting (Non?) Fiction

I am behind the times (ironic for the book I’m discussing) and have only just read George Orwell’s “1984” – and boy, was it one of those books that doesn’t let you go even after the final page has been turned.

Written in the wake of Nazism and the fear of communism, it’s fiction that could easily have become non-fiction if the wrong people had gathered all the power – and power, as O’Brien reminds Winston, is everything. It was perhaps my favourite notion from the book: this wasn’t about good and evil, about right and wrong, it was purely about absolute power. In a way, it almost made it easier to see the Party’s motives, and what really hit me regarding this was the section of Goldstein’s book on the slogan ‘War is Peace’. At the heart of it, the slogan was proven to be right; a constant state of war meant constant alertness, prosperity from war preparations, community spirit in the face of the enemy – it promoted a lot of things we want during peace time, that we strive to achieve. Suddenly, the realm of fiction isn’t so fictitious any more.

I like that we never really know what prompts Winston and Julia to rebel, because it makes it logical that it’s quite literally beaten out of them in the closing chapters of the book. Likewise, they don’t win; dystopian fiction has a tendency to show the endurance of the human spirit, with which there’s nothing wrong, but this became very close to reality. There was no winning, and no losing, just being. And that’s what was scary: this could slot right into any form of reality, whether it’s what we consider a ‘good’ world or a ‘bad’ one.

It’s not a ‘reviewable’ book as such, but it is one that – whether you enjoy it or not – really grips the issues of humanity across time. We should be afraid of being wiped out in personality, in mind – we should cling on to what makes us individual in the face of frightening world events, if only to protect our humanity rather than our society.

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