George Orwell’s 1984

A heartbreaking, gut-wrenching novel. If I were a little more melodramatic, I might have fallen to my knees and wept.

Some Background Info:

1984 is a speculative story about a totalitarian world. Imagine every fascist, communist and demonic creature ever conceived and smash them together with a hadron collider. The product of this twisted experiment would be called ‘The Party’. This party is impregnable, infallible, indefatigable. They annihilate their enemies and destroy the world’s hopes of freedom, equality and most importantly, progress. They change  history as they see fit and there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – you can do to stop them. All for sheer power. There is no means, there is no ideology, there is nothing to stand for. They literally want power and nothing else. What’s more, they’ve conditioned the population to love them for it.

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I am not a light-hearted reader. In fact, being South African, I am by default exposed to some of the most raw and unfiltered literature in the world. Books like Antjie Krog”s Country of My Skull cover some gruesome human rights violations. Besides that, I love reading all sorts of gory Science Fiction from all over the place. This novel was above that. It went beyond individual human despair and destroyed the very idea of freedom with no hope of bringing it back. I have known the word ‘nihilism’ for a long time. I’ve even explored many facets of it (on an academic level), but I’d never had a sample of the hopelessness and despair that came with it. I now can say I’ve experienced the aftertaste of nihilism. It’s not pleasant. Damn.

It’s a very rare occurrence when something moves me this much, so I couldn’t leave it alone, I had to blog about it, despite wanting to reserve blogging on literature for later.

To all seven people who end up seeing my blog, have you read 1984? If not, what have you read that you would place on a similar level, compared to what I’ve described above? Do you enjoy reading literature that does not give  a solution at the end, that leaves one with a question rather than an answer?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “George Orwell’s 1984

  1. I’ve read it, but I have to say I experienced it very differently to you. I found it kind of boring and hard to get through and only forced myself to read it on account of it being a “classic”. I found the whole story very flat and the characters difficult to develop any kind of real interest in.

    • Now hold on just a minute! I would humbly request that you read this entire comment, despite some rudeness on my part. I can see why you found the characters totally non-relative. Based on your seemingly existential and nihilistic blog, I would say you’ve missed the whole point of writing and literature in general. You see, literature is about empathy. Why do we care about the girl who died on TV? Because if we did not, we would be the equivalent of dumb apes. It’s what makes us better, stronger and more cohesive as a human race. It is also the reason why people read. If you refuse to acknowledge any feelings of sympathy or empathy for the characters because you feel it would be false and insincere, then you are not engaging with the book. The entire point of sharing literature is to emulate, to imitate, to feel what the writer feels and thus gain wisdom from the experience. If you refuse to feel anything for the man in this book who was tortured into insanity, then you have nobody to blame for the boring story but yourself.

      With your logic, why should you have felt any sympathy for your loved one when she shed a tear? She’s not truly connected to you in any way. One day she will be dust, and so will you. Why feel anything at all? Isn’t that the point of your blog?

      I hope you will read this. I was stuck in the exact same position as you once and I hope to provide you with a solution.
      Here’s how I see it: The world sucks. Everybody’s superficial and doesn’t have any moral substance. They cry for people they don’t care about, pretend to love when they don’t actually love, destroy all sense of virtue until you think nothing in the world is worth living for. Yes? Well that’s reality. The world is indeed like this and will never change. In fact, as you discover more atrocities, it will progressively seem worse. Forgive my crudeness, but nobody gives a fuck. Nobody has determined your destiny and nobody has given you purpose. You are alone. Funnily enough, it’s always the greatest people in history who know this about themselves better than anyone else does. Now that this is established, go and figure out what you want to do about it. Develop some sense of purpose for yourself, purely from the matter of your own mind. Then, fulfill this purpose.

      You’re here writing this blog. You’re doing SOMETHING, so you have not truly accepted your insignificance in the universe. Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite? You’re talking about how mediocre you are, yet you are doing something that is not necessary for mediocrity.

      Ask yourself this: Do you want to remain a cell in a petri dish? I believe you definitely do not.
      Then that’s really all the reason you need, isn’t it?

      Also, follow my blog if you want. If you do, I’ll cover some of these existential concepts more in-depth just for you!
      I write this because I care, not for you individually (I will admit) but for humanity. The fact that you are frustrated means you have the capacity to do something worthy of existence. I know this without a doubt.

      Good luck fellow human. I have confidence in you.
      Savva

      • I was thinking about how to reply to this because I think I have clearly failed to communicate my positions effectively.

        I do understand that literature is about experiencing another world through empathising with the characters. I just find it easier to do so with some literature than others, and in the case of 1984 I found it very difficult to do because I did not find the characters very deep or relatable.

        The blog post you refer to was one I titled proximity. I titled it proximity, because I think proximity is the key to the issue at hand. I can relate to my lover because he is close to me – not just close in place, but intellectually and emotionally close. We have shared a significant amount – in a very real sense we are not only “individuals” any more because via shared experiences and influences we have become almost a unit itself.

        Of course the same is true at all levels. Because of the globalised nature of the economy what happens to a textile worker in Bangladesh has impacts on me in my own country. There is a constant transfer of information and responses between the “system” that is my body and mind and the “system” that is other peoples bodies and minds.

        But there is not just one giant system, the ecology of human (and indeed non-human) life on earth is many layered and complex. Just as all the cells in my body are interconnected, all living things on earth are interconnected. But the cells are organised into tissues and organs and the living creatures on the planet are also organised into similar discrete but interconnected units.

        And proximity matters. If a tissue is injured in one place the whole tissue may inflame, but the tissues of a far off organ may not react to this, or only react in a very minor way.

        My lover is my mate, his pain is of direct and serious consequence to me – not least because he is right there and his emotions are reflecting in my mirror neurones, but also because what happens to him will have a profound effect on my life.

        A girl I didn’t know existed before being dead, might have some unknown feedback effect on the whole system of which I am also a part, the many layered ecosystem of life on earth – but that unknown effect could be good or bad, for those close to her it is a tragedy, it will effect them for the rest of their lives. For me it’s just an unknown variable in an extremely complex system.

        I could still have “empathy” by imagining what she might be like, by imagining how her community might feel – but it’s not empathy for her at all, it’s empathy for an image I created in my head – and it will never be as real as something genuinely close to me.

        I only care about humanity in so far as my destiny is tied up with theirs. I am not saying that in a sort of bravado “I don’t give a crap because I am hard” kind of way. It’s just I thought a lot about it, and I can’t get past the fact that “humanity” is just an abstraction.

        I’d save my dog from a burning building before I’d save a stranger, because I know and love my dog, my dog is part of my family, part of my world – a stranger is supposed to have more value on account of their species, but what does that matter to me, that we are of the same species, when there is one I love (my dog) who is suffering?

  2. 1984 was good, but not nearly as good as, say, We by Zamyatin, or (especially) Brave New World by Huxley. I definitely love the dystopian genre in general, it provides me with a strong sense of what might actually happen in the near future.

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