Read Nineteen Eighty-Four (dystopian novel written by George Orwell) by Contributors to Wikimedia projects

Nineteen Eighty-Four (also stylised as 1984) is a dystopian social science fiction novel and cautionary tale written by the English writer George Orwell. It was published on 8 June 1949 by Secker & Warburg as Orwell’s ninth and final book completed in his lifetime. Thematically, it centres on the consequences of totalitarianism, mass surveillance and repressive regimentation of people and behaviours within society.[2][3] Orwell, a democratic socialist, modelled the authoritarian state in the novel on Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany.[2][3][4] More broadly, the novel examines the role of truth and facts within societies and the ways in which they can be manipulated.

While explore Audible, I stumbled upon an Orwell collection read by Stephen Fry.

One of the things that really struck me in this rereading was the use of Emmanuel Goldstein’s book ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’ to build out the world of 1984. This reminded me of the way in which Raphael Hythloday retells his experience of Utopia in Thomas More’s book. One of the odd consequences of this is that although it is easy to imagine another character living in Eurasia providing a similar recount of life, it feels difficult to understand how any other character might actually respond to this world. For example, how might the novel be different written from O’Brien’s point of view? Or Ampleforth the poet? Is Winston alone in his thoughts? Are there others who actually feel the same way? What do other’s actually feel? Here I am reminded of the paranoia captured in something like Stasiland or The Matrix, but also the modern world of ‘templated selves‘, the world of likes and continuous observation captured in something like The Circle and The Every.

Liked Los Angeles Review of Books,Orwell’s Many-Thorned Bomb Shelter: A Conversation with Rebecca Solnit (Los Angeles Review of Books)

I first read Speak, Memory when I was young, and that was such a memorable passage for me because it’s such a beautiful illustration of the principle that “you see what you are looking for.” This relates to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which I first read as a teenager, and have reread many times since. It was really extraordinary to go back and read it again with the “new equipment” of having a sense of an Arcadian Orwell, Orwell the passionate gardener, someone who is not nearly as grim and pessimistic as he’s always been made out to be. Rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four and finding that, although the torture is still there, the totalitarianism is still there, the propaganda is still there, the counter he offers is not just resistance to that in the blankest way, but these moments of pleasure Winston Smith seizes that are all so often moments of beauty, moments in the natural world. It was surprising to find out, on this reading, how lush the novel was, how it describes a range of pleasures that mattered to Winston Smith and mattered to Orwell … from the golden country to the coral paperweight, to the birds singing.

Bookmarked Honest, Decent, Wrong by Louis Menand (The New Yorker)

Orwell’s prose was so effective that it seduced many readers into imagining, mistakenly, that he was saying what they wanted him to say, and what they themselves thought. Orwell was not clairvoyant; he was not infallible; he was not even consistent. He changed his mind about things, as most writers do. He dramatized out of a desire to make the world more the way he wished it to be, as most writers do. He also said what he thought without hedging or trimming, as few writers do all the time. It is strange how selectively he was heard. It is no tribute to him to turn his books into anthems to a status quo he hated. Orwell is admired for being a paragon when he was, self-consciously, a naysayer and a misfit. If he is going to be welcomed into the pantheon of right-thinking liberals, he should at least be allowed to bring along his goat.

Louis Menand unpacks some of the complexities associated with George Orwell’s legacy.

Marginalia

Orwell was a brilliant and cultured man, with an Eton accent and an anomalous, vaguely French mustache, who wore the same beat-up tweed jacket nearly every day, made (very badly) his own furniture, and lived, most of the time, one step up from squalor. He read Joyce and kept a goat in the back yard. He was completely authentic and completely inauthentic at the same time—a man who believed that to write honestly he needed to publish under a false name.

Orwell’s writing is effortlessly compelling.

But there is sometimes a confusion, when people talk about Orwell’s writing, between honesty and objectivity. “He said what he believed” and “He told it like it was” refer to different virtues. One of the effects of the tone Orwell achieved—the tone of a reasonable, modest, supremely undogmatic man, hoping for the best but resigned to the worst—was the impression of transparency, something that Orwell himself, in an essay called “Why I Write,” identified as the ideal of good prose.

If ideas were to stand or fall on the basis of their logically possible consequences, we would have no ideas, because the ultimate conceivable consequence of every idea is an absurdity—is, in some way, “against life.” We don’t live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their “tendency” is to some dire condition—to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all.

Read Animal Farm

Animal Farm is a satirical allegorical novella by George Orwell, first published in England on 17 August 1945.[1][2] The book tells the story of a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a society where the animals can be equal, free, and happy. Ultimately, the rebellion is betrayed, and the farm ends up in a state as bad as it was before, under the dictatorship of a pig named Napoleon.

I remember reading Animal Farm a long time ago. However, I am not sure I appreciated the historical context. Although there seems to be some debate about whether this actually matters or not.

I found a reading on Spotify:

As well as a reading by Stephen Fry on Audible.

Marginalia

The Seven Commandments:

Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.

Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.

No animal shall wear clothes.

No animal shall sleep in a bed.

No animal shall drink alcohol.

No animal shall kill any other animal.

All animals are equal.

Bookmarked With Apologies to Orwell, We’ve Gone Way Past 1984 (Literary Hub)

Social media made this process all too easy as it became the primary news source for millions of Americans while lacking the editorial oversight of traditional media. Responding to criticism in 2017, Facebook’s chief of security, Alex Stamos, pointed out that using the blunt instrument of machine learning to eliminate fake news could turn the platform into “the Ministry of Truth with ML systems,” but by failing to act in time, Facebook was already allowing bad actors such as the Internet Research Agency to spread disinformation unchecked. The problem is likely to get worse. The growth of “deepfake” image synthesis, which combines computer graphics and artificial intelligence to manufacture images whose artificiality can only be identified by expert analysis, has the potential to create a paranoid labyrinth in which, according to the viewer’s bias, fake images will pass as real while real ones are dismissed as fake. With image synthesis, Winston’s fictional Comrade Ogilvy could be made to walk and talk while the crucial photograph of Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford could be shrugged off as a hoax. There is no technological remedy; the bug resides in human nature.

Excerpted from Dorian Lynskey’s book The Ministry of Truth, in which he argues that we have gone past George Orwell’s dystopia in 1984.