So, Donald Trump wins the US Presidency, and I along with millions of others pick up 1984 by George Orwell to read. Sigh. I downloaded an audiobook from my local library’s Overdrive and over the course of a week soberingly listened to it.
Published in 1949, the futuristic 1984 novel portrays London as a city in the totalitarian state of Oceania where Big Brother is watching you and the Thought Police is reading your mind. The narrator introduces our protagonist, Winston Smith, a thirty-nine-year-old man who sounds much older, who lives in a building that smells of boiled cabbage and whose job it is to spread public falsehoods at the Ministry of Truth. What sets him apart is his memory. In 1984, the enemy changes but the world is always at war. Freedom is war. Freedom “is the freedom to say that two plus two make four,” says Winston even though the Party will eventually force him to agree that “TWO AND TWO MAKE FIVE”.
To be fair to Donald Trump, the world has felt more like 1984 for a good several years now. But what has made this book immensely popular in the last month is how authoritarian the new US administration is setting itself up to be and its ridiculous assertion that lies are alternative facts. It’s enough to challenge your sanity.
In either case, I’m not a big fan of dystopian or even utopian novels, but I’m glad to have “read” it especially now when seemingly every journalist is arguing about whether we are living in 1984. I was surprised by the love story element of it. Even love is a political act. Overall, on to the next book I say!