Sunday, February 19, 2017
1984 by George Orwell (audiobook)
Winston Smith is being watched. Big Brother and his Thought Police are there to ensure that Winston and all his comrades in the Party never behave inappropriately, never even think anything dissonant - not about the Party, not about Winston's country of Oceania and not certainly not about Big Brother. But despite knowing he's being constantly monitored, Winston still struggles with keeping his thoughts in line. He dreams of a better life and he knows he's being lied to. In a world where whatever the party says is TRUTH, despite your own knowledge to the contrary, Winston finally finds a piece of happiness - but how long can it last?
Despite having a general knowledge of what this book is about, I can't believe I made it almost to forty before finally digging in. So, it's terrifying. The part that I keep mulling over in my head, what my thoughts can't leave alone, is the idea of the present controlling the past - that whatever "history" is left to our posterity is purely the result of our own biases and selective retelling. It is so upsetting to imagine that everything we've been told about our own history could just be a story someone told to support their own agenda and struggle for power. It's such an ugly idea, a civilization where every fact has been manipulated, every person is a shell to be filled with whatever the party says, where love and interconnectedness are weakness and strength is only to be found in giving yourself completely to a brutal and unforgiving ideal.
Can you say you LIKE this book? I'm not sure I can. Was I enthralled? Yes. Terrified? Yes. Double yes. Was it depressing? Yes. Did it make me think all the deep thoughts and ask myself some hard questions? It did. Did I find parts of it hard to listen to? Yep. It's harsh, this book. It is stark and lonely and sad. But the making-me-think part matters. A lot.