10 Little Known Facts About 1984

Posted by Hayley on June 8, 2015

George Orwell's 1984 was published 66 years ago today. To mark the occasion (and/or placate Big Brother), we've gathered a few surprising facts about the landmark dystopian novel.

1. An Italian translation exists in which the clocks strike "uno" instead of thirteen.
According to rumor (spurred on by novelist Anthony Burgess), a translation existed that changed the novel's infamous first line—"It was a bright, cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen"—because, according to the translator, "Italian clocks don't go up to thirteen."

2. 1984 could've been written by P.S. Burton, Kenneth Miles, or H. Lewis Allways.
Or at least that's what the book covers would have said. In truth, George Orwell was the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair. Blair selected his pseudonym from a short list that included the above names.

3. Orwell almost called his novel The Last Man in Europe.
In a letter to his literary agent, he wrote, "I have not definitely decided on the title. I am inclined to call it either Nineteen Eighty-Four or The Last Man in Europe, but I might just possibly think of something else in the next week or two."

4. "2 + 2 = 5" was a real slogan of the Communist Party.
A harrowing example of false dogma in 1984, "2 + 2 = 5" really did make sense to someone in the real world—and that someone was Joseph Stalin (or more specifically his propagandist, Iakov Guminer). Two years after launching a five-year economic plan, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union announced that the plan would be completed a year early. In their campaign's own words, "2 + 2 = 5: Arithmetic of a counter-plan plus the enthusiasm of the workers."

5. Orwell finished writing his novel while severely ill.
It began as a peaceful writing retreat at a friend's remote Scottish farmhouse, and it ended, quite miserably, at a sanatorium. A week before Christmas in 1947, Orwell was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with tuberculosis. While he managed to finish his manuscript, his condition only worsened in the following years.

6. Before there was 1984's Thought Crime, there was Japan's Kempeitai.
Orwell based his Thought Crime motif on the Imperial Japanese Army's military police arm. Operating from 1881 to 1945, this secretive police force had the power to arrest people for "unpatriotic" thoughts.

7. Room 101 was real—and Orwell lived through it.
Of course, instead of a torture room filled with nightmares, the room Orwell had to sit in was an office at the BBC Broadcasting House. He worked here during his stint as a propagandist, and you can see how his Room 101 probably looked here.

8. Orwell modeled the character of Julia on his second wife, Sonia Brownell.
Sonia was an assistant at a literary magazine, and Julia was "the girl from the fiction department." Unfortunately, Orwell and Sonia's love was as doomed as Julia and Winston's—Orwell died 14 weeks after the two were married.

9. An asteroid discovered in 1984 was named after Orwell.
On July 31, 1984, astronomer Antonin Mrkos discovered an asteroid at the Czech observatory in Klet. As befitting a small rocky body hurtling through space and identified by humans in the year 1984, it was designated 11020 Orwell.

10. Big Brother was watching Orwell while he wrote 1984.
Thanks to a research trip in 1936 that included a stay at an apartment "arranged by the local Communist party," the government put Orwell on a special watch list. He was kept under tight surveillance for more than 12 years, but our favorite snippet from the reports is this incriminating observation: "Dresses in a bohemian fashion."


Think Big Brother is watching you? Then this doubleplusgood Listopia is probably for you: Popular Dystopian Books.

Comments Showing 1-44 of 44 (44 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Madeline (new)

Madeline Nobody should be allowed to run for public office until they have read this wonderful book.


message 2: by Robert (new)

Robert Davis Madeline wrote: "Nobody should be allowed to run for public office until they have read this wonderful book."

The problem is, some would use it as a blue print and not as a cautionary tale.


message 3: by Frank (new)

Frank Pinelander Along with this, The Gulag Archipelago should be mandatory, so today's youth would really understand what the future holds under the "progressive" nonsense that they're being brainwashed into.

Sadly, many will still push for a "progressive" future, because they plan on serving Lubyanka Breakfasts.


message 4: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda Perhaps, considering the way things are changing so openly throughout the world lately, required reading should also be Elie Wiesel's Night also.


Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {comatose with common sense} I don't see the 'prophetic weight' 1984 held in 1949, nor do I see what it could mean to us in 2015.
I found the entire book a waste of my time.
All we went through with Winston, all for nothing.
Honestly, you'd probably get a better story of strong rebellion and fighting for the common good in The Hunger Games.
I've never even READ that and I recommend it over 1984.
I was promised 'riveting science fiction' and a 'political, moral and romantic thriller for the now'.
In short, I was gypped.


message 6: by Mj (new)

Mj Rhonda wrote: "Perhaps, considering the way things are changing so openly throughout the world lately, required reading should also be Elie Wiesel's Night also."

Absolutely!


message 7: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {Evil-esque mastermind} wrote: "I don't see the 'prophetic weight' 1984 held in 1949, nor do I see what it could mean to us in 2015.
I found the entire book a waste of my time.
All we went through with Winston, all for nothing.
H..."


Orwell was more concerned with condemning totalitarianism than with giving Winston Smith a happy--and completely inappropriate to the story--ending. Give Orwell's Homage to Catalonia a read and you'll find that 1984 had a firm basis in reality.


message 8: by Roberto (new)

Roberto Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {Evil-esque mastermind} wrote: "I don't see the 'prophetic weight' 1984 held in 1949, nor do I see what it could mean to us in 2015.
I found the entire book a waste of my time.
All we went through with Winston, all for nothing.
H..."


Troll'd


message 9: by Richard (new)

Richard Rhonda wrote: "Perhaps, considering the way things are changing so openly throughout the world lately, required reading should also be Elie Wiesel's Night also."

I had to read that as mandatory reading in two different high schools.


Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {comatose with common sense} Amanda wrote: "Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {Evil-esque mastermind} wrote: "I don't see the 'prophetic weight' 1984 held in 1949, nor do I see what it could mean to us in 2015.
I found the entire book a waste of my t..."


I've heard of that one, seems interesting.
I'm certainly not gonna condemn an author just because I didn't like one book.


message 11: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {Evil-esque mastermind} wrote: "Amanda wrote: "Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {Evil-esque mastermind} wrote: "I don't see the 'prophetic weight' 1984 held in 1949, nor do I see what it could mean to us in 2015.
I found the entire book ..."


It's very good. I'm not a huge fan of his style in 1984, but reading it after Homage to Catalonia made me appreciate the message.


message 12: by Thrown With Great Force (last edited Jun 08, 2015 11:24AM) (new)

Thrown With Great Force Not the place for your partisan bullshit, thanks, Frank. Plenty of forums where you can gob off about your politics without polluting Goodreads.


message 13: by Jon (new)

Jon Thrown With Great Force, you must be a "progressive."


message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 08, 2015 12:26PM) (new)

Robert wrote: The problem is, some would use it as a blue print and not as a cautionary tale.

Only if you are in North Korea. Otherwise, this cautionary tale is as outdated as folk tales of demon possession. Most Western (and non-Western as well) societies are not threatened with 1984-like future. Much more current as a cautionary tale applicable to today governments is Huxley's Brave New World. Indeed, I was astonished when I learned that Brave New World was written nearly two decades before 1984.


Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {comatose with common sense} Igor wrote: "Robert wrote: The problem is, some would use it as a blue print and not as a cautionary tale.

Only if you are in North Korea. Otherwise, this cautionary tale is as outdated as folk tales of demon ..."


Thank you!
My point exactly.


message 16: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Just re-read 1984 a few weeks ago. These facts were pretty interesting :)


message 17: by Catherine (new)

Catherine I am going to have to reread this....it's been years...and I really don't recall a lot...


message 18: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Wright I read this book in high school over 40 years and the message stuck with me. This book is always on the no. One list for me.


message 19: by Rupert (new)

Rupert Dreyfus This is the book that got me in to reading and writing. I read it in a night. Haven't reread it, but have read most Orwell stuff now. Can't wait to read it again some day...


اية محمود Aya Mahmoud Madeline wrote: "Nobody should be allowed to run for public office until they have read this wonderful book."

some of them would believe that the thought police are the good guys.
the love of power can't be cured by one book, the people's silence might be.


message 21: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante I usually know most of the facts listed about books in these lists - this one, I had no clue, apparently. I should go back and re-read it again - it's been ages - and have my older kids read it for the first time - I was about their age when I read this stuff. They may not like it now, but as long as the image sticks with them, perhaps I will have passed on Orwell's message.


message 22: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {Evil-esque mastermind} wrote: "I don't see the 'prophetic weight' 1984 held in 1949, nor do I see what it could mean to us in 2015.
I found the entire book a waste of my time.
All we went through with Winston, all for nothing.
H..."

The "all for nothing", I thought after reading, was the point. If Winston remained a rebel to the end we would celebrate and then forget. The ending showing his failure to resist makes us consider the fact that we too may fail.


message 23: by Nancy (new)

Nancy I also think I should read this book again. I was probably in my 20's when I read it the first time. I'm almost 75 now.


message 24: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante Johanna wrote: "The ending showing his failure to resist makes us consider the fact that we too may fail."

Good point.

I also think we are used to seeing the resistance succeed that we don't actually think about - what would happen if they failed?


Thrown With Great Force Jon wrote: "Thrown With Great Force, you must be a "progressive.""

Not the place for your partisan bullshit either, thanks Jon. Quite happy to discuss politics in the abstract but if you want to take sides then go to a news site or something.


message 26: by Lisa (new)

Lisa I think its time for me to re-read this book.


message 27: by Billy (new)

Billy Roper Conservatives see this book as a cautionary tale, liberals as a how-to guide.


message 28: by P. (last edited Jun 09, 2015 02:26PM) (new)

P. Zach Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {Evil-esque mastermind} wrote: "I don't see the 'prophetic weight' 1984 held in 1949, nor do I see what it could mean to us in 2015.
I found the entire book a waste of my time.
All we went through with Winston, all for nothing.
H..."


Well, I couldn't recommend 1984 as exciting, but I can say that it has some intellectual value...


Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {comatose with common sense} It just wasn't my cup of tea.
I'm glad I read it, but i'll probably never read it again.
Maybe I'm not enough of an 'intellectual' to understand its value.


message 30: by P. (new)

P. Zach Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {Evil-esque mastermind} wrote: "It just wasn't my cup of tea.
I'm glad I read it, but i'll probably never read it again.
Maybe I'm not enough of an 'intellectual' to understand its value."


Sure, no offense meant. I'm just saying, it is slightly ridiculous the way people say this book is supposed to be a 'thriller', because it isn't.


message 31: by Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {comatose with common sense} (last edited Jun 09, 2015 02:40PM) (new)

Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {comatose with common sense} P. wrote: "Zombieslayer/Alienhunter {Evil-esque mastermind} wrote: "It just wasn't my cup of tea.
I'm glad I read it, but i'll probably never read it again.
Maybe I'm not enough of an 'intellectual' to unders..."


No offense taken.
It just didn't fit with what people were describing.
Had I known the actual content of the book before I picked it up, I probably wouldn't have read it.
I agree; they make it out to be something it's not.


message 32: by Makayla (new)

Makayla Marie I did know he was ill while he wrote it and he didn't have much money for most of his life. I did not know about the other things! Which were interesting because I love this book!


message 33: by Ursula (new)

Ursula  
For those of us that read this, I thought it was a great share. I didn't know these facts. Thanks for sharing! :)
 


message 34: by Cristian (new)

Cristian  Morales Excellent article! I didn't know about Iakov Guminer.


message 35: by هاجر (last edited Jun 09, 2015 10:19PM) (new)

هاجر عبدالوهاب Alitta wrote: "I don't know I still prefer Brave New World over this, especially after knowing how most of the book is based on available ideas at his time. (Newspeak, all the propaganda, the concept of thought c..."

I am glad knowing more about his piece of art 1984 and i am dying to reread it again :(
and i agree with ya. BNW is different and his style in writing is much better than Orwell-or it is just what i see-what about the end of BNW? it passed my mind that it lacks sth! i felt just as it was awfully open.


message 36: by Chiara (new)

Chiara
1. An Italian translation exists in which the clocks strike "uno" instead of thirteen.


That's really funny, given that Italian clocks used to have all 24 hours in the early days of clock-making, and were only later adapted to the 12-hour standard of Europe above-the-Alps.


message 37: by Thrown With Great Force (last edited Jun 10, 2015 06:29AM) (new)

Thrown With Great Force Billy wrote: "Conservatives see this book as a cautionary tale, liberals as a how-to guide."

Oh good, partisan bullshit. If you can't talk about the book without dragging your idiot "politics" into it, go and discuss it on a news website instead.


Thrown With Great Force Sounds like a way of selling it in schools as a set text to me. You're quite right, it's not a thriller, although the Room 101 scenes are probably closest.


message 39: by Sonia (last edited Jun 10, 2015 03:29AM) (new)

Sonia Alitta wrote: "هاجر wrote: what about the end of BNV?

There is a "sequel" called Brave New World Revisited that is an essay by Huxley, kind of finishing the book. But BNW itself is indeed very open-ended, it's "..."


Brave New World was written and published long before 1984 and is about the same issues, somehow, though I've found it much better


message 40: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Chiara wrote: "1. An Italian translation exists in which the clocks strike "uno" instead of thirteen.

That's really funny, given that Italian clocks used to have all 24 hours in the early days of clock-making, a..."


But you know in Italian we more often refer to 1pm as "una" than as "13", so I guess both translations would have been equal in this sense, the translator probably just chose the most likely term used in the spoken language


message 41: by Chiara (new)

Chiara Sonia wrote: "Chiara wrote: "1. An Italian translation exists in which the clocks strike "uno" instead of thirteen.

That's really funny, given that Italian clocks used to have all 24 hours in the early days of ..."


Yep, definitely :)


message 42: by هاجر (new)

هاجر عبدالوهاب Sonia wrote: "Alitta wrote: "هاجر wrote: what about the end of BNV?

There is a "sequel" called Brave New World Revisited that is an essay by Huxley, kind of finishing the book. But BNW itself is indeed very ope..."


That is considered prespective!

Huxley has sort of symbols through the names of his novel's characters .. latley a reader sent me this topic about BNV and how Huxley referred to * some real political and cultural figures* in his work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World#Sources_of_names_and_references


message 43: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante Chiara wrote: "That's really funny, given that Italian clocks used to have all 24 hours in the early days of clock-making..."

This is a very interesting twist to add to the above facts! I wonder if it had been done, tongue-in-cheek?


message 44: by هاجر (new)

هاجر عبدالوهاب Alitta wrote: "هاجر wrote: "Sonia wrote: "Alitta wrote: "هاجر wrote: what about the end of BNV?"

Thank you, the link is broken though. I had to copy it manually."

You are welcome.


back to top