10 Little Known Facts About 1984
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.
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