Carlo's Reviews > 1984

1984 by George Orwell
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's review
Aug 25, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: dystopian, english-literature, to-be-read-again, language

Simple: Nineteen Eighty Four is a book everyone should read. Not because it should be classified under non-fiction, nor because it explores entirely new aspects of human nature, and nor even because of the breathtaking imagination of George Orwell, but because of the simple fact that if we want to “survive,” it can be crucial for our survival and of our world as we know it.

One of my favorite books is The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. I believe that human beings are capable of doing what Dostoyevsky outlined and the world would be a far better place if they do. I can surmise that it is my favorite book because it talks about the world as I want it and think that it should be. But the perfect world can be entirely different for each and every one of us, and that's why I don't see as a necessity for everyone to read that book. But 1984 talks exactly about the opposite and in this lies the reason why I think everyone should read it: it talks about a world surely enough nobody wants to live in. Dostoyevsky’s world can be realized with enormous effort, whereas Orwell’s can be realized when no effort is done to change it from what it has become.

Readers of the book can argue that a world like that of the book would never be realized, given the “civilized” state we live in. I disagree and my counter argument is that the world the book discusses is imminent if not already here. Every tool of surveillance Orwell is talking about has an equivalent in our world today; The characteristics of Newspeak can be found in at least all the languages I speak; Every act of deception he talked about has been performed in some countries around the world if not in all of them. In short: everything he talked about is relevant to the our world more than anything.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is that of language. It shows how alteration of language can consequently alter thought and how for example the use of adjectives is crucial for being creative and able to use one’s imagination. Orwell also points out that the “simplification” of language affects the mind and its ability to think objectively.

Another interesting topic here is emotion. The book is filled about how emotions evolve and how someone can control them within oneself and others. In astonishing and smart prose, Orwell elucidates the means by which it is possible to erase love, plant hatred, induce respect, and even kindle belief of an idea. The book also recognizes the importance of sex along with other human instincts, such as the longing to be free, in shaping societies.

I think the book deserves more than the buzz it gets, along with its author. He was one of the smartest people I met in literature and reading this book was definitely one of the best reading experiences I’ve had.
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Reading Progress

August 25, 2010 – Shelved
May 20, 2011 – Started Reading
May 30, 2011 –
page 40
12.27% "Till now, perfect!"
June 7, 2011 –
page 68
June 11, 2011 –
page 111
June 20, 2011 –
page 164
50.31% "Really a great book and a great author. How can someone imagine all this?"
July 5, 2011 –
page 227
69.63% "This book can be easily be in the list of "Books Everyone Should Read at Least Once""
July 6, 2011 –
page 252
July 9, 2011 – Shelved as: dystopian
July 9, 2011 – Finished Reading
July 23, 2011 – Shelved as: english-literature
September 13, 2011 – Shelved as: to-be-read-again
September 26, 2011 – Shelved as: language
October 2, 2011 – Shelved (Mass Market Paperback Edition)
November 3, 2011 – Shelved as: engl... (Mass Market Paperback Edition)
November 3, 2011 – Shelved as: dyst... (Mass Market Paperback Edition)
November 3, 2011 – Shelved as: to-b... (Mass Market Paperback Edition)
November 3, 2011 – Shelved as: lang... (Mass Market Paperback Edition)

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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Laura Man, I'm glad I read that book in 1984. Added . . . an odd type of comfort. I re-read the book a few years ago, and it made me cringe in an all new way.

Have you read Orwell's essay, Politics and the English Language? Fascinating little essay on how language choices can stop thought.

message 2: by Carlo (last edited Jun 27, 2011 11:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carlo I'm originally from Armenia. In 1984, although I was born that year, I've heard that life was pretty much similar to Orwell's depiction. Things now are somehow better, but for completely different reason than what can be described as a good reason. I don't know about the life in the US at the time, but I think it was pretty much like now. I believe the manipulation was done more tactfully, that the average person didn't know about it. Idiots like Bush made it so obvious.

I'm totally amazed by the idea of how language can affect thought. I've heard the idea a dozen times before, but didn't know how it can be done. Orwell outlines it in a very clever and imaginative fashtion that is really fascinating.

Unfortunately, I didn't read the article by Orwell. I'll surely read it ASAP. Thank you for that.

One last thought. People think that the book is a social analysis of communism and feel good about themselves and their regimes, but it's not. That I guess is because of the term INGSOC. I believe it was better for Orwell not to use that term. These ideas are more relevant to a non-communist society such as Europe or the US, than a communist one I believe.

Carlo The link to the essay seems to be broken, but I managed to found it on another site. Thank you again!

Tatiana I think keeping the internet free is extremely important because it counters the forces shown in this book, and prevents governments from controlling people's thoughts to such a degree. I regularly read news from all over the world and enjoy the very different viewpoints shown. What is the real truth? There's no way to know but seeing the wide differences in viewpoint between the journalism of different countries gives one a more accurate idea of the cloud of possibilities. You know?

Carlo I agree about the internet. After you pointed that out, I realized the fact that without the internet, I would have read entirely different collection of books than what I'm reading now and sure enough 1984 wouldn't have been among them. The internet helped me personally to encounter different opinions other than those I was thought or “embedded” with. It is truly a marvel and I'm grateful for the minds that invented it.

I also adopt your strategy in hearing or reading the news or when I explore any subject on the internet. I constantly verify the sources and search for other viewpoints and it really helps getting nearest possible to the trut.

I now see that you rated the book 1 star without a review. I would really like to know why you disliked the book.

message 6: by Tatiana (last edited Jul 10, 2011 12:25PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Tatiana I think when I first read it, I thought it was good and important, and I would probably have rated it with 4 or 5 stars, but in the intervening decades I've read a lot of dystopian books, and I've found them generally to be shallow. They are something like rants, in general, to me. They tend to mistakenly take some trend and extrapolate it beyond all reason. Realize that it was 1973 or so when I first read this book, then I watched 1984 go by with nothing at all happening like the book pictured. Then I read dozens of other dystopias, all of which didn't come to pass and really weren't ever going to come to pass. Think of the Club of Rome, and so on. And so I grew weary and suspicious of dystopias in general. I think they're essentially rants. They're an author picking one thing or a few things about society that he or she dislikes, and extrapolating them wildly until they're ridiculously bad, then pretending we are actually in danger of that happening, and trying to arm-twist the rest of us into agreeing.

1984 contributed a lot of ideas to the cultural soup. It's a book everyone should know about, just so they get who Big Brother is or what Newspeak is, and learn how history is rewritten over and over again. Those ideas from the book did last because they're true. Governments do this, our collective memories do this, our war department is called "Defense". We do call things the opposite of what they are.

But dystopias are always wrong, because before things get that bad there are always corrective forces. The rant is always an exaggeration of reality. It's always didactic and a lie (or vast simplification). (I have a real loathing of didacticism in literature because it talks down to us and insults our intelligence.)

So I came vastly to prefer more honest types of science fiction, the type that explore what societies are and can become with a less monomaniacal slant. The ones that see good and bad, and society's future in a more nuanced way that allows for a less bleak reading of progress, of change. The internet, for instance, does have the effect of decreasing our privacy, but it's also got tons of wonderful effects like spreading knowledge, making oppressive governments obsolete, and connecting like-minded people so that their ideas and practices can advance far more quickly than before.

It's not that I think dystopian books like 1984 are bad. I just think they're didactic oversimplifications, and they remind me of my grandfather's total condemnation of modernity, of change, and of the miracle that is life, growth, development, unfolding, being. There was no room for joy in his outlook, because of the harshness of his fear.

My spirit is aligned more toward the joy of exploration and the optimism that we can become who we want to be, in the end. That we have an open-ended future with many myriad choices, and mistakes we make along the way we can make up for, change our minds, pick better paths.

I hope my opinions don't spoil anyone's pleasure in any book they love. Even if I don't appreciate a given book, I'm glad when other people do. Your rating is much more the majority view than mine. But that's why I gave it the rating that I did.

Carlo I agree that dystopias – in fact other forms of art too – are exaggerations of reality, but I disagree about the corrective forces. If you can remember the book, the proles aren’t interested about corrective actions, and they are not even aware of any flaws in society. I think that’s very similar to our world today. Take for example The Patriot Act. It is a proof that people will choose comfort over freedom and so no one is doing anything about it. Life is becoming increasingly similar to the book, not because government are telling lies or torturing their subject as they always did, but because people are not caring enough for those issues as they cared before. Another point is values. For example, If you ask someone whether people should be honest or deceptive, they will tell you sure enough they should be honest, and yet, in their everyday lives they can deceive without knowing it or thinking about their answer to your question. I would have believed that corrective forces will rise, if people said that “people should be deceptive” and acknowledged their true values, but that’s not the case today. As I said in another comment, the world is becoming less predictable, though more “civilized.” We were much cruel before in history, but people were aware and cared enough for that. As I read in Bird Brian’s review of the book, if you search for “police taser citizen” on Youtube you will get enough results to be convinced that we are in fact living in that world The funny thing as Brian said is that it is called formally called “pain compliance”. You can argue that our awareness (mine and yours at least) is a proof that corrective forces can be realized, but I believe change cannot be brought by the minority when the majority is thinking otherwise.

Faten Eassa Carlo, I've read your review on 1984 and it's excellent. I do agree with you in particular when u say, 'Every tool of surveillance Orwell is talking about has an equivalent in our world today'- that I believe is the essance of brilliance in the novel. It's what makes it a modern classic, that goes on forever expressing people's emotions where ever they are regardless of time and locality. It makes art free of traditional boundries and that's where imagination comes in and makes it look so realistic. I wish there would be more stuff like that written today. I believe that literature that covers more time and locality is a global literature and it gets a chance to cover more human emotions. 1984, I believe is about how man abuses man and how far man can tolerate being transformed to what he is not made to be. We see man the criminal, caricatured in Orwel's writings, man the victim struggling for his emotions and nostalgia for the beauty he was supposed to be created to appreaciate . However, systems manipulate man and try to transform him to a machine like. How does man react? It reminds me very much of a novel written later by an American writer David Carp, 'One' which follows the same tune but has a very different ending which changes the meaning completely. I think it is worth a long discussion. I've been trying hard to send this post for a number of times but it fails to be sent.

Carlo @Brian: Thanks Brian!
As for those readers I’m talking about, they remind me of the Architect in the Matrix when he says “denial is the most predictable of all human responses”. Because of the ending, they deny any relevance of the book to their lives. We are conditioned to agree with the books that have “typical and standard endings” in relation to everyday life.

@Faten: Thank you. I agree with you about the book being timeless. Actually the more time passes, the more relevant it is becoming. I think it would’ve been a big mistake if Orwell have set the date somewhere in the 21st century or further. People would’ve thought then that the world of the book is somehow improbable, because that much leap of time will obscure the relevance to the world they live in. The fact of the book looking forward into less than 40 years in the future emphasizes that it isn’t just a science fiction novel exploring a single side of the human condition. It is talking about a world that has begun to be realized already in 1948, when he wrote the book. Orwell’s imagination is one of the most things I admired. For example, in the book, newspeak was made simpler every year. This is more relevant today than in 1948 and even 1984, with all these ready-to-be-used phrases and “simple” expressions which limit the thought and reduce creativity. Orwell’s perceptive mind coupled with his imagination enabled him to go ahead of time and foresee the future. That’s truly ingenious.

message 10: by Tatiana (last edited Jul 12, 2011 02:57PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Tatiana I do think to people who don't feel the sort of heavy arm-twisting quality of the didacticism in various dystopias, they can be really good and important books.

I also do want to urge people who enjoyed this book to read some other science fiction that takes this approach and adds more to it. The Lathe of Heaven is one I think is awesome, by Ursula K. LeGuin. Another might be the Xenogenesis series (sometimes called Lilith's Brood now) by Octavia Butler. I also love Butler's Patternist series, particularly Wild Seed. All these have dystopian elements but give us lots more besides!

There is sometimes simultaneously a disdain for "genre" fiction and a reverence for these supposedly mainstream admonitory dystopias in popular culture which I think is a mistake. Not that any Goodreads readers would make such a mistake, since they're exposed to pretty much all good books. But some people who read a lot less than most of us do have this idea. To me, the latter are just an inferior subset of the former, and it seems a shame to me that people sometimes miss a lot of mindblowing wonderful fiction because they have somehow gotten a wrong idea about "genre" science fiction.

Kalliope Mine is the 37th Like (keeping the counter manual)

Carlo Kalliope wrote: "Mine is the 37th Like (keeping the counter manual)"

Thanks, but where are they really?

message 13: by Joel (last edited Dec 24, 2013 02:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joel I could only say that I agree with you. This book really does have a lot to say to our community today. As you said; we might not live in a totalitarian community or even have some big photos of our great leader always watching us. What we do have, on the other hand, is surveillance. Almost everything we do is registered. Everything we purchase, every activity we take part in, and I'm certain that even this little comment I write on this specific site is registered in a database and could be taken as a micro-aggression towards the authority.

Faten Eassa Agree. Now more than any time in the past I feel that our privacies are more exposed and registered! 1984 is a great work indeed

Deven I really enoyed your original post about this book, 1984. I also was very intrigued by the way in which the "Party" controlled the people's thoughts by decreasing the size of the language, eliminating certain verbs in order to eliminate the actions that they represented. I wonder if there are ways to make this idea work in the opposite direction? Could you intentionally push the development of new words into a language to encourage new ways of thinking and intentionally broaden the human experience? Interesting thoughts. thank you for your insights.

message 16: by Carlo (last edited Mar 27, 2014 03:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carlo Thanks for the nice words, Deven!

I think in the opposite direction, things may really be correspondingly similar, although I suspect we don't understand intelligence as much as we understand stupidity. But I think it fair to say that with increased vocabulary and modes of usage in language, there can be a corresponding increase in intelligence. At least the kind of intelligence measured by IQ tests and the like. I think your suggestion ought to work in principle, though there is the practical difficulty of controlling language usage which can hardly be imaginable except in a kind of totalitarian society where information is controlled.

Interesting thought!

Deven Carlo,
Sorry for such a long time lag. Interestingly, I recently began to read the book "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Nations". One of the writer's points is that the early development in Eurasia (as opposed to America) of agriculture, which catalyzed the development of complex political structures, which pushed the development of written language, eventually was responsible for the disparities of power seen when Spanish conquistadores decimated the native american civilizations. There is an interesting chapter on the development of written language which echoes the message of "1984". The earliest written languages (Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics) were very difficult to use and so were only written and read by government scribes. There is some speculation that these earlier languages were used as a tool to keep the low farming-class of people subjugated to the ruling political party. The written language remained complex and difficult so that only the government scribes could use it, keeping the common people from accessing the power of the written word. Sounds thematically similar to "1984". thanks for your thoughts.

Bohemondus The book it is very realistic. I am from Romania and these things, from the book really happened here in the communist regime and of course in URSS. The lack of food, the complete absence of soap, the interdiction of communicate with rest of the world. My parents lived these times. Orwell took the communist model of society and put it in a book. I don't know if you really understand me but I could say that this book is very good for teaching the history in my country and other comunist countries. And of course the search of the real human race objectives. The book is in fact a big question, what make us humans, what is that fine line between human and "something else". The party want to tear apart peoples minds and to make them doublethink because any human can't do this thing. If you make them to doublethink they will be not humans because this doublethink it's something that is without logic, something you can not even imagine. The same situation was in est Germany in communist era with the secret police Stazi.

message 19: by Soy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Soy Lecithin 1984 is our life....

message 20: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan Rice I'm your 100th "like," Carlo!

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