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Clark Wilson | 154 comments Mod
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message 2: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 154 comments Mod
I looked at my copy this week. It was published printed in 1967 and cost half a dollar. So I think I read the book 50 years ago.

I will ramble a little.

At that time we (the West) were fighting the Cold War and it wasn't clear we were going to win it. In the enemy countries, Fahrenheit 451 was less outlandish as a metaphor than in ours. The governments in those countries did actively hunt down people who had forbidden books. In the absence of copy machines and ebooks, people manually typed books out, letter by letter. See samizdat. And I do think the level of control in those countries was qualitatively greater than it had ever been in any previous societies in which some books were banned. The development of large-scale bureaucracy in the 20th century meant that (for instance) the Soviet government had the administrative means to arrest, imprison, and internally deport literally millions of people, a steady stream of people night after night, month after month, year after year, from throughout the country. To appreciate the magnitude and bureaucratic organization of the whole thing, read Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, if possible the three-volume version, at least the one-volume version. I read the long version.

So to me, then, books like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Darkness at Noon were not extreme, hypothetical images but rather fictional depictions of real circumstances being currently experienced by millions.

A minor confirmation: In 1969 I spent the summer in Russia, studying Russian. In our dormitory, built into the wall, was a speaker that gave access to "radio." It had a simple control, an on/off switch, because there was only one station, the official, government station. Programming was political, with an admixture of things like calisthenics.

A sidelight: I think that in at least some cases history was used as a means of criticizing the current political order. You might not be able to speak candidly about current or recent repression in the USSR, but you could write critically of (say) life under the Roman emperors, or you could translate and publish books like those of Tacitus that describe that life. Some parts of Tacitus seemed to me uncannily accurate in describing life under Stalin. I have a copy of Tacitus in Russian, published in the late 1960s. Which is by no means rigorous proof of anything, but my impression.


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