Sam Bauman: George Orwell’s “1984” in 2014
Few 20th Century novelists have given us a phrase that is in current use long after the author has died, but English write George Orwell did just that in his dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty Four.” It came out in 1949 and contributed the phrase “Big Brother” to us, used lately in connection with the NSA spying stories. A timely connection worth thinking and reading about.
It was made into a movie starring Richard Burton and John Hurt — Burton’s last film before his death.
Going back and rereading “1984” (it was both spelled out and used numbers) is jarring. The writing is crisp and graphic, the story of Winston Smith working away at the Ministry of Truth, his fight against Big Brother and his love affair is engaging.
Some of Orwell’s other books may not have given us a phrase, but they are important. “Animal Farm” was one in which all animals are created equal, “but some are more equal than others.” It too was made into a film.
Two others are of more than passing interest because they show his gradual maturing as an artist and a political writer; “Down and Out in Paris and London” is about living with nothing in those two cities as dishwasher or a beggar. The other is “Burmese Days,” about the sputtering end of the British Empire as told by portraits of “pukka sahibs” abusing the Burmese and destroying the Empire. Orwell died young at 47 but he lived his beliefs, fighting on the Loyalist side in the Spanish Civil War and later for England in WWII.
All of these books are available at the Carson library and look like they haven’t been read in years. What can they teach us today? Maybe a lot about our current Big Brother at the NSA and elsewhere in our government.