Wednesday, 6 March 2013

1984 by George Orwell

There’s not much I can add to the acres of writing on Orwell’s nightmare vision of the future. 1984 and its ideas – Big Brother, thoughtcrime, telescreens, newspeak, room 101 – have become embedded in the language, although most of them at a far remove from the author’s original concept.

At the beginning of the book, Winston Smith, a minor bureaucrat tasked with constantly falsifying and updating back issues of The Times to make articles follow the party line, is about to start writing a diary, an act which will inevitably lead to arrest, torture and execution. Small wonder that before embarking on this risky venture, he decides to fortify himself with a spot of gin, the booze reserved for party members in Oceania:

Winston turned round abruptly. He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen. He crossed the room into the tiny kitchen. By leaving the Ministry at this time of day he had sacrificed his lunch in the canteen, and he was aware that there was no food in the kitchen except a hunk of dark-coloured bread which had got to be saved for tomorrow’s breakfast. He took down from the shelf a bottle of colourless liquid with a plain white label marked VICTORY GIN. It gave off a sickly, oily smell, as of Chinese rice-spirit. Winston poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine. Instantly his faced turned scarlet and the water ran out of his eyes. The stuff was like nitric acid, and moreover, in swallowing it one had the sensation of being hit on the back of the head with a rubber club. The next moment, however, the burning in his belly died down and the world began to look more cheerful. He took a cigarette from a crumpled pack marked VICTORY CIGARETTES and incautiously held it upright, whereupon the tobacco fell out onto the floor.

It’s the first step in a journey of deception against the state that can only end one way. By the time Winston finally ends up in the dreaded room 101 at the heart of the Ministry of Love, gut-rot gin is the last of his worries...

1 comment:

  1. A very good read and well worth purchase, consider doing likewise, it will be worth your time and nourishment for the soul.