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My Thirteen Cents on 1984



The prescient political and philosophical warnings George Orwell imaginatively conceptualized in 1984 practically erupt off the novel's pages because of the flat dispassionate writing style and austere tone. His paranoia eclipsed his prose. Appropriately so. The writing reads to me as if Orwell were a 19th century Russian master but the English translator mediocre at best -- except Orwell did this, I'd wager, by design.  We know he wrote better than the simple declarative anti-style he took in 1984 --much better-- and his massively voluminous journals and elegant essays proved it.

1954 edition
I'd be curious to find out if he did in fact intentionally strip the color and vibrancy from the narration, crafting sentences, syntax, that was bare trees in the dead of winter, in order to slyly insinuate a dry rectilinear totalitarian ethos into this virtual panorama of visionary ideas that was the experience of reading 1984, thereby accentuating his stark futuristic visions with a similarly stark voice. Was he going for the effect in the novel you can produce in printing when you reverse-negative text, and thus make the white of the words, the text --the ideas-- pop out from the page because now the words (and just the words) are white and the page completely black? If he did so purposely, then my three cents aren't even worth a penny; he's a greater genius than ever. But I've yet gathered in my reading and research if that is indeed the case; what Orwell set out to do stylistically.

Regardless, I'd rate Yevgeny Zamyatin's We a better read than 1984 because it's better written (and I say that even though I don't read Russian and am forced to read what very well may be a mediocre English translation!) and it's ideas are as satirically innovative as 1984s and, arguably, more original, since We was written two decades prior.

Or maybe I simply can't get on board with books that seem like more over-hyped legends than supposed classic literature to me. 1984, Ulysses, Brave New World, (more lacklusters to join list soon) ...

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