I always do these “I’m Reading…” posts after I’ve finished reading the books, but whatever. I’ve just finished reading the classic, 1984 by George Orwell.
It’s been in the back of my mind to read this book for a few years, but I’ve avoided it because it felt a little too much like a high school reading assignment. A couple of friends mentioned to me that they went to see (and enjoyed) the 1984 play, and it made me think that I should really get on top of reading this book. It’s one of those classics that it feels like everyone has read, and it was almost embarrassing for me not to have done so.
Orwell wrote this novel in 1949 as a socio-political commentary projecting into the not-too-distant future. If you hear people talk about this novel, a lot of them will say that they find it amazing how much of the story rings true. I agree with this, but I don’t think this is because Orwell was clairvoyant, so much as he was perceptive that some of these themes have been going on throughout human history. It’s important to remember that at the time of publishing, the world was a few years on the other side of WWII and newly in a state of Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US. The concerns of this novel were fresh in the consciousness of most of the world at the time, and were already happening in some places.
There are so many interesting things to discuss in this book, and if any of you have read it I would love to hear your thoughts. The one idea I’ll touch on is Orwell’s commentary on history. Throughout the book we see that history is constantly changing as it suits the Party’s needs. This is something that I’ve vaguely thought about in the past, but it really resonated with me through reading this that history is a sort of agreement amongst a group of people to believe a shared story.
Think about it… No one alive today was alive 200 years ago. We can’t get a first-hand account of anything that happened at that time, so we count on stories that are passed down from generation to generation. If at any point, a generation decided to collectively change the story and pass on a new version, history would change! The book poses the question of whether history happens in reality or in the mind, and I find that really fascinating. There’s the history we experience, and the history that lives on past human experience. It’s slightly spooky when you think about it, because we take it for granted that history is truth.
As if that wasn’t heavy/trippy enough, I’m now going to start another Murakami book. I’ll be reading Norwegian Wood next, if anyone would like to join along. Please leave any comments below if you have any thoughts on 1984— I’d love to talk through it!