A review of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, by Penguin
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, by Penguin
In 1949 George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair) gave us this novel as a vision of the future. Today it is still widely read, whose story continues to stay with the reader long after the last page is turned, and whose prophecy remains as terrifying as ever. I first read 1984 when I was 15, 6 years on and it still scares me; and yet, this novel is so well written and executed, that whenever I return to it I cannot help but read on - regardless of how much time has past.
Though Orwell admitted that he based his novel on the earlier WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin, it was really just a source of inspiration, rather than a form of plagiarism. In truth the two novels are very different, and Orwell is not the only writer to have taken inspiration, and maybe a few liberties, from another. Other reviewers who claim that 1984 is a poor 'imitation' are missing the many clear differences between the two novels.
Throughout 1984 there is an overwhelming sense of paranoia (considering this, it seems fitting that the introduction was written by Thomas Pynchon, to which I will come back) and there is a sense in the novel that the entire world was set up as a sinister game between the characters Winston Smith and O'brien. This paranoia is also, and sense of always being watched is no accident given the constant surveillance over the protagonist. The novel is also deeply mysterious. Few, if any of the questions you start with are answered, and though clues are given, they are often fabrications, or outright lies, which make the novel fascinating. It also seems to give the novel much of its force, and impact after the novel has been finished. Even the essay at the very end of the novel Apex on Newspeak is a mystery in itself. The writing is tight, and effective; and usually in other Penguin Modern Classics such as The Great Gatsby there are clear spelling mistakes that can disrupt the flow of reading, however this is not found in this edition, and the sense of paranoia is able to hold because of this.
As stated earlier, buyers of the Penguin Modern Classics are not only given the novel, and the essay on Newspeak at the end, but also a very good essay by Thomas Pynchon (V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow and so on) and this, given the paranoia of the book is both fitting, and slightly ironic in a pleasant way, as the form of paranoia in 1984 is much different to the forms of paranoia found in Pynchon's work, which often seems more comical.
The Penguin Modern Classics edition is highly recommended for other, more mundane reasons also. The text is pleasant and distinct, large enough to be read by anyone, and the pages are pleasant to hold. Everything is clearly spaced out, and I do not remember a single grammatical error in the whole book, and for the price of the book, the Penguin Modern Classic edition is, really, impossible to fault.
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