Nineteen Eighty-Four at Seventy

By James Bacon: Today sees the 70th Anniversary of the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and it is ten years now since Claire Brialey, Chris Garcia, Pete Young and myself published Journey Planet no.3 that focused on that book. Here is my editorial from Journey Planet 3, published Ten Years ago now/:

I am not sure when I fell in love with Julia. I am unsure when I read Nineteen Eighty-Four for the first time, but it left a mark on me as a teenager. There’s a rebellious streak somewhere in me, and I found the book rousing. At the time, I was in a Christian Brothers Catholic school, so the ideas of sexual repression and censorship not only repulsed me, but also were focus of my teenage angster. I hate censorship by the state, I hate the idea of them controlling, not for us, but for protecting the system. Fortunately, the state is rather incompetent; I don’t worry too much, although that incompetence can be fatal to any bystander, here or over there. The book has influenced so many things that I also love dearly. V from V for Vendetta, perhaps my favourite comic ever, is in my mind a  successor to Winston Smith. Moore and Lloyd pay great homage to Orwell’s piece, yet this is still an original take on the concept of what is a super hero. Taking the fight back to “The Leader”. Moore’s recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier also beautifully amazing in its homagical setting. The TV series 1990 by the BBC in 1977, dubbed ‘1984 plus six’, was a great and more recent find staring Edward Woodward. Equilibrium and Brazil are truly derivative, but in a very enjoyable way. The Matrix strangely seems to replace a person we don’t see with a computer, but I think I may be alone. Burgess’s 1985 is a great read and I love the way he breaks it down into two parts, easier for the likes of me to wrap my brain, thoughts and imagination around. I do wish I could have gone to the Orwell Conference in Antwerp on 11 November 1983. The collection of nineteen papers I have in Essays from Oceania and Eurasia beginning with Burgess’s ‘Utopia and Science-Fiction’ indicates that if one likes something enough, even the academics seem interesting. The BBC play from 1955 is another favourite: Peter Cushing is a perfect Winston Smith, and nearly as good as the later John Hurt. I liked both Julias. She reminds me of someone. Someone I love. I wonder do I love these Julias or the book one. Romance is not strong in the book, although Orwell did like women. I like the way that the novel and terms therein have pervaded throughout modern culture, and although I am sure many fans of Ozzy will know why he says what he does, watchers of the Cathode Udder probably have no idea. I do, though, and that’s what matters. It is the book, the words penned so lovingly and carefully rewritten and worked on, chiselled at until they are perfect, that is what matters. This fanzine is partly an expression of gratitude and appreciation on my part. Is it science fiction? I’m still uncertain, but it’s a cracking good read for sure. end. 

While the first edition was a strong cover, Penguin books have issued so many editions which I find attractive that I’ve come to own more than one edition. True to say that eyes and moustaches do feature, and I honestly don’t have every edition. Indeed, a quite check shows that a new Penguin Classics edition has been released on the 6th of June. D-Day. Fans will note the subtle move from Penguin Modern Classics to Classic’s, and I will no doubt seek out and confirm who the cover artist is, although they are unfortunately not credited on Penguins website. 

There is so much about Nineteen Eighty-Four, that haunts humanity currently. For sure, many of us are fortunate enough not to be living the life that Winston and Julia had but the concepts and concerns and ideas and dreadfulness seem to have leaped from the pages to reality, scarily and vividly in an era of ‘alternative facts’ I think Orwellian elements are more pervasive now than they were ten years ago. 

Of interest to fans could be the Secker and Warburg facsimile edition that contains as much of the manuscript that exists, which as you can see with a typed on the facing page to assist reading. Produced in 1984, it is a fascinating insight into a piece of the writing process and although itself 35 years old, can be found for reasonable prices. 

And although I have only seen a number of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror TV programmes, I do wonder if he sees the future as insightfully as Orwell did. 

I think it makes Nineteen Eighty-Four more important than ever.   

1 thought on “Nineteen Eighty-Four at Seventy

  1. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 6/8/19 The Moon is A Harsh Marstress | File 770

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