1984

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Terrifying account of an inhumane society focused on power for power’s sake, stripping away basic intellectual desires like love, curiosity, objections, history. Bureaucracy abounds, keeping the Outer and Inner Party busy.

Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to rewrite old files to match the current state of affairs. If a person disappears, it’s his job to eradicate that unperson from the history of Oceania. He suspects he is the only sane person, his mind not conditioned to doublethink. He hooks up with Julia, a rebellious sort whose primary interest is in following the big rules in order to cut corners on other rules and enjoy sexual freedom. Winston is the brains of the piece, battling back with O’Brien as he attempts to recondition Winston’s mind. Room 101 is where the worst thing that you as an individual could endure takes place; in Winston’s case, this is a cage of rats, which he betrays Julia for, demanding that they be set upon her instead.

I read this, as most people did, before I was eighteen. To require this as reading in school is an injustice, because then one can say “Oh, I’ve read that book,” but not really. You must read this when your brain has completely formed, when you’ve had a few years under your belt out in the cold world of work, shuffling papers, to give it the full breadth of meaning.

Thanks to Murakami’s 1Q84, which I initially picked up and then decided to postpone until I’d given 1984 a thorough re-read. Another trivia bit I picked up? George Orwell was a pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair.