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    The Guardian | 5/9/09 | 18 min
    19 reads4 comments
    The Guardian
    19 reads
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    • bill
      Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
      3 months ago

      Wow. I am FREAKING OUT about this one. George Orwell’s 1984 is, indeed, one of the most important books of the last century. If you haven’t read it - you must. It’s not enough to know what it’s about. You have to actually inhabit the world in order to see and feel how much like our real world it is. My copy of 1984 includes a brilliant afterward by Erich Fromm, which opens with:

      George Orwell’s 1984 is the expression of a mood, and it is a warning. The mood it expresses is that of near despair about the future of man, and the warning is that unless the course of history changes, men all over the world will lose their most human qualities, will become soulless automatons, and will not even be aware of it.

      That’s it. That’s what’s happening. And modern media-technology is hastening our transformation from human to automaton. Once you start to see it happening, you can’t unsee it.

      Orwell on the hellishness of writing is horrifying, beautiful and true, all at the same time:

      "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist or [sic] understand. For all one knows that demon is the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's personality."

      I can’t believe that 1984 was almost called “The Last Man in Europe,” because the sci-fi novel that I started last year (and have since abandoned… for now) was called “The Last Reader.”

      And, finally, there is this:

      Life was simple, even primitive. There was no electricity. Orwell used Calor gas to cook and to heat water. Storm lanterns burned paraffin. In the evenings he also burned peat. He was still chain-smoking black shag tobacco in roll-up cigarettes: the fug in the house was cosy but not healthy. A battery radio was the only connection with the outside world. Orwell, a gentle, unworldly sort of man, arrived with just a camp bed, a table, a couple of chairs and a few pots and pans. It was a spartan existence but supplied the conditions under which he liked to work. He is remembered here as a spectre in the mist, a gaunt figure in oilskins.

      It is downright surreal for me to read those words from my own extremely rustic abode. This is where I am right now:


      I’m steeling myself for a long, cold winter in a house with no heat (except two wood stoves) and one single lightbulb. After dark, I light candles to continue reading and writing. Everything is minimalist and analog. There’s no running water, no toilet, no shower, and obviously no TV, radio, or anything that pulls me from my work - Readup. Like Orwell, I am in a race against time, so I must make every day count. Unlike Orwell, I am in good health. This article is a great reminder to be thankful for that.

      My wifi box is turned on when the work day begins and turned off before sunset. I prefer to work under these kind of extreme conditions. It’s hard to explain. Thankfully, I don’t have to. I just need to keep doing the work and the work will explain itself. It has something to do with the fact that you, reader (yes you!) and I, in this precise moment, are not automatons. We are alive. And as long as we keep reading and writing, there is hope.

      • Karenz3 months ago

        This is a breathtaking article with information I’d never heard before despite graduate Ed in literature. I truly couldn’t bear to read 1984 again, especially with the conditions in our society now. Amazing to know what Orwell went thru to write it. This is the gift of Readup to me—always new insights and information!!

    • sjwoo3 months ago

      No wonder the book feels the way it does -- literally the words of a dying man.

      If you are ever in the mood of listening to this, seek out the Recorded Books version narrated by the amazing Frank Muller (https://www.worldcat.org/title/1984-unabridged-narration-by-frank-muller/oclc/679862509) -- you won't regret it.

    • puneeth973 months ago

      Anyone who has ever read 1984 should be aware of the backstory of how the masterpiece was made and how it literally consumed it's creator. Grateful for this for sure!