"Nineteen Eighty-Four" by George Orwell

El universo creado por el novelista y periodista inglés en su brillante novela distópica, uno de los textos fundamentales de la literatura del siglo pasado, se asemeja a un presente inquietante hecho de totalitarismo, manipulación y control.

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A still from the film 1984, released in 1984 and starring John Hurt and Richard Burton.

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George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903. A growing political and social conviction inspired him to become a writer. After serving in the police force in Burma, today’s Myanmar, he became disillusioned with colonialist attitudes and resigned. His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), documented his experiences travelling and living among the poor of Europe. The events of the Spanish Civil War (in which Orwell fought and was wounded) and World War Two, together with the rise of fascist and communist dictatorships, inspired Orwell’s most famous novels, Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). 

BIG BROTHER

Nineteen Eighty-Four is set in the dystopian world of Oceania in the year 1984. Oceania is a totalitarian state controlled by ‘the Party’. Big Brother is its leader. The book’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth as part of its propaganda machine, rewriting historical events in the service of political indoctrination. Winston is becoming an expert in ‘Newspeak’, the propaganda language of the Party, and the nonsensical yet persuasive ‘doublethink’ displayed on posters and screens everywhere:

“Then the face of Big Brother faded away again and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”

"Desde donde estaba Winston era posible leer, pulcramente impresos en la fachada blanca con elegantes letras, los tres eslóganes del Partido:

LA GUERRA ES PAZ

LA LIBERTAD ES ESCLAVITUD

LA IGNORANCIA ES LA FUERZA".

 

persecuted LOVE

Winston has rebellious thoughts, which are dangerous. Informers and spies are everywhere, reporting to the dreaded Thought Police. Hidden microphones detect every word spoken. Every action is recorded on ‘telescreens’. Independent thinking is persecuted. Dissenters disappear without trace. Love is forbidden. And so, Winston’s heart is racing when he is handed a small piece of paper by a young, dark-haired woman called Julia who works close by: 

“He re-adjusted his spectacles on his nose, sighed, and drew the next batch of work towards him, with the scrap of paper on top of it. He flattened it out. On it was written, in a large unformed handwriting:

I love you.”

"Volvió a ajustarse las gafas en la nariz, suspiró y atrajo hacia sí la siguiente tanda de trabajo, con el trozo de papel encima. Lo alisó. En él estaba escrito, con una letra grande y sin forma:

Te quiero".

resistance 

Despite the risks, Winston and Julia begin a secret love affair. Winston is determined to find ways to fight against the regime and talks about joining a resistance organisation called the Brotherhood. Winston believes that one of his colleagues, a man named O’Brien, could be a contact. But in this world of hate and mistrust, nobody is who they appear to be. Big Brother is everywhere. Winston and Julia know that soon they will be discovered and arrested, and then face the ultimate betrayal:

“‘Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn’t matter: only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you – that would be the real betrayal.’

She thought it over. ‘They can’t do that,’ she said finally. ‘It’s the one thing they can’t do. They can make you say anything – anything – but they can’t make you believe it. They can’t get inside you.’”

"Confesar no es engañar. No importa lo que digas o dejes de decir, lo que importa son los sentimientos. Si pudieran hacer que ya no te amara... eso sería hacer trampa".

Julia se quedó unos instantes pensativa. "No pueden hacer eso", dijo finalmente. "Eso es lo único que no pueden hacer. Pueden hacerte decir cualquier cosa, todo, pero no pueden obligarte a creerlo. No pueden meterse dentro de ti".

ROOM 101

Like other political prisoners, Winston fears imprisonment, beatings and torture. Re-education involves being brainwashed, individuality lost, leaving nothing but love for Big Brother. Worst of all is the knowledge of what lies ahead, in the dreaded Room 101:

“‘You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.’”

"'Una vez me preguntaste', me dijo, 'qué había en la habitación 101, y te dije que ya lo sabías. Todo el mundo lo sabe. En la habitación 101 está lo peor del mundo'".

POLITICAL BELIEFS

Orwell wanted Ninety Eighty-Four to reinforce the political beliefs and fears he had so successfully captured in Animal Farm. Writing his new novel was difficult, as he was extremely ill with tuberculosis. He completed his masterpiece in December 1948 and survived to see its publication, but died six months later, in January 1950. Many of the issues he raises in Ninety Eighty-Four such as totalitarianism, mass surveillance, media control, censorship and authoritarian regimes, are as relevant today as they were when he wrote it seventy years ago. As such, it has been adapted for the stage and screen many times, and has had an influence on literature, academia and the formation of public policy. It is a tribute to Orwell’s skill as a writer that the book opens with one of the best-known and most ominous lines in English literature:

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

"Era un día luminoso y frío de abril, y los relojes marcaban las trece.

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