Animal Farm and 1984 (Anglais) Relié – 1 juin 2003
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George Orwell's classic satire of the Russian Revolution is an intimate part of our contemporary culture. It is the account of the bold struggle, initiated by the animals, that transforms Mr. Jones's Manor Farm into Animal Farm--a wholly democratic society built on the credo that All Animals Are Created Equal. Out of their cleverness, the pigs Napoleon, Squealer, and Snowball emerge as leaders of the new community in a subtle evolution that proves disastrous. The climax is the brutal betrayal of the faithful horse Boxer, when totalitarian rule is reestablished with the bloodstained postscript to the founding slogan: But some Animals Are More Equal Than Others. . . .
In 1984, London is a grim city where Big Brother is always watching you and the Thought Police can practically read your mind. Winston is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions. Drawn into a forbidden love affair, Winston finds the courage to join a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life in a deadly match against the powers that be.
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No animal may drink alcohol "to excess"
A fairy tale or a nightmare? It all began with a dream by Major, a Middle White boar, of equality, and freedom from oppression. Maybe not in our life comrade, but eventually.
The dream brings a song. Intolerable conditions lead to revolution. As time passes things change; not exactly as planned.
There are two striking parts to this tale that stand out. First when Boxer is sent to the hospital and Benjamin reads the side of the van "Horse Slaughterer." Secondly there was a party in the farm house as the pigs were playing cards with the men, two aces of spades showed up. An argument ensues. Then a realization was drawn by the creatures outside looking in as they "...looked from pig to man, and man to pig, and from pig to man again..."
Deviates corrected for their own good
In a society that has eliminated many imbalances, surplus goods, and even class struggle, there are bound to be deviates; Winston Smith is one of those. He starts out, due to his inability to doublethink, with thoughtcrime. This is in a society that believes a thought is as real as the deed. Eventually he graduates through a series of misdemeanors to illicit sex and even plans to overthrow the very government that took him in as an orphan.
If he gets caught, he will be sent to the "Ministry of Love" where they have a record of 100% cures for this sort of insanity. They will even forgive his past indiscretions.
Be sure to watch the three different movies made from this book:
1984 (1954) Peter Cushing is Winston Smith
1984 (1956) Edmond O'Brien is Winston Smith
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) John Hurt is Winston smith
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I'm not alone in being of a generation that was first required to read Orwell in my student days (Middle School, in my case.) It seems that there was a lot of literature churned out then, accessible to if not directly aimed at children, with the horrors of totalitarianism as its theme. In addition to reading Orwell, we were also reading Huxley, Bradbury, and Verne -- the youth-oriented John Christopher books being yet another example. The generation that lived through Nazism and Stalinism clearly wanted the younger set to be aware of the horrors that could be, and to remain on guard against them.
It doesn't seem to be quite that way anymore. Orwell's name is invoked today, but often in trivializing contexts: "Big Brother" is now a brain-numbing reality show, and "Orwellian" is a convenient and often hysterically-applied charge to political opponents. Some complaceny does seem to be inevitable: we are now further removed from the days when the likes of Hitler and Stalin killed tens of millions. Still, regimes arise that are nearly as horrific on a local scale, from Pol Pot to Saddam Hussein to the Taliban, and are real enough that Orwell's book is no joke. Orwell deserves attention if for no other reason than to sensitize us to the bad form associated with invoking his name in a trivializing context. There was a political ad on Youtube last year from an Obama supporter that cast Hillary Clinton on a giant Big Brother-like screen. I'm not in the least a fan of Senator Clinton, but associating her image with those of 1984 -- as was also done in an infamous Apple Computer ad -- trivializes Orwell's message in a deplorable way. Orwell wrote his novel to warn against real dangers that his generation lived through, and which others might yet, not as a marketing ploy to be used in selling either computers or nearly indistinguishable democratic political candidacies.
The main reason I am writing this review, however, is that re-reading Orwell in my 40's is a stark reminder that his novels are more than political parables, but are worthy literature. I hope that those reading these reviews will be aware of this, and not shut their minds to a rewarding literary experience.
As a kid, I was able to perceive the pedagogical intent of these books, but less so was I able to appreciate the literary artistry. 1984 in particular passes the Nabokovian test of creating a fully believable, if terrifying, alternate world. Beyond that, on nearly every page, Orwell leaves an image that just might stay with you forever. Small wonder that so many of the terms in 1984 ("Big Brother," "Newspeak") have burrowed their way into our lexicography.
Orwell was a man of the left who understood something that many of his compatriots did not; that what had arisen in the Soviet Union was a regime unprecedented in its horror (arriving before, and ultimately outlasting, its horrific mirror image, Hitler's Third Reich.) At a time when others on the left simply refused to believe in the reality of the USSR, he looked at it unflinchingly and wrote what it was really about.
Also, in childhood, I was not able to fully appreciate that Orwell's books simply weren't negative-utopian nightmare-fantasies, but paralleled actual events in the USSR with chilling accuracy. I knew, at some level, that he was satirizing certain events and characters in the Russian Revolution, but only in adulthood was I able to closely recognize nearly every episode and character in Animal Farm. Those familiar with USSR history will find it all here in the two books: the rewriting of the past to reaffirm the infallibility of the Party, the sudden reorienting of national propaganda to suit the latest twist of foreign policy, and the complete elimination of all references to those unfortunate souls decreed never to have existed.
Truly, the thing that makes 1984 terrifying now, is not what was imagined in the novel's construction, but what was real in its sources. It exaggerates even relative to the Stalinist state -- but not by much. It is this recognition that makes it a chilling read today.
1984 is the more vivid and evocative of the two novels. Excepting one passage (Goldstein's dreary history lesson about 2/3 of the way through) it is riveting almost throughout its 300 pages.
A few notes for younger readers: The moral of Animal Farm is not that Napoleon was simply a bad apple, but rather that the system adopted by the Animals ensured that ultimately such a tyrant would dominate. (I find the end of Animal Farm to be something of a false note; in the end the pigs prove no better than, and resemble, the humans they replaced, but this understates the tragic reality that the USSR was worse still than that which it replaced.)
As I close, I leave you with one random question about 1984: how come it never occurs to Eastasia and Eurasia to combine against Oeania? Given that Oceania keeps flipping its allegiance from one to the other, you'd think they'd ultimately catch on and both decide to attack Oceania at the same time.
Silly questions aside, this book is highly commended. Worth re-reading again, especially if you only have read Orwell when as immature as was I.
This edition presents them in a classic manner -- it is a lovely book, lovely dust jacket, and Christopher Hitchens does the intro. I usually find him funny and a little snarky, but in this intro, he is serious, high-minded, informative, and respectful.
I wanted to read 1984 again, since so many people are kicking around the terms "Orwellian" and "Big Brother" regarding current politics. I'm so glad this is the volume I bought. I know I would have gotten the same *words* in a flimsy paperback, but this was a really nice read.
I read both novels again. It has been... 20 years? Maybe longer since my first read-through. I'm a different reader than I was before.
I've got that grisly Room 101 scene back in my head -- I had forgotten that one. Thanks, Mr. Orwell.
This is a lovely edition. Treat yourself.
Animal Farm- A group of animals on a farm (duh) overthrow their cruel master. Because the pigs are the cleverest of all the animals, they establish themselves as the "leaders" (although, their motto is "All animals are equal") Two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, are consistently fighting with each other on how the farm should be run. Eventually, Napoleon trains some dogs, and they run Snowball out of the farm. After that, Napoleon basically turns the farm into a dictatorship under his rule. Towards the end of the book, Napoleon changes their motto to "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".
1984- In this society, based in what was once London (in the story, it is called Oceania), Big Brother controls everything and everyone. Almost every citizen has telescreens in their houses that can not be turned off. Not only do the telescreens broadcast all the time, but they also receive, so citizens could be watched, although you never know when they are watching you. The protagonist of the story, Winston, is a rebel of sorts. He purchases a diary, and writes in it (a crime punishable by death). Eventually, he ends up having an illegal romantic relationship with a woman named Julia. And, well, you'll have to read the rest, because I don't want to give too much away. It is a great read, although, there is a part towards the middle-ish end of the story where Winston is reading "The Book" (a book given to him by the "botherhood", the underground movement against Big Bother)That part is a bit dry, but it picks up after that.
As far as the Kindle version I bought, I was going to go with the hard copy, but I went with the Kindle edition instead so I could read it instantly. I defiantly don't regret it, but there are some misspellings in the Kindle version. I'm not majorly picky about spelling, so it didn't bother me too much, but I feel this something that needs to be mentioned. If misspellings are a major issue with you, don't get the Kindle version. (although, I'm not sure about the spellings in the hard copy version either, but chances are, there are less). In my opinion, these both are stories everyone should read.