It’s been a while since my last post, not just because I’ve been busy working on my novel, life has required more attention of late. I have also hesitated to post this installment as it might be a little controversial. Readers might think me; a philistine incapable of appreciating a literary classic; lacking in culture or intelligence – perhaps both. Those who love the book might think I’m committing some sort of thoughtcrime.
When I get into a book I find myself looking forward to bedtime/reading time when an alternate reality awaits me. I have time to devour beautifully constructed sentences that draw me into the world of the book like a gluttonous addict. If words had calories I would be a bariatric blob of a woman reading myself into an early grave. I can escape, arouse my senses, challenge my beliefs, be inspired, scared and so much more. I will read and re-read yummy paragraphs and sentences over and over – Life of Pi and Time Travellers Wife being particularly calorific.
Then I started George Orwell’s 1984. I didn’t like it and abandoned it on page 73. I don’t give up on things easily and it never really occurred to me that I should put this book down but when I started to delay bedtime I realised it was so I wouldn’t have to to read. (I am fully aware of my oddities – nothing to be ashamed of, we all have them.)
Wanna know why?
Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.
I don’t believe that mankind can be so darkly manipulated for such a long time without some sort of uprising or outward demonstration, there was no comradery, no safe place, it was distopian beyond belief.
Dumb Proles unquestioning in their existence with no resistance? When does that EVER happen? I didn’t believe the premise the book is based on. Not just because I believe mankind is better or more capable but I don’t believe our brains can ever be adjusted in that way for so many years and still function in a social way. Germany, Russia, China – those environments existed tenuously. Tyranical rulers stay their course for only so long before being overthrown so how can a future as distopian and as harsh as Big Brother exist for as long as Winston can remember?
The evil children of Winstons neighbour threw me too. Children innately seek love and comfort no matter how horrid they are.
“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
Viktor Frankl spent so much time in concentration camps he and his fellow inmates were tested to their human limit. What I mean is they were stripped of their humanity by the guards around them but sought and found their own humanity. The most basic of human freedoms. Choice. Even if someone is holding a gun to your head, threatening you or your family, you are human, you have a choice.
I also don’t believe we are capable of more. 1984 is unbelieveable and so far into the realm of fantasy that I can’t make my mind accept the premise. I didn’t like that winston was so weak. He frustrated me. We aren’t that powerless, most of us have black days that might last a day, month or longer. (A minority aren’t able to fight their way out of the darkness and their struggle should not be dismissed but respected.)
I wasn’t looking for a disney ending but at the point I stopped reading Winston seemed unable to fight, as if he wasn’t pushed hard enough by his environment. He seemed doomed from the outset.
IMAGE: quickly cobbled together – sorry. Big shout to Elephant Welliphant – a well loved book in my home.