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‘WAY BACK WHEN

Looking back at my schooling, which had its up and down like everyone else, one book has never left my mind. It was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Apart from the content, it was the title that caught my imagination because the real 1984 for me was not that far away.

After he’d written it, and was possibly looking for a title, he reversed the last two digits of the year that he had finished it. It being 1948. That’s what I’m told, anyway.


The future date would, for fictional purposes, be the year that shit hit the fan.


He gave us the Thought Police, Big Brother. The story centered around Winston Smith and his lover, Julia who were grappling with a repressive totalitarian society. The Ministry of Peace, ironically enough, waged war. The Ministry of Truth told lies.


The story was bleak. Yet realistic. Factual. Shivers roll up and down my spine even today when I reread it. Some 70 years later are now so prophetic, what with this age of video surveillance. Our every move seemingly tracked by social media. Doublespeak.


We can better understand how Winston and Julia, the protagonists in 1984, felt back then. Throw in those in power today who spout about ‘alternate facts’ when faced with the real ones. Facial recognition.


George Orwell, Eric Blair in real life, went on to write other books which caught my imagination. Down and Out in London & Paris, vividly retold his life in a humane and factual reporting what he had experienced among the poor in both cities.


Author’s comment: I’ve collected and read and reread a dozen of his books over the years, including Home to Catalonia; Burmese Days; The Road to Wigan Pier, to name a few. Three volumes of Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell. Also, George Orwell, the Authorized Biography. An edited The World of George Orwell.


Here’s an idea. Many of you might enjoy reading his other books. Why not spend the summer getting to know him? I’m sure most libraries carry some of them. By September you’ll treasure what you learned about him. Me? I’ve yet to read A Clergyman’s daughter, his first novel. Hmm. Hmm. That’s too close to home.

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