Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) – Bookcast #10

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell’s haunting prophesy of the future, a vision of totalitarian government that has held multiple generations of readers spellbound with its terrifying possibilities.

Though it was written over 60 years ago, this powerful and unforgettable story has lost none of its potency. The themes Orwell explores are critical to understanding the demands of absolute power: the obliteration of truth, the death of individuality and liberty, and the creation of a world where the ruling power controls everything, from information to thought and memory.

Bleak, chilling and far too close to reality, Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the most important novels ever written.

Read and listen to “Nineteen Eighty-Four” on Amazon!

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“Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)” Show Notes

0:00 – Intro to “Nineteen Eighty-Four”

  • Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) wan English writer who lived through World War II and saw first hand the Totalitarian atrocities carried out by Stalin and Hitler. He wrote 1984 in an attempt “to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.”
  • Intended audience: Anyone who watches the “news”; anyone who believes we need to learn from history; anyone who likes scary stories.
  • People who won’t like it: Anyone who has 100% faith in their government; Antifa members

7:00 – How easy is the book to read?

  • Challenging to read. Writing is straightforward and clear but Orwell creates new words (ie “Newspeak,” “Doublethink,” “Thoughtcrime,” etc) and references plenty of political theory (ie Oligarchical Collectivism, Command Economy, Perpetual War) that will take time to learn but ultimately will reward the reader
  • Print: 326 pages (8~10 hours)
  • Audio: 11.5 hours

8:00 – Reviews and Significance of Nineteen Eighty-Four

  • THE classic Dystopian Novel
  • Stars really don’t matter (it’s been taught in high-schools and colleges nationwide for decades) but if you’re curious, Amazon’s current rank for the most popular version has 10,328 4.5 star ratings
  • Currently: 
    • #16 Amazon – Political Fiction (as of 1/31/20)
    • #10 Amazon – Censorship and Politics
    • #117 Audible – Overall Audible books 
    • #6 Audible – Classic Literature
    • #8 Audible – Science Fiction

10:00 – Bio of George Orwell

  • George Orwell – pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair
  • Born 1903 in Bengal, India, to British parents, raised in England
  • Returned to India in 1922 to serve as an officer with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. At one point he was responsible for the security of 200,000 people.
  • Spoke fluent Burmese
  • In 1927 moved to London (then two years in Paris) and began earning his living penning novels and essays
  • Soldier in Spanish Civil War (1936-39) for the Republican Faction 
  • 1941 – Hired by the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) for “war work” to create Cultural Broadcasts for India to counter the Nazi propaganda that was being used to undermine the British Imperial presence in India
  • Traveled extensively throughout India, England and Europe, meeting people in every political and economic status and learning the truth about how government actually works
  • Besides his classic “Animal Farm,” his works include a novel based on his experiences as a colonial policeman, “Burmese Days,” two firsthand studies of poverty, “Down and Out in Paris and London” and “The Road to Wigan Pier,” an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, “Homage to Catalonia” and his last novel – the one that has shaped the world – “1984.”
  • Died 1950 from Tuberculosis

13:30 – Major Themes of the Book

  • Ministry of Peace (Minipax) — The war ministry of Oceania’s government, in charge of the armed forces. The nation is in an ongoing genocidal war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. 
    • The key to controlling the populace is using the right amount of force not to win the war, but keep it in an ongoing state of equilibrium (Perpetual War).
  • Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty) — Oversees rationing of food, supplies, and goods. Controlling the economy of Oceania is vital – it is necessary to have the public continually create useless and synthetic supplies or weapons for use in the war, while they have no access to the means of production for themselves. 
    • Important for the people to continuously hear (via propaganda) that everything is good and that society is prosperous – no matter what’s truly happening
    • A poor, ignorant populace is easier to rule over than a wealthy, well-informed one.
  • Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) — Ministry of propaganda. Responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events. It also decides what it and is not “truth” in Oceania.
  • Ministry of Love (Miniluv) — Enforces loyalty to Big Brother through fear via a massive social apparatus of security, state-sanctioned kidnapping and murder, and repression, as well as systematic brainwashing
    • Room 101 — The place where you are forced to confront your greatest fear, ultimate torture chamber (For Winston it was rats in a cage on his head)

16:00 – Jay’s Perspectives

  • What did you like best about this book? 
    • The raw fucking truth about power at its most dominant state
  • Share a favorite quote (maybe 2). Why did this quote(s) stand out?
    • “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
    • “Reality exists in the human mind and nowhere else.”
  • What did you learn from this book / How did this book change you?
    • Scared me, teenager, one of my first “real” books – like holy shit, this is literature
  • What did you like least? (critique)
    • The things I liked least are the weaknesses it exposed in me 
  • What question(s) would you ask the author?
    • Why did you end the book on such a down note?
  • Any other related/connected books that you’d recommend to others?

22:00 – Matt’s Perspectives

  • What did you like best about this book? 
    • How absolutely prophetic this could be – reading this book makes you think about people who have lived under these regimes 
  • Share a favorite quote (maybe 2). Why did this quote(s) stand out?
    • “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
    • “The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.”
    • “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
  • What did you learn from this book / How did this book change you?
    • Restrengthened my belief in limited government, freedom of speech, freedom in general
  • What did you like least? (critique)
    • The love story arc seemed underdeveloped
  • What question(s) would you ask the author?
    • Did you actually think this dystopian future was possible?
  • Any other related/connected books that you’d recommend to others?

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Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) – Bookcast #10 1

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