"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Rereading 1984

"Rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four presents problems not altogether present from 1949, the book’s date of publication, on through some thirty-five years later, its projected date of fulfillment. Orwell died in 1950 of tuberculosis when he was only forty-six. Whether in coming years we will judge Nineteen Eighty-Four to have been an accurate prophecy is still uncertain. We have gone further in the technological developments that would make the novel’s tyranny even more feasible. Politicians on television nightly instruct us in newspeak and doublethink, and the United Nations, in Liberia and elsewhere, practices “peacekeeping” and creates “safe areas,” whose burden might as well be “War is Peace.” Hollywood’s spate of “dumb” films, of the Forrest Gump variety, do proclaim that “Ignorance is Strength,” and many of our African-American intellectuals rightly judge Gingrich to be telling them that “Freedom is Slavery,” particularly when he has urged restoring to the poor their freedom to starve. Big Brother presumably is not yet watching us, and we may yet give up putting Saddam Hussein on—screen for the Two Minutes Hate. Even if we had a Ministry of Truth, it would now probably be underfunded in our zeal to abolish government, that enemy of the sacred profit motive which forms our authentic spirituality, the basis for the Christian Coalition.

In so gladsome a time, Nineteen Eighty-Four is not likely to lose relevance. It is, in fact, at best a good “bad book,” inept as narrative, and worse than that as characterization. The book continues to have moral force as a political early warning and truly is what I once called it, the Uncle Tom's Cabin of our time. Actually, it is aesthetically inferior to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel. Stowe knew better how to tell a story, and Uncle Tom is a more interesting martyr than Orwell’s failed martyr, the drab Winston Smith. I would rather attend to little Eva than to poor Julia, and the insane sadist O’Brien is considerably less impressive than the wicked Simon Legree. Wyndhain Lewis sensibly compared Orwell as a writer to H.G. Wells, but Wells was consistently more inventive and entertaining. All this is not said to beat up on Nineteen Eighty-Four, but to point out that we do not go on reading the book because Orwell possessed a large talent for prose fiction. He did not; he was a moral and political essayist who had the instincts of a pamphleteer. A great pamphleteer, like Jonathan Swift, is a master of irony and satire. Here again, Orwell plainly is deficient. His literalness defeats his wit, such as it is, and his only ironic gift is as a good parodist of political slogans.

And yet Nineteen Eighty-Four survives and will have life whenever we are threatened with totalitarian utopias, whether political, economic, social, or theocratic. “Political correctness,” our now-passing rage of liberal conformity, is very much an Orwellian phenomenon, and our universities, wretched parodies of what they are supposed to be, are veritable monuments of newspeak and doublethink. It is very difficult to say whether our current Left or our dominant Right is a more Orwellian grab bag, and our public life is mostly a parade marching toward his Oceania. Preachers of the Third Wave, who so enthrall Gingrich, propose a technology founded purely upon information. Orwell remains superbly valuable because no one warns us better that such a foundation in fact must and will give us only an orgy of disinformation. As hypertext and virtual reality usurp us in the computer era, Orwell’ s nightmare will come ever closer. Without being a great writer, or even a good novelist, Orwell nevertheless had the courage and foresight to see and tell us where we were going. We are still going there, and Nineteen Eighty-Four holds on as an admonition telling us to turn back."

--- Introduction / Harold Bloom in George Orwell's 1984 / ed. Harold Bloom

Someone claimed that "Anyone believing it has anything to say about modern "political Correctness" is applying their own worldview on the novel and twisting it to meet their own reality."

I wonder if Harold Bloom, "an American literary critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University" is "twisting" 1984.
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