First published, amazingly, sixty years ago and pinpointing a date that itself has passed some twenty-five years, Nineteen Eighty-four is arguably the most prescient and terrifying novel of the twentieth century.
Written, Orwell explained, 'directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism', Nineteen Eighty-four might well be a set book for GCSE and A-level English Literature students, but its analysis of political and social futures should be a warning to us all and required reading alongside Naomi Wolf's The End of America.
Television's abuse of the term 'Big Brother' is a misfortune; thinking that Orwell's predictions are no longer of relevance will be a disaster. O'Brien's description of the future should reverberate in the collective consciousness: 'There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face ... for ever.'
Winston Smith is Orwell's Everyman and in what can be taken as a conventional love story Orwell warns post-Second World War readers of how society might well disintegrate into hate, propaganda, surveillance and control.
Perhaps it already has.
Nineteen Eighty-four is a masterpiece of English writing and the words viscerate on the page. But, read with the compelling skill and gravitas of Philip Glenister, we are transfixed by Orwell's brilliance.
* * * *
© 2009 AudioBooksReview