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rowena

Rowena's Reviews

My true loves: Wilkie Collins, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anais Nin, George Eliot, James Joyce, James Baldwin, George Orwell, Oscar Wilde, bell hooks, Chinua Achebe, Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare... I'm falling for : Italo Calvino, Toni Morrison, Frantz Fanon, Wole Soyinka, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Camus, Margaret Atwood, Somerset Maugham, Junot Diaz, A.S. Byatt... And the lists continue to grow! I will read almost anything, as long as it's well-written. I always love to expand my reading horizons.

Currently reading

Orientalism
Edward W. Said
Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace
Finnegans Wake (Trade Paperback)
James Joyce
1984 - George Orwell “Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.” - George Orwell, 1984

It’s been over 5 years since I last read 1984 and I still find the storyline as horrific as ever. It's terrifying to think of a world in which your own children are spies for the government and can turn you in, where cameras are watching you 24/7, where one could be accused of committing a "facecrime" or having an "ownlife", a world in which we live nervously worrying about whether the sensitive machinery that is watching you will pick up an increase in heartbeat that may incriminate us.

When I first read this book I imagined a similar dystopic world taking place in a Communist country or perhaps in a dictatorship like the one so many of my relatives were raised in. Now I realize it could just as well take place in a so-called democracy under several guises, and that’s the scary part. My mind did wander quite a bit while I was reading this book, thinking of the eerie possibilities, trying to find parallels between what I was reading and what I was observing in society. We are witnessing so much propaganda which may not be as obvious as some of the hilarious pro-Stalin and pro-Mao posters that I’ve seen online and in history books, but it’s there in an often subtler form.

I think one of the scariest parts for me was seeing how language can be used to manipulate and control:

“All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.’ Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink.’

Language is definitely becoming more simplified and some of the words that are making it into the dictionary are just laughable.

I kept thinking about the following Virginia Woolf quote while reading this book:

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” - Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Freedom of mind is something I take for granted. We all want to believe we’re untouched by all this propaganda but are we really? Yes, this is definitely a cautionary tale. I wonder how many are listening.