I’ve always felt I should read 1984, so when I discovered my library had a version read by Frank Muller, a narrator I know I enjoy, I borrowed the recording to keep me occupied during my daily commute.
About the Book:
Published in 1949, George Orwell’s 1984 is a classic dystopian novel. The year is — as you might guess — 1984. A country called Oceania, in the grip of Ingsoc (English Socialism), is perpetually at war. And Winston Smith is about to do something he knows he should not. Hidden away in the corner of his apartment, in an alcove sheltered from the all-seeing eye of the ubiquitous telescreen, Winston begins to write an illicit journal. He knows it’s only a matter of time before the Thought Police detect his crime and have him eliminated. But Winston is also beginning to suspect there might be those who oppose the Party — might even be such rebels amongst his acquaintances.
As Winston moves through his world, illuminating the politics, daily life, and culture for the reader as he goes, he follows his hunch, groping blindly in the darkness of the unknown, unsure what form the inevitable consequences will take.
There are a lot of really cool things going on in 1984. My first thought, on beginning the audiobook, was how interesting it was to read a novel set in what was, at the time, the future, but which is now the past. Where many current writers base futuristic works on technological gadgets and space travel and the like, Orwell poured most of his attention into building up a political system so pervasive that no citizen and no aspect of life was beyond its influence. I loved watching him develop this chilling future world.
As I got further into the book, I became ever more impressed with this world Orwell had constructed. About halfway through, I lost interest in Winston’s story, but the system in which he existed continued to fascinate me. The principles of the Party, its tenants and inner workings, its goals and the means by which it accomplished them were so fully developed and effortlessly locked into place. It is a system rife with sinister manipulation, ruthless policies, and colossal lies made into unquestionable truths. I wondered again and again at Orwell’s logic and at how clearly he understood power.
My favorite part of 1984 came after the story was over. Orwell tacked on an explanation of Newspeak, the official language of Oceania, including its purpose and basic linguistic rules. I love linguistics and was absolutely enthralled by this little piece. The purpose behind Newspeak, Orwell explained, was to standardize and control language, carefully weeding out variation and undesirable meanings until a final ideal form was reached — a form in which it would not be possible to articulate in speech or thought any idea in opposition to the Party. He went on to outline the parts of speech and their formation and give usage examples. I loved it.
Frank Muller read the audio production I chose. I know there are many listeners who don’t love Muller’s interpretations of the classics, but I have listened to several by him and have very much enjoyed his narrations. Unless you already know you dislike his style, I’d absolutely recommend Muller’s version of Orwell’s 1984.
For anyone interested, the Wikipedia article on 1984 outlines much of the novel, though of course there are spoilers galore!