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Thoughts on “1984” by George Orwell (Audiobook)

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:

1984 by George Orwell (cover)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.

My Thoughts:

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!

Those are my thoughts. Check out 1984 by George Orwell on Goodreads or LibraryThing, or read a plethora of other bloggers’ reviews!

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  • http://www.iponderthepage.blogspot.com Amy

    I’ve never read this but it’s been on my list forever! Great post!

  • http://agignac2.blogspot.com Amanda

    This is one of those books I read in high school that left a long-lasting impression on me. There were things I didn’t like (the big long read from the “book,” the very anti-climactic ending) but the story itself really stayed with me as the perfect example of what dystopia should be. We read it paired with Brave New World, which I also love. I reread 1984 a few years ago for my book club, and that month, we had the most people show up and the most lively conversation in our entire club’s history. I plan on rereading Brave New World soon as well, and I hope that lives up to rereading just as much as 1984 did.

  • http://readingwhilefemale.blogspot.com Emily O

    What a wonderful book. I remember the first time I read this all the way back in my freshman year of high school. I got so upset at the ending! I was like, no way, I must have read that wrong! But really it’s the perfect ending, and I don’t really think there’s any other realistic way he could have finished it. I loved the appendix on Newspeak too. It was one of my favorite parts. I thought Orwell’s ideas on language were one of the strongest aspects of his world-building.
    Thanks for the review!

  • http://readhanded.blogspot.com Julie @ Read Handed

    I love 1984. One of my favorite books of all time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    I read this in high school and didn’t love it much as I probably would now. I am glad to heat that the audio production was a success for you and that you had such a great experience listening and deciphering afterward. I might have to get this same version when I tackle this one again!

  • http://bookchatter.net Ti

    One of my fave reads. I re-read it every now and then. Now you need to read Murakami’s 1Q84, his ode to Orwell’s 1984.

  • http://www.stephandtonyinvestigate.com Steph

    I read this a very long time ago – before I was even in highschool, so even though I know it was important, I don’t really remember much about it. I also tend to think that I’d get more out of it now that I’m 28 than I did when I was 13 (or whenever it is I read it). It’s one of those books I’ve flagged as one I need to re-read… I’m not sure why I keep putting it off since generally speaking, I really enjoy dystopian fiction.

  • http://likepeopleandbutterflies.blogspot.com Larissa

    I have never read it but meant to for ages. The more reviews I read about it, the more it seems perfectly what I am interested in.
    I did love Brave New World, and was always afraid they would be too similar somehow.
    I guess your post is one of the last ones that will push me to finally read it. And thanks for your mentioning the linguistics aspects! I was not aware of it and it seems really interesting.

  • http://www.eclectic-eccentric.com Trisha

    1984 is such a great book. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Newspeak is actually one of the main parts of the book that really stuck with me after reading. It’s such a great inclusion.

  • http://alternatereadality.blogspot.com/ Jenny

    This is one of those books I’m very interested in reading but still haven’t. :( I shall try to get to it this year.

  • http://www.readinasinglesitting.com Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting

    I read this one back in high school, but would recommend pairing it, as mentioned above, with Brave New World and even The Man in the High Castle. Unlike so much of today’s dystopian fiction, these novels actually arise from *real* societal issues, and are reflective of the societies they critique.

  • http://unabridged-expression.blogspot.com/ Audra

    I too have never read this but you’ve totally piqued my interest — especially with the audio production. I’m going to see if my library has it!

  • http://www.fizzythoughts.com softdrink

    I read this in high school…in 1985. I distinctly remember thinking hah! It didn’t happen! I reread it last year and was much more impressed. 😀

  • http://stacybuckeye.wordpress.com/ stacybuckeye

    A clasic still on my ‘to read’ list. Glad that it holds up to the hype.

  • http://myreadingbooks.blogspot.com Kailana

    I have owned this book for ages and STILL haven’t read it… One day!

  • http://abookishaffair.blogspot.com Meg @ A Bookish Affair

    This is the book that turned me on to dystopian and speculative fiction!!!

  • http://reviews.rebeccareid.com Rebecca Reid

    I think this would be hard on audio — that section when Winston is reading from that book almost lost me when I was reading the book myself! But I did enjoy this one. My book club is discussing it in a few months and I think it will be a great discussion.

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