Why George Orwell’s classic, 1984, remains more relevant than ever

Why George Orwell’s classic, 1984, remains more relevant than ever

Elif Shafak writes:

There is Orwell the human being. There is Orwell the novelist. There is Orwell the intellectual, the critic, the journalist, the essayist, the radical. But lately, George Orwell—who was born Eric Arthur Blair and who never fully abandoned his original name—has increasingly come to be regarded as a modern oracle, a gifted soothsayer who predicted with terrifying accuracy how fragile and fallible our political systems were, how close the shadow of authoritarianism. His body of work has become a compass to help us navigate our way in times of democratic recession and backsliding, as is the case worldwide. Among all his books, the one that has left the deepest impact on generations of readers across borders is, no doubt, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

I was an undergrad in Turkey when I first discovered the cautionary novel—a tattered copy coincidentally picked up in a second-hand bookshop. Winston Smith, a rebel who does not resemble the heroes in lore and legend; a lonely, pensive and observant individual in an oppressive regime. Big Brother, always watching, dominating every inch of daily life, like an unblinking celestial gaze. The rewriting of a nation’s past to suit the orders and needs of the government/the State/the Party. Sands of personal memory trying to survive the crashing waves of collective amnesia.

It all shook me to my core. I found myself thinking about the story long after I had finished the last page. Back in those days, I had quietly started writing fiction, keeping it to myself, dreaming of becoming a novelist—a wisp of a wish I could not even dare to say out loud. This also happened to be a time when I was reading extensively about the systemic human rights violations that had happened and were still happening in my motherland. [Continue reading…]

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