Apr 10, 2007

1984 and Brave New World

I have just finished reading 2 of the 3 "dystopia" classical novels of all time. I read Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World. I left our Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. (Well, there are several other famous dystonpian novels, like Animal Farm and Anthem... so 3 is not really an accurate number).

Quickly, 1984 explores what would life be like if a totalitarian communist regime is able to take over the world in the 1950s. The novel follows Wilson as he lives in 1984, with the 'Big Brother' government taking care (and micro-control) the life of every citizen (party member) very closely (supposedly to prevent social injustice).

1984 has truly shocked me. Orwell is a master writer - he immerses the reader in the events and the thoughts of his characters to the deepest level. Every word, every move, every feeling, I was able to feel throughout. The novel is also very smart - it does not patronize the reader or insult the reader's intelligence.

This is usually a very good feature about a novel, except that, in the third part, Wilson is taken to the "Ministry of Love" (internal intelligence) for torture and interrogation. And in this third part, I was extremely exhausted and disturbed. The description of torture was not gory, but it got to you. The Big Brother's ministry of love did not want to just kill its enemies. It wanted to brainwash them into admitting they were wrong in the first place - not just say that, but truly mean it. Thus, most of the torture was extremely mental and ... oh, how disturbing.

The novel, just like Orwell's Animal Farm, is usually thought of as anti-communist/anti-socialist. But it's actually not. Orwell himself was a socialist. However, and as he said, the novel is against any tyrannical system of whatever ideology. In 1984, the 'Big Brother' is described to look a lot like Stalin.

However, some of what the Big Brother government said reminds one A LOT of what is happening today.
One sentence was "War is peace" - "we wage war to achieve peace"... hm..., where did I hear that before?

The second novel, Huxley's Brave New World, was OK. I think it is of much less quality than Orwell's. Huxley seems to have had few ideas, and then he created a novel around them. Orwell was closer to a philosopher. His characters were much deeper and much more believable. Huxley's novel seem patronizing at times by "pushing" the reader into hating or liking certain characters. One wouldn't love or hate them for their ideas, but rather, as done in hollywood, but other attributes like the way they talk or how nice they behave.

Brave New World is about a futuristic "utopian" world where the government also tries to make every person very happy all the time by "encouraging free sex, drugs, and conformist ideas" for all the citizens. The novel then compares this world with the "savages world" (which is supposed to be today's world). The comparison and the bulk of the philosophical discussions take place when "John", a "savage person", is brought to live in the utopian world.

Both were made movies. It'll be nice to fetch them out. I know both Blockbuster and Netflix do not carry either of them. I guess they are too academic for their tastes.

It would be very nice to find an Arabic "dystopia" novel. I don't know of any.


  1. I'm sure you've seen V for Vendetta where an Orwellian like world is depicted. I think 1984 is a classic and has a lot of things to offer. The same ideas have been repeated in so many scifi movies that it allowed it to reach the level of "I, Robot", "The butterfly effect" and "the three laws of robotics" even the Matrix was affected by it in the way the agents work behind the scene.

    Good stuff man :)

  2. Great blogging Muhammad. I read 1984 for the first time last summer. When the man and woman were in their apartment and the picture on the wall fell down to reveal a telescreen had been there the whole time I got goose bumps. It's spooky that the UK now has closed circuit video cameras with speakers enabling 'guards' to verbally correct people's daily anti-social behavior like littering, jay walking, etc.

    If you get the time, check out John Steinbeck's 'Tortilla Flat'. I enjoyed it a lot.

    Currently I am reading Jimmy Carter's 'Palestine Peace Not Apartheid'. It's a complicated, complicated situation over there...

    Humid, warm wishes from Arkansas,