1984 Live

“To University of London this evening to participate in ‘1984 Live’, a reading of the whole of Orwell’s dystopian novel between 9am and 10pm on 6th of June.

The setting was the art-deco splendour of Senate House where the Ministry of Information was based in WWII and which Orwell used as the model for the Ministry of Truth in the novel.

I did the 6pm shift, reading most of Chapter 11 in which the book’s hero, Winston Smith, is tortured and interrogated in the notorious Room 101 for his opposition to Big Brother and The Party.

The many other readers included Ken Loach, Harriet Walter, Melvyn Bragg, Billy Bragg and Orwell’s son, Richard Blair.

George Orwell is one of my heroes though he died in the year I was born (and a year after ‘1984’ was written).His writing, more than anything else, convinced the teenage me that a “dictatorship of the proletariat” as advocated by the Communists. would be by necessity a totalitarian regime. He argued that individual freedom was essential to democratic socialism and that a police state was as repressive whether it was imposed by the far right or the far left.

In the age of Trump’s “alternative facts” ‘1984’ has become a best seller again. Orwell’s Big Brother claimed that “freedom is slavery”, “war is peace” and, more relevantly to today’s White House, “ignorance is strength”.

The book was cautionary rather than predictive. It is said to be the most influential novel of the 20th Century and today’s event, organised by the Orwell Foundation and UCL, was a brilliant way to demonstrate it’s continuing power and relevance.”

 

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