09 April 2007


ABC Radio National's book reading today started broadcasting Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four while, whether by coincidence or design, First Person began a series about reading and writing with his essay "Why I write". Presumably these events show the appeal GO's work still has to a modern audience.

Last year
while I was driving down the Stuart Highway I listened to a reading of the unabridged Nineteen Eighty-four, (except, alas, for the appendix about Newspeak, which is a good place to start if you want an idea of what it's about or to refresh your memory). The political parts still pack a punch though the interpersonal stuff about the Winston - Julia relationship is a bit dated and melodramatic. I'll be interested to see where most of the cuts which will be necessary for today's abridgement (twenty 15 minute episodes) will be made. You can still listen to the reading on the web if you click on the link above.

Also on matters Orwellian, Boing Boing reports, complete with map, that Orwell's former residence in London is now well covered by (
some might say saturated with
) surveillance cameras. I wonder how effective they are in detecting or preventing crime, whether of the criminal or thought varieties.

And Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post
has an Op-Ed piece "Orwell at Guantanamo" about torture at that benighted place.

There's also Steven Poole's book and website Unspeak which has a different take on political language: read this extract from the introduction to the book (it's too long to quote here). Terms like "broad justice", recently used by PM Howard to explain how he felt about the David Hicks case outcome, are examples of this.

On a lighter note, AbeBooks.co.uk, the UK arm of the global secondhand book selling organisation (this sounds Orwellian but isn't meant to), has an advertisement for several "Not-Books", one of which is "
Nineteen Eighty-five: Things Are Looking Up by G. Orwell", whose cover contains an endorsement '"It's doubleplusgood!" - Ministry of Truth'. You can send friends (or enemies) E- cards featuring this: click on the link above to do so. I think that even Orwell, who was no P G Wodehouse but who did write essays about music hall comedians and risque picture postcards, would have smiled at this.

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