323 - Recommended Reading: 1984

Tim Parks (Standard British accent)

I still think George Orwell is… is a wonderfully clear writer – also a writer like H.G. Wells, something like The War of the Worlds, but if… if you want to read something that’s simultaneously a good, solid novel, and… and readable, although not the easiest in the world, but definitely readable, 1984 is still a very fine novel to read. Basically, 1984 published in 1948, so 8-4/4-8, it’s… is a… a novel about a future dystopia where everybody is controlled by screens in their rooms, and where you can’t say a word… without Big Brother knowing about it. It’s kind of fascinating that the name Big Brother, which has now become a supposedly friendly TV show, was actually at the beginning, a… a horrific idea. It’s also funny that the country which produced that book is the country that uses most CCTV cameras in the world now. So it’s a book that… that at… just at a level of content is still very exciting to see somebody understanding trends of social development, and also where he gets it right, where he gets it wrong. But, linguistically, it is a book you… you can read. I mean, I think it starts, “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking 13.” And that, you know, “the clocks were striking 13,” is… is a wonderful introduction into the future, the idea that they would actually have clocks striking 13 times. And, of course, “the bright cold day in April” takes us right back to Chaucer and… and The Waste Land, so, there you go, it’s a great book.

(Tim Parks was talking to Mark Worden)


As for a book that would be suitable for foreign readers of English, this month we have chosen George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, 1984. It was first published in 1949 and, even though it was seen as a nightmare vision of the future, the title was in fact a play on 1948. Orwell (real name Eric Blair) imagined what post-war Britain could be like under a totalitarian regime. He also created a world in which a new device, television, was used for spying on every member of the population (with the slogan “Big Brother is Watching You”).