Recently, I’ve re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four and… MY GOD, this is SO MUCH better in English.
First time I read it in Polish translation, almost three years ago. When I borrowed it from the local library, I knew nothing more about it than that it is a brilliant futuristic novel, written in 1949, set in 1984 and that my beloved Muse have just released the whole album based on it.
What Muse likes, me likes too – that was (and still is) the rule.
Of course, I had known that such a novel exists much earlier – when you become an obsessive fan of a band, you absorb their influences and inspirations just as a three-year-old child absorbs the language. Thus, since there were a couple of their older songs inspired by Orwell, it was just natural for me to put Nineteen Eighty-Four on my reading list. However, I finally got round to reading it only a few months after The Resistance had been released.
And I liked it; especially the ending. It is just one of those books that stay in your head for a long time after you finish reading it. As for Muse: the whole album suddenly gained much deeper and more complex meaning. Believe me, if you know their song Resistance and you haven’t read Nineteen Eighty-Four, you have no idea how much you’ve missed!
Presently, I’ve re-read it in English because I’m writing my diploma (also called licentiate) project about brainwashing that occurs in it. It simply means that now I have some proper background knowledge about the author, 20th century history, totalitarianism and brainwashing (obviously!). Hence, this time, it felt like a completely new story to me.
I believe that Nineteen Eighty-Four is generally one of those books that just NEED to be read twice (at least!). Otherwise you’ll probably miss its real significance. I found plenty of new things while reading it for the second time.
First of all, now I know for sure that English original is ALWAYS better than Polish translation. Maybe it’s because of the completely different English syntax; or maybe because Polish is too complicated for Orwell’s simplicity. Either way, for me, personally, English ALWAYS sounds and looks better. I wouldn’t be studying it, if I didn’t think so.
Secondly, this novel is a living proof that you don’t need to like the main character to love the novel itself. I don’t like Winston at all. I’m not saying that he is a flat character – no, quite far from it; he plays his part very well. I just don’t like him as a person. He wouldn’t become my friend if I met him. Julia, although much more pleasant than Winston, also doesn’t thrill me. She definitely is more close to me with her temperament, but she generally seems to be too naive. But however much I don’t like them individually, I really enjoy them together. They represent two completely different worlds, and it is interesting to watch how they clash. But leaving all the characters behind – even together with the rather regular plot – I bloody love the idea itself. The world Orwell creates is just overwhelming, shocking and terrifyingly incredible.
Thirdly, I love how complex this book is. When I read it for the first time, it was just a dystopian novel; slightly possible fantasy about the past. This time, with each sentence I was more and more aware that one could write plenty of diploma projects based on it. Politics, psychology, sociology, history, language, a literary picture, philosophy, love, future, power… It’s just amazing.
I admit – it did brainwash me a little bit. It’s not a light novel; definitely not for a relaxing holiday break. But for now, I cannot think of any other novel more worth recommending than this one.
I’m so proud of myself that I decided to write my project about it.