Audioburst Search

'1984' In 2019: Did George Orwell's Classic Get It Right?


This message comes from on points sponsor indeed. If you're hiring with indeed, you can post a job in minutes. Set up screener questions, then zero in on your shortlist of qualified candidates using an online dashboard. Get started at indeed dot com slash NPR podcast. From NPR and WB. You are Boston, I make the talker bardy and this is on point. Big brother two, plus two equals five the memory hole. Truth isn't truth. Sound familiar? Well, there from George Orwell's dark, masterpiece, nineteen Eighty-four. Okay. Not all of those phrases from nineteen Eighty-four that last one truth isn't truth. Will that's from the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani? So it's real and it's recent which shows you the timelessness and predictive power of Orwell's, novel published seventy years ago this Saturday, nineteen Eighty-four serves as a warning against absolute power of all kinds against the manipulation of language against the loss of independent thought published in one thousand nine hundred eighty nine critics thought the book might lose its relevance after the fall of communism. But here we are seventy years later with global Thawra -tarian ISM on the rise, and fake news. And even the manipulation of that term itself, all tearing at the fabric of democracy. So this hour on point lessons from nineteen Eighty-four for two thousand nineteen and you can join us. When did you first read nineteen Eighty-four have you reread it recently, what resonates about this book for you? What are the sources of double think today? And what if big brother isn't government, but technology that we are welcoming into our lives. Join us anytime at some point radio dot org or Twitter and Facebook where it on point radio. Joining us today from London is Jean Seaton director of the Orwell foundation, which promotes George Orwell's work and awards, the Orwell prize for political writing, she's also the official historian of the BBC and a professor of media history at the university of Westminster Jean Seton, welcome to on point, high also nice to be, it's a pleasure to have you also with us from Bloomington, Indiana is Michael Sheldon English professor at Indiana state university, and author of the book or well, the authorized biography, Michael Sheldon. Welcome to you as well. Good to be with you. So let me just start briefly an. Ask both of you the same question. But Gina lychee answer. I how relevant is nineteen Eighty-four today, almost exactly seventy years after its publication. Rather weirdly, it feels very relevant in different places. I think I think it's never actually not been relevant was used to be relevant in North Korea and authoritarian places. I remember going to Burma by eight years ago and it felt relevant before. But now, feels rather shockingly in the law, mainly relevant much closer to home. So we used to see it to something that was a warning to us, comfortable people in social democracies and now it feels a little bit more alarming than that, which is why I think seventy people have turned to reading it again. And Michael Sheldon. How would you answer that? He's got more relevant. It's amazing how a man who lived and wrote his book in the nineteen thirties and forties. Wouldn't see so far ahead into our digital future. I think that's the brilliance of what's been enduring is the notion that we've shifted from the old fashioned thing where if you want to play music, you, you watch a record turn on a turntable to. Now you just have a file, and an in a digital world like that. You find it much easier to do what Orwell talks about nineteen Eighty-four slip things down the memory hole. Airbrush things. Disappear hold histories and facts. And to distort them in ways that are lot easier to do in a digital world than they were in the old analog world. So we're living in George Orwell's world now I'm afraid yeah. We know I want to be mindful that perhaps, not everyone listening is an obsessive reader of George Orwell the way, we might be so, so gene, could you. Just briefly. Give us a little synopsis of the story that Orwell tells in, in one thousand nine hundred four. It's projected into a future in which a on a snippy slightly authoritarian dictatorship is take Nova, which survives by always fighting the world is divided into three blocks. And you're always fighting one of them, but that slips around you might coalition so. The sort of international scale it the world is divided into these blocks, new survive, locally nationally by hating somebody else. And Secondly, there's a regime a regime whose intent is to completely reduce English to very few numbers of words, so that, when you do that you Radic eight thoughts and feelings, you make it impossible for people to think new thoughts and Thirdly. It's the regime, which is based on. Poly based on the where it comes from we get around but is based on a complete vigilance over every detail of people's lives. And their feelings doesn't an attempt to Radic eight proper loving fulfilling sexual relationships, so that feels very Morton, and replace them by something much more old. On the stories of Winston Winston Smith. The lost loss man in Europe who sought of a well, but not quite John can do this better than me. And a he he he he he's a rebellion against all of this. He has with he becomes more rebellious cost the book and he believes that s-. Big brother, or at least an agent of being rather bit. Like a spy thriller, actually, is, in fact, overturn -able on the Yukon create a private space. So he goes off on the love of her. And in fact, he is always being marched and he's discovered and his girlfriend discovered base tortured. And he is made we think that we might come to finally onto torture give up. His own belief in, in reality. So the final torture is dusty. Plus two equal four does it equal five and say the, the final thing to go is apparently his own internal state. So it sounds pretty gloomy but the raw ramonic- I mean, there are some hopeful bits, we might get onto that. It's copped the end with something that makes you think that perhaps that future doesn't happen. I if that we will get to that because I actually. But I mean I just have to say it very short very intense book. For two reasons on Inoccent completely on put down a ball. I mean you it's the book Q consuming ago. Right. Well, so if I may an and I just wanted to the three of us we we've, we've picked individual readings or excerpts from nineteen Eighty-four to, to share with each other and listeners this hour. And if I may, I'd like to just offer mine, which comes right at the top of the book right at the very beginning of nineteen Eighty-four, because gene is you're saying one of the reasons why it's unpaid down a bowl is not just a story that or will tells, but the manner in which he tells it if she just grabs you right from the top, and the book opens, of course with that the very famous line, it was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Right. And then or we'll goes on to write the hallway smelt of boiled, cabbage, and old rag Mads at one end of it a colored poster too large for indoor display had been tacked to the wall. It depicted. Simply an enormous face more than a meter wide, the face of a man about forty five with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly. Handsome features Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying to lift even at the best of times it was seldom working and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for hate week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston who was thirty nine and had vericose ulcer above his right. Ankle went slowly resting several times on the way on each landing opposite, the lift shaft the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures, which are so contrived that the is follow you, when you move big brother is watching you the caption beneath it ran Michael Zeldin, even all these years later, I, I re read nineteen Eighty-four and high school. The opening still gives me. Chills to this day. How did how did our we'll do that? It probably should give you chills. It's the notion that you're always being watched. I like to say to my students that if I follow them around all day, taking notes of what they were doing. Eventually someone would call the police on me, but I say your cell phones do that. Now every day they, they track everything you're doing. So we've, we've let ourselves slip into that very world that or will describe of a place where all surveillance is possible and surveillance from many different levels. And I think that should be shocking to people it's what Orwell saw in our future, Jean Seaton. Do you have a response to that? And I think I think that's true. I think we've one of the interesting things is that in a well, big brother is a social face. We might come to that. And sort of may or may not exist. We don't really know. But he's a sort of person. But we've now one of the themes of the novel is about complicity about the way in which people agree to their own delusion delusion Disney, they willingly give up on that sense that we, you know, just to there's nothing you can buy that somebody doesn't know something about you. There is no pleasure. You can take that doesn't involve the internet or where you are. So we have absolutely being complicit in something that may be used for purposes and clearly is in some societies, ready actually, being used for purposes that we wouldn't have agreed to we wouldn't have agreed to. Of that stuff, even being sold. If we'd have known if we've understood but it looked convenience. So I think the, the easy complicity of us in the situation, Michael just described feels very important. Well, we are talking about the seventieth anniversary of George Orwell's dystopia masterpiece nineteen Eighty-four, and what lessons the novel has for us in two thousand nineteen we want to hear from you. Have you recently reread nineteen Eighty-four, does it seem to hit a little too close to home, and if so why then we'll head into a quick break with David Bowie, single one thousand nine hundred four from his nineteen seventy four album diamond dogs. This is on point. This podcast and following message are sponsored by xfinity. Some things are hard to control like over caffeinated co workers other things are easy to control. Like you're in home wifi with xfinity, X fi, set WI fi curfew change your password, and create user profiles all with the x fi app. Another reason why xfinity is simple easy. Awesome go online. Call one eight hundred xfinity or visit a store to learn more restrictions apply. Mitch McConnell has become a champion for conservatives. But back in the day, he wants got support from groups like labor unions, market, down is one of the worst things have done thought about over the years. Think about face Mitch McConnell, new series from imbedded, subscribe, now, this is on point. Meghna chucker Bharti. We're talking this hour about the fact that on June eighth. Nineteen forty nine George Orwell's masterpiece nineteen Eighty-four was first published. So it is approaching it seventieth anniversary. And what lessons do we have today into thousand nine to draw from nineteen eighty four? And of course, one of the central ideas in Orwell's nineteen Eighty-four is idea of language and thought and how to control both through an element called Newspeak, that or will introduces in his novel. So this is a scene from a nineteen fifty four BBC adaptation of the novel and Winston Smith played by Peter Cushing asks, a fellow party member Sime, played by Donald pleasure. Cents about his work, creating the language of Newspeak. We'll have a busy time. It becomes compulsory learning all the new joint departments and Benji. We're not inventing would destroy schools thousand gently day and notable, beautiful simplicity, one example, that good. You have that what need for the would bad on boarding, just well, then instead of a string of extra, like excellent spended. You have plus good a stronger still. Plus, a new speak, the whole notion of goodness and battling will be covered by six words in reality by only one lived from nineteen fifty four adept patient of Orwell's, nineteen Eighty-four I'm joined today by Jean Seaton director of the Orwell foundation. She's with us from London, and Michael Sheldon is with us. He's an English professor at Indiana state university and author of Orwell the authorized biography and Jean-Michel really want to spend some time, exploring this aspect of the book with you because we will talk more about surveillance in thwart -tarian, ISM. But to me, it seems as if one of the central ideas that Orwell is trying to put forward and one of the reasons why this novel will never lose its relevance, regardless of what our political moment is because he's talking about how our abilities individuals or as Sayed's to, to think freely, to think openly to engage, truthfully with the world can be controlled manipulated through the control of language, so, so Michael Sheldon. This is something that or will cared about deeply for his entire life. But what was it about his experience at led him to focus so so, so strongly on this idea of thought and language? Well think about it. The Oxford English dictionary has roughly speaking half a million words, the object of Newspeak, is to reduce it in or well gives this figure to around nine hundred words. So you're talking about taking an language of enormous richness and variety and, and reducing it to the point where you can barely say, anything you can't really put together a very coherent thought. And he ran into that sort of thing, not only in his writing, but also working at the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation for two years during the war, where many words were censored many words were not allowed because of wartime censorship. In fact, some of his broadcasts were done sitting in front of a kill switch. And which at any moment, he could be shut off because he was saying something. Forbidden. It's ironic today that the entrance to the BBC has a statue of Orwell and quote, unquote, above it, carved into the stone. If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear, right? Gene, gene, Seton is that a message that people still want to hear these days? I think I mean, I think his concern with the emaciation the impoverishment of language came from a longer experience than just at the BBC. It came from particularly observing, what happened round reporting of the Spanish civil war when he found that he understood he'd TV to fight against fascist. And he found himself fighting right tiny group of in a very split lift. But he found that the newspaper reports from people who he had believed to be more comradely him on left told lies. And he observed Russian Russian control of, of communism and people like all the customer, his friends also told very strong story. So I think that the notion of the Macy's of languages came from observing the way in which. Fascism and communism destroyed the capacity to think didn't want independent thinking. I mean, I'm I'm obviously as BBC historian, I often three hundred them, but I think that, that was, I didn't think that was the main experience in D Reynoso. When he left the BBC saying, maybe stopped me saying what I think, and it was a, a, a War, I think, BBC such ship was one little bit. I think bureaucracy was one little bit. But I think his real sense of language was that the that idea lobes base from the right in the left. People got a vision. Try and make reality fit that vision to do, so they have to squirrel with words. Right. So, so this, this is such an interesting important point, Michael shuttle, Sheldon. Let me turn back to you, his as Jean said Orwell's concern was that impair. Phrasing, what you just said here, gene, but ideolog from both the right and the left. In order to advance their vision, squirrel with those words, so we can focus on, on, on how that plays out in political life. But I'm wondering if we're seeing it today. Also in, in other realms I'm thinking, what would Orwell think about occasionally online, mobs might go after some writers of young adult novels and say, you know, you've written you've written something in that novel, that we object to so self-censor it. I mean is that markedly different than the kind of language control that Orwell was concerned with? No. It's still a form of censorship and quite right, that the Spanish of a war gave him a real taste of that he got it almost everywhere he went because he was so committed to telling what he saw as the objective truth. And he got tired of being lied to in so many different places in his life and in so many different experiences. So when he saw other people try to suppress the truth when. He saw others try to censor anyone. He formulated that notion that you don't really have freedom of speech, unless you can tell people what they don't want to hear it still a Revolutionary Command. Because try starting that today with your boss or anyone else. A lot of a lot of people don't wanna hear certain things. Well, I think I mean if you look to freedom is slave this these great slogans in the boat. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength, or as he's that, that, that, that sense, that's you can just you can just impose on things kind of willed version of reality. I think that's one of his big battles. And he's very he's very dedicated to trying to understand reality. Right. Really? Well, so Michael Sheldon. I would love if you could actually read to us, your selected passage from nineteen Eighty-four because it's exactly along the, the lines of conversation that we're having right now about how Orwell writes about the party's control over human thought in the novel. So could you could you read your selection Boris? Sure, the party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final most. Central command, his heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him the case with, which any party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments, which he would not be able to understand much less answer. And yet, he was in the right they were wrong, and he was right. The obvious the silly and the true had got to be defended truisms are true. Hold onto that the solid world exists it law. It's laws. Do not change stones are hard water is wet objects unsupported fall towards the earth's center with the feeling that he was speaking to Brian, and also that he was setting forth, an important axiom. He wrote freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four if that is granted all else follows. That's Michael Sheldon. Reading an excerpt from George Orwell's nineteen Eighty-four. We should say that, that when we when he feigned that Winston Smith. Is is writing? He's writing secretly right in, in his own diary is his. Mike. Yeah. He's writing what he hopes will be a record of all of this, that might survive. But of course, the whole point of the big brother's regime is to make sure that nothing survives. He kinda got this idea from Stalin's habit of erasing people from photographs once they fell out of favor. And of course, the whole notion of the purge trials. So he, he had this idea that history might disappear facts might disappear simply because they became inconvenient, gene. Go ahead. But I was just I was gonna say that his first transgress Whitten Smith's, I sort of transgressive act is to get himself Dari, which he tries to right around the corner from the, the Thais cream. It's conc- him on. So he compose you to compose himself on out of the is of the, the state, and so that, that private world, I think is a very important part of, of, of, of what it is that you're trying to protect from, you know, all sorts of pressures. I mean in, in, in the book, it's sorta, visit were maligned big state. Because that was well experienced the nineteen thirties. I mean, the book is the product of all of his life, really of hundreds of thousands of words of writing and thinking and slowly getting toward something, but he had the. About s-, if you look at it now, I think lives on precisely because in a way very particular is talking about being a person and the person, the society in a way that you can still relate to. Well, you know, in addition, this, this excerpt that you've picked Michael, it be, let's go back to the beginning line. The first line in the excerpt, where Orwell writes the party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final most essential command. Now this line, it was got a resurgence on social media, not all that long ago when President Donald Trump at a veterans of foreign wars convention said, just remember what you are seeing, and what you're reading is not what happening. So is that is that to is to close is too close a comparison. No, because it's, it's our political way now to create our own information, and privee at as though it's everyone's information and to pretend that we have our own set of facts, and the other side has another set of facts. It is exactly, I know this is ancient history to bring up the Spanish civil war. But is it is exactly that grounding in that war? Where factions were against each other to such a degree that you could be in favor one day and murdered. The next day by your supposed friends, and I think he got that, that sensation there that at some point you have to hold onto an objective reality, you have to say as Orwell's said very powerfully. I was shot in the throat for this war. He was in the Spanish civil war. I got a bullet wound in my f-r-o-t-h. I can feel it. Who, who the hell are you to tell me what to think I, I was willing to surrender my life? For the struggle. So he, he had to hold onto the facts as he knew them otherwise, they would be distorted out of all reality. Right. And I think go ahead Jerry, he's very fascinated by irrationality. He knows that irrationality those lies as what those distortions of reality, almost a in the nineteen thirties were winning and his response to that. I think one of the things in the book, there's a sort of golden golden country, but also in his life. He he said somewhere, you know, lowest live. I'll enjoy trivial pleasures. He liked growing flowers. He liked growing things. He wrote the book actually against really beautiful background in Scotland. He this is really profound stuff. He's saying. The scientific truths. If we don't hung onto those, we will go out and that feels that the moment science feels onto challenge in a lot of ways. This is the thing that exactly makes Orwell hero of both the right and the left his, his stalwart stand for for independence of thought of reality of truth. But it seems as if both on the on the far right? And the far left or perhaps all of us human beings, because aided by technology are in a world where because we can essentially constructor, digital realities, we are not doing at all what or or well wishes that we did, which is hold onto two fundamental truths. But on that point, I just want to actually allow some of our callers to come into let's go to one who's calling from Sarasota. Florida one you're on the air. Yeah. Really enjoyed the conversation. I was born in nineteen forty nine and they read nineteen eighty four in the late seventy six I gotta read this and, and he was going to happen in nineteen eighty four. So I read the book and nineteen Eighty-four came around and none of the stuff in the book happened. So I said her but it's all happening now. It just having a few years later, you know. So nineteen Eighty-four is twenty nineteen should have been a more accurate title. Couple of comments about nineteen Eighty-four. I don't remember anything about religion being a part of the story. You know, the religion has like no role. It was kinda communistic or, you know, like very much impacted by the second World War, so. Religion was really not an element. And now really is huge and getting bigger all the time and religious tensions and differences are huge part of the, of the conversation now and the other element was the element of constant war, which is also something that's happening now. There's always a war going on and you had to be against it, or you're not patriotic, or you had to be for the east side had its own, so take it back from you. I'm so sorry that we have a couple of minutes before we have to get to our next. Breaking wanted to allow Michael Sheldon to respond to what Wong was saying about religion not being overtly or at all in nineteen Eighty-four. Why is that? Oh, faith, and sex or dangerous, aren't they in a big brother recognizes that or is regime does that if you give people the chance to exercise their faith whatever it is, or certainly their sexual impulses? You lose control of them. You need to have control of those two private areas of their lives in order to have total control. And that's really what he's after. He's, he's trying to break down individual will, and that certainly place, you'd wanna start and Jean Seaton would have to say about that. I think that. Religion isn't the because it would have been a, an alternative source of independence on the religion as in communism or in fascism. He was looking at regimes that repressed religion. But in a way, the party's religion. So with a think the Paul tease, ideological control over what you do what you believe is like some religion, but it doesn't it doesn't have the independence of spiritual faith. This is an anti spiritual. Well, we are talking about George Orwell's nineteen eighty four. It was published seventy years ago. The Saturday, what lessons does Orwell's great novel have for us here in two thousand nineteen who is big brother today. One hear what your answers to that question. And will head into the break with rage against the machine's nineteen ninety nine song testify, which invokes the Orwellian, phrase, who controls the past controls the future. This is on point. Hey, it's been an Ameri, and we're the hosts of endless thread, the show, featuring stories found on the website, read it but you don't have to be ready to enjoy the kinds of stories. We tell like a couple experimenting with non monogamy or boredom that may have predicted the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Subscribe to endless threat on apple podcasts or wherever you listen. When's the last time you had a really good workout? None of your vice apps. But if you'll brain I'm Sean Covey dot com. Host of hidden brain. Listen every week. Flex your mind. This is on point Meghna, Chuck regarding we're talking this hour about the seventieth anniversary of George Orwell's to stop in classic nineteen Eighty-four, it turned seventy on Saturday. And yet, it seems to have deep residents residents now even in two thousand nineteen and we want to hear from you. If you think that way, not just if you think that way because I don't want just affirmative calls, if you disagree with us. I'm joined today by Jean Seaton. She's director of the or well-founded nation. She's also officially historian of the BBC and professor of media history at the university of Westminster. She's with us from London. Michael Sheldon, joins us as well from Bloomington, Indiana, he's an English professor at Indiana state university and author of Orwell the authorized biography and Jane. There's something that you said earlier that I want to circle back to a little bit. And I want to do that by listening to the opening scene of the film adaptation of nineteen Eighty-four, which came out in eighty four and in the scene. Depicts the daily ritual. Called the two minutes, hate where members of the outer party, watch a film about enemies of the state and express their hatred. And here's what it sounds like. Proud. They're shouting Goldstein because one of the enemies of the state is named Emmanuel Goldstein. So Jean Seton, what is it about Orwell's depiction of the way, the passions of, of, of entire society of humans can be so easily aroused? What is it about that, that still seem so trenchant today? Well, I think, well, because it's well with writes himself into everything, and you one of the things about the way, which is written is the Winston Smith person goes in to the two minutes hate, which is a sort of regular X or way of exhorting people to believe big brother more and to raise that feelings Nicos into it, and with some hostility, and then he he feels. That he's attracted to it. He feels the of it on himself. So that's, that's really very interesting aspect, which will well always goes to the most uncomfortable places. Why it feels to me really terribly pertinent is the way in which open quotes the media used to think about the heritage media, but communities of people you always, and he would like to be seen as admirable within an honorable within can be moved beyond what feels reasonable to really extreme actions and views and hostess and impoliteness is and horrible, MRs on that feels a bit a bit light agreement people online that somebody is awful unready being abusive away, wouldn't be face to face. Are you talking about social media mobs, essentially, yes? Yes. 'and. We've just in Britain being through, we still in the middle of horrible co Brexit, which Gordon is will mean I've no idea what it means. Maybe what it means. But it certainly produced it's legitimized British people quite often being a very unpleasant to each other, and not listening to each other, and not listening and being roused to feelings, rather irrationally that you wouldn't be if you thought about it feels like a very potent. Aspect of contemporary life that he was nailing down in the two minutes hate which in a way came from the way in which the Soviet Union and German propaganda had worked, so he's, he's working from the real life unease working from propaganda in Britain that trying to make you brace up stand up. So he's got he's got real information around but white feels pertinent is because it's about the about belonging to a group of people and therefore losing control of your feelings. Right. In ways that you wouldn't do if you would just sitting down with your mom having a Cup of tea. Well, let's go back to the phones. Go to Ethan, who's calling from Cumberland? Maine. Even you're on the air. Hi. Yeah. I'm just calling 'cause listening to this, it really makes me think the interesting thing about our modern age, is that even with things like Sri Lanka Myanmar, the Wieger poppulation in China in the western world. We've been handing over all of our data in our control to the to private companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon. And these companies have actually they willfully show that they do control our behavior, and that they can manipulate how we feel by changing their algorithms and changing the messaging to us and I was just wondering if on that. Right. So Ethan, thank you so much for your call. So Michael Sheldon big brother, not being political, but rather? Pry commercial private tech will this is another one of Orwell's great insights that the real motivator here is power. The acquisition of power in the holding power and power can take many different forms, commercial bureaucratic government, whatever, but Orwell saw how power fed these huge organizations and how that cause those organizations to twist themselves into all kinds of manipulations of data and facts and other things in order to serve their purposes and sustain their power, and we can see this just in so many places today. Well, gene, you're the, the, the remainder of trio here that hasn't had a chance to share an excerpt from nineteen Eighty-four, and yours is actually is particularly interesting as well. I was wondering if you if you might read it to us. Yes, it it's. Whitsun Smith is remembering, but you have to remember challenged thing in one thousand nine hundred four has a dream, and he's remembering that in some way, his mother and sisters sacrifice their lives to him. And he's just looking back to the dream life. And this is the quote. The thing that knows suddenly struck Winston was that his mother's death nearly thirty years ago had been tragic and Saurav who in a way that was no longer possible tragedy. He perceived belong to the ancient time to time when there was still privacy, love and friendship, when the members of families stood by one another without needing to know the reason his mother's memory toward his heart, because she had died loving him when he was too young and selfish to love her in return because somehow he did not remember how she had her Feist hustle to a conception of loyalty that was private and unalterable such things. He saw could not happen today today. There was fear hatred in pain, but no dignity of emotion. No deep or complex, Soro's. All this seemed to see in the lodge is his mother and his sister looking up at him. Through green mortar hundreds of fathoms down and still sinking. That's Jean Seton reading an excerpt from George Orwell's nineteen Eighty-four. Why is it that you wanted to highlight this passage? Partly because I found it moving. Partly because it really really stunned me really streaming. I reread it. Complex emotions deepen complex Soro's, these things that culture and our lives should hold onto. I'm one worries that it's easy to hate. And a lot of feelings come pups as they always have done sort of secondhand from celebrities on the ones capacity that, that describes something about once something alarming that we need to hang onto, which is. You know, difficult, no STI, not just to be Sade, not just to be shared just to be not to be done away with on not need. Doesn't need to always hung out. You know it. The sorrow. How we think about guilt, and shame and sorrow and grief, because these are all words in this. This is something that we may be in danger of losing one looks around public life. And you could almost take off people. You'd Ma who you think. Well, yes, I know that there are private Souris that right? And they experienced in a real and. I mean, even MRs may, I known as may when watch today up the prime minister, she's hopeless prime minister, but there's no doubt that she has private stories. Well, there's everything in that line that you read that today there were fear hatred and pain, but no dignity of emotion. No deep or complex, sorrows. Let me just see if I can see one more call in here. John is calling from Boynton Beach, Florida. John, you're on the air. All right. Thank you for taking my call really interesting conversation that you guys are having about books that I absolutely adore, and I actually was an English teacher, actually teach. And one of the things that you've been talking about that is not usually discussed so much in overlooked, when the book is discussed as the destruction of language, and how significant that is, as a teacher I have had, I hoped, professor, would, you know comment on this as well every every year? It's seems that the richness of Okabe cabbie, Larry. And specificity of language has is diminishing and to go back to your question that you asked who is big brother. It not. Only as government is revealed with, like the Edward Snowden revelations that echo the other one of last callers. It's the it's Google social media, and Amazon and Doyle to go back to your first to your, your to your, the, the, the clip from the movie, and the quote, you brought in with his conversation with linguists, sign is the conclusion of that conversation, which is most haunting is that when he says, we wouldn't even fifty years we've been won't even able to have this conversation that the language of dissent will be impossible because people can't even think well John, thank you so much for your call. Michael, gene. We have four minutes left to this. It's gone by far too quickly, and I. Do want to, to open the door a little bit, too. If there are messages of hope in George, Orwell's, nineteen Eighty-four and Michael, let me start with you, because I must shamefully admit that it wasn't until yesterday in the multiple times that I have read this book that I love so much. It wasn't until yesterday that I read the appendix, and that's because another writer that when I was researching and preparing for today said there is a message of hope in the appendix to nineteen Eighty-four Michael, what is going on there? Why, why is that important will, I think Orwell's attempt to analyze what it is? He's trying to set forward gives us some hope partly because it isn't just that the analysts the analysis so good. It's an analysis of Newspeak. Whether yeah. And it's an it's, it's the understanding that the book itself is a kind of monument to what he thinks may disappear unless we hang onto it. He was once told a several people how good one of his books is and afterwards he turned away and said, but no one said it was beautifully written. And I think part of what we've discovered here talking today is how beautifully written this book is it is it self, a testament to Orwell's, enduring power, it is a testament to the enduring power of language, and of storytelling, it, it the book says, what the future can be if we choose to follow it, and here, it's message, well, gene, I, I don't even sure how to read the appendix, I'm not sure whose voice. It's written in because it talks about that. The intent was to have new speak be the language for everyone by the year twenty fifty. But the, the way it's described doesn't maybe is it that, that never happened. I'm not sure but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. It means that the testimony, you've just read on the mind you have just been below beside. Even though it's being destroyed at least record of it has survived that say real history, the books about how you find higher preserve the possibility room history. So suddenly in this thing that's really written like a government report. You realize that it has survived. But I think the other thing that makes it a hopeful book, his this is he's not saying this hostile Hutton, he saying kind of stand up. You know, Roy's homes, you can do something about it. He doesn't write it to make you miserable rights to born, you know, MU. Yeah. Well, and Michael, he sort of rights appendix at one of the seems right? That what are the limits of Newspeak? Was that in no way by design? Could it capture the complexity of human thought in as we have in our current language and he points to of all things? The best known passage from the declaration of independence. I thought that was absolutely fascinating. Yeah. Because it's a war of words and ideas, almost literally, it's an attempt to claim the high ground for language against those who would diminish it and who would use it again for the purposes of their own power, and that can't be allowed to happen. Anyone who reads the book and reads it of thoughtfully conceived that, gene, it will forever be a heartbreak in me. And I'm sure with every other or will fan to, to know that this was his last book that Orwell died, what? Only several months of Turkey losses after the publication of nineteen Eighty-four one simply will never stop wondering I won't stop wondering what more he could have written. He was only fifty years old when he died well, yeah. Or something? Forty seven actually. Seven but it doesn't matter. He died young on the book is written so brilliantly, partly because I didn't know that he knew he was dying who your life to die. But he knew that his he was running out. So it's, it's got all of that grasping onto. You know, everything that beautiful in it, while Jean Seton director of the Orwell foundation and official historian of the BBC professor of media history at the university of Westminster, thank you so much for being with us this hour. Thank you. And Michael Sheldon English professor at Indiana state university, and author of Orwell the authorized biography Michael shelter. It's been a great pleasure to speak with you. Thank you so much. Here it was fun. Thank you. And as we end this hour, celebrating the seventieth anniversary of Orwell's nineteen Eighty-four will close with the two thousand three song by Radiohead, inspired by that party slogan Tuplice two equals five. I'm Meghna talker. Bardy. This is on point.

Coming up next