never trust your map maker: reading 1984 on cold medicine

You can’t tell from there, but I’m a little under the weather this week. I have a bit of a runny nose and horrific man-flu.

Don’t giggle, it’s probably fatal.

In what could be my last hours, I have picked out one of my all-time favourites for our second review, but for obvious reasons I have to admit I’m a little biased when it comes to this one.

George Orwell’s 1984 is haunting, cheeky, utterly brilliant and (even more tummy-grumbling) completely believable.

The first time round, I was told the only way to really read 1984 was to fall backwards in time to about 1975 and read it while it was still science fiction wrapped up in political allegory. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try at least once …

What I have now come to understand is that Orwell’s novels will always be science fiction—always a warning of something coming or (as we may find if we look hysterically enough) something that’s already here.

If you don’t own a copy of 1984, get out right now and buy, beg, steal, con, sell your stunning body and barter your way into having Orwell on your bookshelf, because this one is nothing short of essential.

Much like Animal Farm, Orwell’s other manic brainchild, 1984 is a chilling representation of what can happen when we let our leaders get too carried away with themselves … or is it?

When it really boils down, 1984 is one big mind rape.

It is having the complete confidence and stainless steel bathing-suit-places to say with utter certainty that 2 + 2 = 5, knowing full well that no-one will question you on it.

But is this really a case of tyrannical leaders? Or is the fault more our own because we allow it to happen?

It’s big questions like these that you have to come to terms with to survive this book—moreover, readers tend to go one of two ways: they either become manically depressed with the state of the world and take up cats and knitting despairing holiday sweaters or they become kind of defiantly complacent with the idea and recognise a deeper and significantly darker comedy about the whole notion.

The novel centres on Winston Smith who works in the records department of the Ministry of Truth.

His job: to delete and refabricate history so that there is and will always have been Big Brother and the Inner Party.

Not to be confused with that show where you put 12 awful people in a room covered in cameras and take bets on who’ll kiss, cry, sex each other, touch themselves inappropriately in the shower and show off their microphone encumbered bodies for their masses of soft-core perverts before briefly gracing the cover of New Idea.

This is the real Big Brother—the one you can’t escape because he is in your head.

As the novel progresses, Winston becomes tied up in an affair with Julia who is beautiful, sexy and playfully defiant.

As Thomas Pynchon notes in the introduction of the Oxford Modern Classics edition, Julia is the reason why the novel is so utterly despairing. Unlike Winston, whose fate is pretty obvious, Julia understands the system she is in but is still naïve enough to think she can escape it.

“They can make you say anything,” She tells Winston.

“But they cannot make you believe it” … Poor stupid girl.

Ultimately this is a novel that gets inside your head. From Orwell’s chilling destruction of language into Newspeak to his similar obliteration of memory, the novel takes us by the roots and shakes until we are completely upended.

It forces us to take a long hard look at the information that we just accept as fact, like dictionaries, history books and maps.

When was the last time any of us stopped to question whether the map people are lying to us, or just scribbling on paper and selling it as national and international borders?

It sounds crazy when we say it out loud and this is what Orwell does to us. He gets inside our heads, holds up four fingers and asks us how many there are.

And when we answer he holds up the same four fingers and asks us again and again and again until we are so wound up and hysterical that we almost believe 2 + 2 = 5.

Ultimately, there are scarce few other options: you simply must read this book.

It is one of the few novels that will truly change the way you live, think and see the world and if you don’t believe me, I have four fingers that beg to differ …


Sending you a virtual Monte Carlo before I eat the whole packet from the friend who said it was a good idea to count how many Wikipedia links it takes to get from Hitler to Vagina …



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