Review: 1985 – A Sequel to George Orwell’s 1984 by Gyorgy Dalos

1985bookcover

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This book begins with the unthinkable – the death of ‘Big Brother’. The orthodoxy of the totalitarian system is threatened by this, the ensuing power struggles and the near destruction of the Oceania air force by Eurasia. Using the characters and framework of Orwell’s classic, 1984, Dalos moves the plot further.

Elements of the Thought Police recognise the need for Perestroika (Reconstruction) and Glasnost (Openness). Leading secret policeman O’Brien explains:-

“Earlier during the rule of Big Brother… we were content if people were afraid of us. Today we want them to support us. And that without pressure – of their own free will and intelligently”.

O’Brien sees the need to “create a kind of public sphere – naturally under our control.”  The book gives two reasons for this: 


– to put pressure on Party cliques through public opinion
– to convert the functionaries of the Outer Party to the new policies required by changing conditions.

It is interesting to compare this thought process with what Gorbachev (himself a former KGB leader) attempted to practice in the former Soviet Union. As this book was first published in 1982 we should credit the authour with prescience.

The decision to create a “public sphere” inevitably leads to a number of consequences which O’Brien had not anticipated.

For political activists this book is very amusing. Written through the accounts of the different main players the accounts are highly subjective and often contradictory. The language parodies each character. The most amusing example of this was to my mind, the compromising survivor Julia Miller. Her writings use language to qualify and excuse. It reflects the logic of what she thinks is a dialectical process; in writing of O’Brien, for instance:-

“But it is a fact that O’Brien, so long as he was not ruled for a pathological greed for power, played a certain positive part in the beginning of our Reform Movement.”

This “misuse” of language is familiar to those of us who still read Marxist publications….

1985 is different from 1984 in many ways. There is more humour in 1985 and, to begin with at least, less of an all enveloping sense of evil. In 1984 you begin to believe that, as the Daleks would say, “resistance is futile”. In 1985, even O’Brien seems uncertain, worried and hesitant….

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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