My love letter to Orwell’s love letter to language – 1984

Plot is important, grammatical accuracy is important, providing a metaphor for life on this planet is important. Above all those things, to me what makes a genuinely good book great is its ability to inspire emotions. The emotion a piece of literature evokes does not necessarily have to be sadness or existentialism, it can be happiness or carpe diem. The Lowlands by Jhumpa Lahiri, for example, was a fascinating book that was oh so well written. Her command on the English language is commendable to say the least but what it failed to do, at least in my view, was inspire some sort of empathy in the reader. I didn’t connect with a single character in the book as they went through tumultuous lives. What lies ahead from this point is wrought with spoilers, I must warn you. For I cannot express my absolute love for this book without telling you details about it. They may not be spoilers of a plot variety but of an emotional variety, something that I think is equally deplorable. So if you haven’t read 1984,  look away, pick it up, read it and then read this piece. If you’re never going to, maybe my post will inspire you to do so. I’ll be buoyant if that is the case.

I’ve wanted to cry through the course of many books. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini is a fine example: the plights of the two women and the intricate nature in which Hosseini was able to craft the tale still chokes me up. 1984 though is a different sort of ride. No book has made so hopeful, so sanguine about humanity, only to be plunged into the deepest depths of despair in the end. The mark that it has left on my life and thinking is unquantifiable and deep-seated. 1984 has shaped my opinion on many issues that range from totalitarianism to freedom of expression and the importance of individuality. Politics was not something I was inherently interested in, I therefore credit 1984 for waking me up from my ignorant slumber to discover that the horrors of Winston Smith’s world were slowly coming to fruition.

For the uninitiated, 1984 is a book about one man, Winston Smith, coming to grips with the reality that The Party that rules a third of the world, that he has been serving since birth almost is not a force of protection but of oppression. He slowly starts conducting what is in his mind rebellions against The Party. The plot in itself is almost unimportant to me. The concepts discussed in the book, the theories that Orwell puts forward are fascinating and still widely applicable. I even read somewhere that the regime in the book was used as a blueprint for communist China and North Korea.

Discussions of 1984 have always centered around the totalitarian regime detailed in the book and how collectivization of culture probably slowly brought it to being. Something that I had in turn largely ignored was the means in which the totalitarian government of 1984 was imposing its will and maintaining its status of omnipotence and persistence. One of the primary methods The Party used to stay in power was the systematic oppression of individual thought. How? It invented and cultivated a new language called Newspeak that stripped English of all its beauty, leaving behind the barest of bare necessities.

Language is our only means of expressing individual thought. Language is the cornerstone to freedom in many ways, because as someone on the internet pointed out, if there was no language to express your disdain for something, it is as if the disdain never existed. True freedom comes from knowing that you have the ability to criticize something without facing backlash from the authorities. The problem with totalitarian governments, whether fictional like in 1984, or real like North Korea, is that they have to impose a strict crackdown of freedom of speech for fear of being exposed of their wrong doings. Within the many many concepts of 1984 lies a tribute to the one aspect of life we completely fail to appreciate – our ability to comprehend what it is that someone else is trying to say. Within the depths of 1984 Orwell is telling us the importance of language. Language is why I am able to type today and you are able to understand. Language was invented for wooing women, as Robin Williams famously says in Dead Poet’s Society. Language is the most important catalyst to free thought and it’s time we celebrated it.

Gone Girl – A review

Gone_Girl_(Flynn_novel)

I’ve been meaning to read this one book for so long. I have heard all of the blogosphere go crazy for it and I didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about up until around half way through the book when the twist hits you like a shovel in the face. And what a grand twist it is, at that. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the most surprising twist I’ve ever had the pleasure of letting myself be a part of(cough, Fight Club, cough, Murder on the Orient Express, cough, etc.), but it genuinely comes pretty darn close.

Gone Girl about a girl who goes missing from her home on the anniversary of her marriage and about how her husband is suspected for her murder and prompt disposal of her body. That’s the surface and I absolutely refuse to tell you anything more about the actual plot because it would be a blatant insult to the author.

This is a book of almost exactly two halves. The first half will most probably bore you but it does with good reason. Without that first half through, you would not be able to comprehend what is actually going on in the book. It’s a little tough to get through, the first part, because it seems like an everyday piece of mundane missing person fiction. Get through it, and trust me, there is a big prize in the end – the fantastic second half!

I think if you are going to read this book, you should read it without reading many reviews. It would just give away surprises, I’d say. Which is why I’m leaving this short and sweet.

Oh and on a last note, Rosamund Pike for Amy is a spot on casting choice, I’d say. Well done!

The Book Thief – a review

I think The Book Thief is a very unfair book. Unfair in the sense that unless you have the habit of reading imbibed somewhere deep down inside you, there is really no point in you reading this book. The number of people who don’t read or read for everything other than the joy of reading are fast increasing and this book is one that can possibly prove counterproductive to that movement.

The Book Thief was clearly written by a man who has profound love for the written word and chose to tell a story that he knew not many would easily attempt – a story from the other side of World War II. Story wise it’s very simple – this is a story about a little girl and what happens when she is taken in by foster parents after her mother can no longer take care of her in war torn Nazi Germany. It’s a story, on the surface at least, about the various kinds of love a person can experience even and especially if they are not blood related. But in its heart lies the immense passion the author posses for reading and writing and it is astounding the level of beauty that passion brings out in his words.

As with many books, this one is labourious. It will take a bit of effort to finish but as with many others, it’s quite worth it. I also understand why the movie failed to make an impact; the thought occurred to me while reading why it needs to be made into a film at all. Some books are meant to be read for their literary value and not just for its narrative. Some books are just too plain beautiful not to be read and to be just watched on the big screen. This is definitely one of those books. Four stars for me on this one, out of five.