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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Whatever must be done

Posted by Thomas Nephew on May 23rd, 2003

The Guardian excerpts Thomas Pynchon’s introduction to the new Penguin US reissue of George Orwell’s 1984. Pynchon closes:

There is a photograph, taken around 1946 in Islington, of Orwell with his adopted son, Richard Horatio Blair. The little boy, who would have been around two at the time, is beaming, with unguarded delight. Orwell is holding him gently with both hands, smiling too, pleased, but not smugly so – it is more complex than that, as if he has discovered something that might be worth even more than anger – his head tilted a bit, his eyes with a careful look that might remind filmgoers of a Robert Duvall character with a backstory in which he has seen more than one perhaps would have preferred to. Winston Smith “believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945 . . .” Richard Blair was born May 14, 1944. It is not difficult to guess that Orwell, in 1984 , was imagining a future for his son’s generation, a world he was not so much wishing upon them as warning against. He was impatient with predictions of the inevitable, he remained confident in the ability of ordinary people to change anything, if they would. It is the boy’s smile, in any case, that we return to, direct and radiant, proceeding out of an unhesitating faith that the world, at the end of the day, is good and that human decency, like parental love, can always be taken for granted – a faith so honourable that we can almost imagine Orwell, and perhaps even ourselves, for a moment anyway, swearing to do whatever must be done to keep it from ever being betrayed.

Pynchon argues that the “Newspeak” appendix is a hint that Big Brother and Oceania fall.

Via the newly discovered Arts & Letters Daily, which is rocketing to the top of my Internet reading list. On the other hand, the thing is so big it threatens to become my Internet reading list.

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