nineteen eight four

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June 8th 1949: Nineteen Eighty-Four published

On this day in 1949, the famous novel Nineteen Eight-Four by English writer George Orwell was published. Born Eric Arthur Blair, he penned his first poem when he was four years old, and had his first poem published in a newspaper at age eleven. Blair studied at the prestigious Eton school, and went on to work for the imperial police in Burma. After he returned to England, he adopted the pseudonym George Orwell and published his first book - Down and Out in Paris and London - in 1933. Even in his early works, Orwell demonstrated a keen interest in political issues, and offered a sharp critique of the British class system and colonialism. In 1936 he joined the international brigades fighting in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans, against the fascist Francisco Franco. He was injured in the fighting in Spain, and his health didn’t improve when he returned to England, where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He continued to write, and worked for the BBC as a propagandist during the Second World War, before resigning in 1943. It was after he left the BBC that Orwell wrote his two most famous works - Animal Farm (1945), and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). The latter is a dystopian novel, set only thirty-five years after it was written, that envisioned a world characterised by excessive government control and curtailment of civil liberties. This novel, which followed protagonist Winston Smith, introduced several phrases into the lexicon that are still used today, including ‘Big Brother’, ‘doublethink’, ‘Room 101’, and 'thought-police’. Orwell achieved great success with these two works, but sadly lost his ongoing struggle with tuberculosis in 1950.

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”  

He thought with a kind of astonishment of the biological uselessness of pain and fear, the treachery of the human body which always freezes into inertia at exactly the moment when a special effort is needed… It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one’s own body… And it is the same, he perceives, in all seemingly heroic or tragic situations. On the battlefield, in the torture chamber, on a sinking ship, the issues that you are fighting for are always forgotten, because the body swells up until it fills the universe, and even when you are not paralysed by fright or screaming with pain, life is a moment-to-moment struggle against hunger or cold or sleeplessness, against a sour stomach or an aching tooth.
—  George Orwell, 1984