Quote Challenges – Favourite First Lines: Day 8

Hello all! Yup I’m still going with this quote challenge! As always, there have to be rules (to break):


  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

Thank you so much to the gorgeous Jenna @Bookmark Your Thoughts– she’s such a friendly, outgoing blogger and she’s always sharing the love for other bloggers! She also does fantastic, in-depth reviews and has a great take on tags and memes. You *need* to check her out!

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This is the kind of first line that I love because it made me do a double take. On first reading, I was like “what’s the big deal… oh wait… wow.” It breaks all the rules- taking you in one direction and then turning everything on its head. Undoubtedly, Orwell’s 1984 is one of the best books ever written- and that opening should tell you why.

I tag:

J W Martin, No Reads Too Great, Lit Lemon Books

Have you read this masterpiece? Let me know in the comments!

Books With A Predictive Function

Hello all! Just a quick post today as I thought I’d share what I think are the most prophetic books ever written. Cos sometimes all I want to do is plug some of my favourite books and hail authors as geniuses. And no, these are not my spooky predictions for the future, because the events of these books have already come to pass. So I promise that none of this will happen again… (I hope).

1984 book

1984 – Yes, yes, I basically created this list because I finally wrote my review for this book the other day and the thought of this coming true is still fresh in my mind. Of course, Orwell’s novel in part relates to the tragedy of communist experiment unfolding at the time of writing, which somewhat takes away its “predictive function”, yet the fear that this could re-emerge in the future is evident in how many times lately we’ve heard the phrase “it’s like 1984”. *Shudders all round*.

war of the worlds

War of the Worlds – Whenever I think of “author turned prophet” I think of H G Wells, because man I’m not kidding, you can find *a ton* of his predictions online that came true (including the atom bomb). The reason why I’m including this one is mainly cos it’s the only one I’ve read and I enjoyed it so much that I thought now would be a good time to recommend it- but Wells did manage to predict Lasers in this book (published in 1898) which is pretty darn cool if you ask me.

notes from underground

Notes from the Underground – Did he define the 19th century man or undermine it? Is Dostoevsky foretelling the collapse of humanism or simply bearing witness? Hard to tell- but one can be certain that there is an eye to the future in all of Dostoevsky’s works. Not least in the way he (using Nietsche as a guide) practically predicted the Soviet Union- however there is a better example of that in…


The Trial – It’s *freaky* how similar the surreal world Kafka presents is to Solzhenitsyn’s real life descriptions. I swear that before I began reading Gulag Archipelago I did not see an ounce of realism in this story. Oh how I wish that was still the case. And speaking of reality…

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Fahrenheit 451 – Okay, so I’m cheating with this one, because this book is more reflective of Nazism than reinventing the wheel. However, I cannot help but praise its genius for the way it captures elements of history and transposes them onto the future. The possibility of this happening again is, horrifyingly, all too real.  If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this a-m-a-z-i-n-g book, you can check out my review here.

Phew! That was a pretty gloomy post! Have you read any of these? Do you have any more suggestions for eerily prophetic books? Let me know in the comments!

1984 Has Come And Gone… Or Has It?

1984 book

“Everyone always thinks everything is 1984,” my brother says “except things that actually are.”

How true that is. Not a day goes by when someone, somewhere tells us something is “just like 1984”. Last week for instance, failed candidate for US presidency Hilary Clinton published a book that told us the true meaning of 1984 is how you should put our faith in the people in charge:

“Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism … this is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered. The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust towards exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves.

With a nice sleight of hand, Clinton tries to make us see that two plus two is in fact five and that Orwell’s true intent was to make us trust authority- who knew? Of course, sarcasm aside, if you ignore the initial subterfuge of her quote, you’ll see where Clinton’s literary analysis is lacking. For that scene is not about making Winston, an already highly sceptical character, question his surroundings, but quite the opposite- it is to make him an obedient cog in the society’s machine. Regardless of what you may think of current orange overlords, the message of 1984 is not to give over your wits to leaders who’ve been in office for 30 years or the oh-so-saintly media.

1984 is a profoundly anti-authoritarian book. It is, as the quote on my book jacket aptly says “a powerful cry for freedom of thought and expression”. More than anything it is a call for individuality against an authority that would seek to wipe out any shade of difference in thought or feeling. To such an ideology dissent is dangerous, thinking something different is not okay and dialogue is a form of violence (conveniently so that it can put down with actual violence).

And yes, all that I’m saying is obvious- yet somehow I see so many people missing the point of the book. For me, reading this alongside Solzhenitsyn, there could be no doubt of the parallels with communist societies. In case the use of the word  “comrade” wasn’t clear enough, the break-up of families, re-education and kangaroo courts should be a clue. But alas, people are so focused on fascism that they fail to see these vivid parallels.

Beyond this historicity, there were many issues that chillingly reminded me of our own society. Everyone has their personal “take away” from this book- somewhere they’ve seen bureaucracy get out of hand perhaps, or worse, freedom of thought be inhibited. For me, the moment came when I read this quote:

“Winston had a curious feeling that this was not a real human being anymore but some kind of dummy. It was not a man’s brain that was speaking, it was his larynx”

I was cast back to university and the shallow schools of thought (yes, that’s right I went there- but where else can I express myself if not a piece on Orwell?) which act as a substitute for engaging your brain and encourages lazy thinking. Implement a feminist reading, for instance, and the sight of a naked lady in art equals “females lacking power in a patriarchal society”- the book can be labelled as oppressive or sexist and the reader gets to go away feeling clever without ever having to think. Nice and convenient.

But there were more universal messages here too. There were the infamous mentions of “Newspeak”- everyone and their mother has heard someone use this term lately- and that’s because there are an awful lot of people with all kinds of agendas telling everyone what they can and cannot say, adding new (and unnecessary) words to the lexicon to further some political end, and throwing a tantrum when they don’t get their way. Frankly, this should terrify us more than anything, for controlling language is a way to control thoughts (to paraphrase Jordan B Peterson, articulation is how we formulate our ideas).

Naturally this also lends itself to one of the biggest messages of the book: the ability to determine what is true. For if you cannot think, you cannot determine what reality is. In the book, the most significant manifestation of this is two minutes of hate directed at Emmanuel- the enemy constructed to be the all-encompassing target of baseless anger. It could be that he is someone genuinely flawed, or not, it does not matter. As long as there is a single individual on whose shoulders we can place all our blame for society’s woes.

Yet for all this, I did not see this book as a call to implement systems or for angry mobs to overthrow governments. Again this would be a misunderstanding of Orwell- for this book, together with Animal Farm, explicitly demonstrates how *all* power can be corrupted. No it is not a book to inspire a collective- it is a call for individuality. Maybe even to be that one person in the crowd whom people hurl abuse at. It is up to the individual to wake up and pay attention. To see what is going on under our very nose. To speak while we still can speak, to laugh, to refuse to be cowed. Freedom is whittled away all the time and most of the time we don’t even notice- well here’s a book telling us to take notice.

Nor do I think this was a book calling for the creation of a utopia- as this book exemplifies and history teaches, utopian philosophies (including Nazism and Marxism) veer straight into a dystopic reality as soon as they’re implemented. More’s the pity then that so many modern dystopias end in the overthrow of a government and the set-up of something resembling a utopia. Yes, every dystopia is a direct descendent of this great book, and yet so many miss the mark (I can only praise the rare endings such as in The Declaration where a system is set up, but it is implied it would go the same way as the last). There is something infinitely gloomy about dystopias and one cannot pretend they offer all the solutions.

Bleak as it is, ten years ago when I first read this book, I was so struck by the sheer horror of it, I closed it and thought “never again”. Yet after rereading it and getting so much more out of it this time round, I know that it is a novel that must be read and reread. And what with constant frustrations to our freedom in the world around us, I am sure to find myself revisiting it in the future. In which case, to return to my brother’s quote at the beginning… maybe everything really is 1984.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you read this masterpiece? Will you read it? Let me know in the comments below!