1984 by George Orwell
I read this first, as I’m sure many of us did, as a teenager. I’m also sure that the savage satire on totalitarian states went straight over my head – I was into Science Fiction, and sadly didn’t pay any attention to modern history. Instead I was probably thinking how clever(!) the construction of doublespeak was – possibly also fresh from reading the Nadsat in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess too.
Now I’m grown-up, the book’s bleak vision sends a true shudder down my spine. There is nothing to enjoy in it at all, even the central romance seems somewhat mechanical, and O’Brien is the most doubleplusungood psychological torturer I’ve ever encountered in literature.
This profound novel has become part of our lives though – we joke about Big Brother and call the Politically Correct brigade the ‘Thought Police’ all the time. Yet there is a tiny tingle of relief that despite our comparatively embryonic nanny state and increasing numbers of CCTV cams everywhere, it could never get as bad in a true democracy as in Orwell’s dystopia …