George Orwell 1984

ISBN 13 : 9780451521231

1984

Note moyenne 4,13
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9780451521231: 1984
Extrait :

ONE

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a colored poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a meter wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black mustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine, and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure, the meagerness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uni- form of the Party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended.

Outside, even through the shut window pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no color in anything except the posters that were plastered every- where. The black-mustachio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own. Down at street level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering  and  uncovering the single word INGSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a blue-bottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the Police Patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.

Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig iron and the overfulfillment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live— did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer; though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing. A kilometer away the Ministry of Truth, his place of work, towered vast and white above the grimy landscape. This, he thought with a sort of vague distaste—this was London, chief city of Airstrip One, itself the third most populous of the provinces of Oceania. He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been quite like this. Were there always these vistas of rotting nineteenth- century houses, their sides shored up with balks of timber, their windows patched with cardboard and their roofs with corrugated iron, their crazy garden walls sagging in all directions? And the bombed sites where the plaster dust swirled in the air and the willow herb straggled over the heaps of rubble; and the places where the bombs had cleared a larger path and there had sprung up sordid colonies of wooden dwellings like chicken houses? But it was no use, he could not remember: nothing remained of his childhood except a series of bright-lit tableaux, occurring against no background and mostly unintelligible.

The Ministry of Truth—Minitrue, in Newspeak*—was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, three hundred meters into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided: the Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts; the Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war; the Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order; and the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs. Their names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.

The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one. There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometer of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons.

Winston turned round abruptly. He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen. He crossed the room into the tiny kitchen. By leaving the Ministry at this time of day he had sacrificed his lunch in the canteen, and he was aware that there was no food in the kitchen except a hunk of dark-colored bread which had got to be saved for tomorrow’s breakfast. He took down from the shelf a bottle of colorless liquid with a plain white label marked VICTORY GIN. It gave off a sickly, oily smell, as of Chinese rice-spirit. Winston poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine.

Instantly his face turned scarlet and the water ran out of his eyes. The stuff was like nitric acid, and moreover, in swallow- ing it one had the sensation of being hit on the back of the head with a rubber club. The next moment, however, the burning in his belly died down and the world began to look more cheerful. He took a cigarette from a crumpled packet marked VICTORY CIGARETTES and incautiously held it upright, where- upon the tobacco fell out onto the floor. With the next he was more successful. He went back to the living room and sat down at a small table that stood to the left of the telescreen. From the table drawer he took out a penholder, a bottle of ink, and a thick, quarto-sized blank book with a red back and a marbled cover.

For some reason the telescreen in the living room was in an unusual position. Instead of being placed, as was normal, in the end wall, where it could command the whole room, it was in the longer wall, opposite the window. To one side of it there was a shallow alcove in which Winston was now sitting and which, when the flats were built, had probably been intended to hold bookshelves. By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight went. He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present position he could not be seen. It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing that he was now about to do.

But it had also been suggested by the book that he had just taken out of the drawer. It was a peculiarly beautiful book. Its smooth creamy paper, a little yellowed by age, was of a kind that had not been manufactured for at least forty years past. He could guess, however, that the book was much older than that. He had seen it lying in the window of a frowsy little junk shop in a slummy quarter of the town (just what quarter he did not now remember) and had been stricken immediately by an overwhelming desire to possess it. Party members were sup- posed not to go into ordinary shops (“dealing on the free mar- ket,” it was called), but the rule was not strictly kept, because there were various things such as shoelaces and razor blades which it was impossible to get hold of in any other way. He had given a quick glance up and down the street and then had slipped inside and bought the book for two dollars fifty. At the time he was not conscious of wanting it for any particular pur- pose. He had carried it guiltily home in his brief case. Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession. The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labor camp. Winston fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. The pen was an archaic in- strument, seldom used even for signatures, and he had pro- cured one, furtively and with some difficulty, simply because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink pencil. Actually he was not used to writing by hand. Apart from very short notes, it was usual to dictate everything into the speakwrite, which was of course impossible for his present purpose. He dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote:

 

April 4th, 1984.

He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had de- scended upon him. To begin with, he did not know with any certainty that this was 1984. It must be round about that date, since he was fairly sure that his age was thirty-nine, and he believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945; but it was never possible nowadays to pin down any date within a year or two.

For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder, was he writing this diary? For the future, for the unborn. His mind hovered for a moment round the doubtful date on the page, and then fetched up with a bump against the Newspeak word doublethink. For the first time the magnitude of what he had undertaken came home to him. How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him, or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.

For some time he sat gazing stupidly at the paper. The telescreen had changed over to strident military music. It was curious that he seemed not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten what it was that he had originally intended to say. For weeks past he had been making ready for this moment, and it had never crossed his mind that anything would be needed except courage. The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been run- ning inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, how- ever, even the monologue had dried up. Moreover, his varicose ulcer had begun itching unbearably. He dared not scratch it, because if he did so it always became inflamed. The seconds were ticking by. He was conscious of nothing except the blankness of the page in front of him, the itching of the skin above his ankle, the blaring of the music, and a slight booziness caused by the gin.

Suddenly he began writing in sheer panic, only imperfectly aware of what he was setting down. His small but childish handwriting straggled up and down the page, shedding first its capital letters and finally even its full stops:

April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks. All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean. Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to swim away with a helicopter after him. first you saw him wallowing along in the water like a porpoise, then you saw him through the helicopters gunsights, then he was full of holes and the sea round him turned pink and he sank as suddenly as though the holes had let in the water. audience shouting with laughter when he sank. then you saw a lifeboat full of children with a helicop- ter hovering over it. there was a middleaged woman might have been a jewess sitting up in the bow with a little boy about three years old in her arms. little boy screaming with fright and hiding his head between her breasts as if he was trying to burrow right into her and the woman putting her arms around him and comfort- ing him although she was blue with fright herself. all the time covering him up as much as possible as if she thought her arms could keep the bullets off him. then the helicopter planted a 20 kilo bomb in among them terrific flash and the boat went all to matchwood. then there was a wonderful shot of a childs arm going up up up right up into the air a helicopter with a camera in its nose must have followed it up and there was a lot of ap- plause from the party seats but a woman down in the prole part of the house suddenly started kicking up a fuss and shouting they didnt oughter of showed it not in front of the kids they didnt it aint right not in front of kids it aint until the police turned her turned her out i dont suppose anything happened to her nobody cares what the proles say typical prole reaction they never—

Winston stopped writing, partly because he was suffering from cramp. He did not know what had made him pour out this stream of rubbish. But the curious thing was that while he was doing so a totally different memory had clarified itself in his mind, to the poin...

Extrait :

INTRODUCTION by Julian Symons
 
George Orwell's life as a writer falls distinctly into two parts, and it happens that he himself dated the change precisely. On 20 August 1939, the night before Stalin's Soviet Union signed a pact of friendship with Hitler's Germany, Orwell dreamed that the war expected by all adults of his generation had begun, and realized that 'I was patriotic at heart, would not sabotage or act against my own side, would support the war, would fight in it if possible.' His dream anticipated the reality of war by no more than a couple of weeks, and although Orwell's health made it impossible for him to enter the armed forces, he supported the aims of the war and was opposed to a negotiated peace.
 
The decision was a contradiction of much he had said and written up to that time. Only a couple of months earlier he had expressed the view that the British and French so-called democracies were 'in essence nothing but mechanisms for exploiting cheap labour', and had said the only hope of saving Britain from either foreign or home-grown Fascist rule was the emergence of a mass party whose first pledges would be 'to refuse war and to right imperial injustice'. In a letter that must have alarmed the art critic and peaceful anarchist Herbert Read who received it, he suggested that those who were both anti-war and anti-Fascist should buy and secrete printing presses in what he called 'some discreet place' so that they would be ready for the issue ofrevolutionary pamphlets when the time came.
 
So Orwell was inconsistent: but then his life up to that night in August 1939 had been a pattern of changes in attitude marking changed beliefs. He was born in Bengal in 1903 as Eric Arthur Blair, the only male child (he had an older and younger sister) of a civil servant in the Opium Department of the Indian government. Like many children of what he later called the 'lower-upper-middle class' he was sent as a boarder to a preparatory school, named St Cyprian's, where by an autobiographical account written not long before his death he was very unhappy. The scholarship that took him to Eton did not change his belief that the prime necessities for success in life were 'money, athleticism, tailor-made clothes and a charming smile', and that he possessed none of these attributes, being weak, ugly, unpopular and cowardly. That was not the view of Eton contemporaries like Cyril Connolly, who saw Orwell not as an outcast but a rebel. Yet the teenage rebel retained respect for the standards engendered by St Cyprian's and Eton, and a feeling that may be called sentimental or patriotic for the British Empire. He served five years in Burma with the Imperial Police, and did so by choice and not compulsion, although he said later that 'I hated the imperialism I was serving with a bitterness that I cannot make clear.'
 
There is no doubt that he ended by hating it, and he was not a man who did things by halves. After turning away from the Imperialist ideal he tried without much success to involve himself with the poorest and most wretched groups in society. 'At that time failure seemed to me the only virtue', and in pursuit of failure he spent some weeks with hop-pickers, lived briefly with tramps, and tried to get himself put in prison as a drunk. He lived for eighteen months in Paris, writing without much commercial success, and the record of that time, Down and Out in Paris and London was his first published book. He was not proud of or very pleased with the result, and decided to use a pseudonym rather than his given name. He suggested four possibilities to the publisher Victor Gollancz, saying 'I rather favour George Orwell.' Gollancz favoured it too, and early in 1933 the name George Orwell came into existence via a book jacket. Thereafter, while early friends continued to call him Eric, later ones like me knew him only as George.
 
Orwell's career after Down and Out and in the years before the war shows the uncertainties, confusions, fresh starts and false starts almost inescapable for anybody who became seriously involved in Left-wing politics during that very political decade. In that time he published four novels which had reasonable sales and reviews but no outstanding success, and The Road to Wigan Pier. The first part of this commissioned book, which dealt with the hard life of miners, was much approved by the Left intelligentsia, but the second caused shock waves of disapproval for its attack on what Orwell called 'the dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers' who were magnetically drawn to Socialism and the magical word progress 'like bluebottles to a dead cat'.
 
The Spanish Civil War took him to Spain to fight for the Republic, and his experience there was the basis of his finest work during the decade. Homage to Catalonia appeared in 1938 in an edition of only 1 ,500 copies, 600 of them still unsold when he died in 1950. The story of his life during the thirties might be called 'the education of a Socialist', from the first blundering attempts to understand the poor by living with or like them, through a high-minded period of linking himself with a political party (in Orwell's case the splinter group the Independent Labour Party), into the full understanding of the noble idealism and bitter internecine hatreds within groups that called themselves Socialist, as they were demonstrated to him during his months in Spain. In 1947 he said:
 
Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism as I understand it ... Looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably when I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.
 
It is no wonder that at the time he regarded the Spanish experience as a turning point in his attitude towards society, yet there was one more lesson still to learn. He emerged from Spain an apparent revolutionary, as we have seen in the call for a mass anti-war party and preparation for guerrilla warfare. Yet such a thesis went against the deepest impulses of his nature, the love of his country, its people, customs and landscape, that was the emotional basis of his personality. An understanding of this prompted the final realization of what Eric Blair/George Orwell truly believed: that it was necessary for the war to be fought, with Socialism the end to be achieved when it had been won. By the side of that went the obligation to expose the deceits and villainous practices of Communist parties, as he had seen them in Spain and imagined them in the Soviet Union. He did not stray from those purposes in the last decade of his life.
 
*
 
Because George Orwell is now so famous, with all the books consistently appearing in new editions, and the adjective Orwellian stamped on the mind of every politician and leaderwriter for use once a week, it is well to be reminded of the way in which he was regarded during most of his life. Had he died in 1939 (something quite possible, for his health was never good) he would be remembered now as a maverick with some lively but highly eccentric opinions that need not be considered seriously. And if his life had been cut off before his last decade that would not have been an unreasonable view, for the achievements up to then had been minor. The account of life as a plongeur in Down and Out, the description of going down a mine in Wigan Pier and much of Homage To Catalonia have the extraordinary directness of his finest writing, but there are elements in the first two books that leave a sense of the writer being selective, not telling us all the facts of the case.
 
We know now that this was so, that he could have escaped from the squalor of the down and out life earlier than he did, and that some details of his Wigan experiences were not exactly reported. A passage in The Road to Wigan Pier describes how, from the train that took him away from the town, he saw a girl kneeling on the stones in the backyard of a little slum house. She was pushing a stick up a blocked waste pipe, and her face wore 'the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen'. The image is a powerful one, the actual incident described in Orwell's diary much less so. In fact he saw the girl walking up a squalid alley, she was not clearing a blocked pipe and he was not in a train. Perhaps this only matters if we are looking for the literal accuracy expected of (but rarely found in) newspaper reporting. There can be no doubt that in these books, and to a lesser extent in Homage To Catalonia, Orwell is presenting reality heightened for emotional effect. Something similar can be said of much writing based on things seen, and later set down for literary effect.
 
The fiction of the thirties reveals his limitations as a novelist, in particular an inability to imagine characters outside his own direct experience. Burmese Days is primarily interesting in the light of the author's reactions to the country, and Keep The Aspidistra Flying as an echo of Orwell's own hard times, with the other characters not much more than shadows. This book may have been influenced by Gissing, whose portraits of Victorian lower-class London Orwell greatly admired, as A Clergyman's Daughter was influenced - and damaged - by his reading of Ulysses. The novels as a whole produce their undoubtedly powerful effect through the intensity with which the writer communicates his feelings about Imperial Burma and depression Britain, but in terms of character and incident they are not successful books. When Coming Up For Air was reprinted in 1947 he sent me a copy. I suggested that a good many of the opinions and thoughts and feelings attributed to George Bowling were really those of George Orwell, and he replied:
 
Of course you are perfectly right about my own character constantly intruding on that of the narrator. I am not a real novelist anyway ... One difficulty I have never solved is that one has masses of experience which one passionately wants to write about, e g. the part about fishing in that-book, and no way of using them up except by disguising them as a novel.
 
I am not a real novelist anyway: it was through acceptance of this fact that Orwell came to realize the nature of his genius, and to fulfil it in the two great moral fables, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

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George Orwell
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