Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Big Brother is Blogging You

Just as I'm re-reading 1984, what should I come across but the Orwell Diaries, a project that is publishing George Orwell's diaries online in the form of a blog.

The Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent prize for political writing, is publishing George Orwell’s diaries as a blog. From 9th August 2008, Orwell’s domestic and political diaries (from 9th August 1938 until October 1942) will be posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written.

I'm trying to imagine how Orwell would react if he could know about the internet. Surely he would have loved the idea of egalitarian mass communications free of any totalitarian central control (provided you aren't in China, anyway).

Evidently he imagined something like it when he was writing 1984, since an early draft had a character mention to Winston how he "talk[ed] over the telescreen" daily with people in other countries; possibly he thought the idea too far-fetched, since in his final version the telescreen is a one-way device, like a television.

FYI, that character was Syme, Winston's doomed colleague at the Ministry of Truth. Below is a photo from the original manuscript showing the pertinent passage and Orwell's handwritten edits:

"...The great wastage is in verbs and adjectives. My job is the adjectives. Of course you realize that I'm only one of thousands - tens of thousands. Every day I talk over the telescreen with people in Melbourne and Durban and Washington. The whole thing is a miracle of co-ordination. They say that not a single word goes into the Dictionary until Big Brother has passed it personally..."

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