Home > Esperanto, mood > Newspeak, 1984, Orwell, a little bit of Esperanto

Newspeak, 1984, Orwell, a little bit of Esperanto

I first read George Orwell’s 1984 as a kid of 13 or 14. Maybe read it first in 1983 as some hype about the novel’s title’s coincidence with the upcoming year grew. I don’t have an exact memory, although I’m sure I read it before it was assigned to me in high school.  Since that initial reading, I’ve read it again at times — quickly again in high school, another time in my mid 20s, again in 2010, and I am reading it again now, although in a different language, as I am reading the translation of it into Esperanto.

Each time I’ve read it, there’s been something new for me. The first reading was very much just me enjoying my first contact with a science fiction dystopia. I suppose my youthful geekiness might have thwarted me some from feeling just how grimly depressing the book was, there was a kind of coolness and awe at how George Orwell had created this dark and foreboding world. But I was far too young to appreciate the love story in it, I was too young to acutely notice the misogynistic character of Winston Smith and the world he lived in. There’s some stuff you have to see happening in the real world around you before you can really see it well in a book.

My second reading in high school wasn’t much more advanced the first. It came too shortly after the first reading. And I don’t remember taking away anything too much in particular in my third reading of it in my 20s. Maybe I was still too young, I don’t know.

It was the fourth reading that I really encountered the tragic love story in it, along with the questions one can have about whether a romantic love could genuinely exist in such an environment, between a misogynistic character like Winston and the young Julia. In some ways, when reading it, I find Winston horribly disturbing in his attitude towards women. But then I remind myself that it seems to be a misogyny that has instilled in him by the grim environment of the Oceanic dystopia. The Big Brother governmental apparatus has done a lot to create a world where no one can love one another.

Is that because love is an incredibly private bonding between individuals? I don’t know. But it makes sense in how privacy is destroyed in Winston’s world. The state does everything it can to have ways of finding out what you’re thinking. So maybe a theme in the book is that if privacy is destroyed, so is love. Another way of destroying love is to cultivate types of animosity between classes and groups — so thus you have things like the 2 Minutes of Hate, the Junior Anti-Sex League, the figures like Goldstein who are to be hated, the perpetual wars against Eastasia and Eurasia.


It’s a bit strange now to be reading it in Esperanto. I suppose one thing that learning Esperanto has taught me is that Newspeak is a sort of failure. With Esperanto, I’ve learned about how you can combine roots and affixes to create new words. So it seems to me that Newspeak would never actually be able to fully restrict thinking in the way that Orwell imagined it might.

Or am I being too harsh in that assessment? Maybe Newspeak could slowly over time restrict some abstract forms of thinking, as without the words it could be hard to even create those with roots and affixes? And of course Esperanto was created to be fully expressive, it wasn’t created to stop people from being able to think certain types of thought.


It is a great book. It’s interesting how there wasn’t much talk about the love story in it when I read it in high school. Unfortunately maybe at that time in America it was bound to be more about how great America must be for its freedom and see how communism will lead to Oceania.

I also suspect that the book’s dystopic vision is pretty well nigh impossible. If there’s a book with a dystopic vision that might be more appropriate as a warning to our present world, it’s probablyBrave New Worldby Huxley. Huxley’s vision of oppression by banality is more salient.

I wonder if I’ll read 1984 again in some years and see something new. It’s such a grim book to read, by the end of it you feel like you’ve been run over. It starts off grim, give a brief flare of hope in the unlikely love affair between Winston and Julia, then it gets squashed by the end with how they mutually betray one another.  Love is such a fragile thing or even when it’s not fragile, when it’s desperate, it can still get destroyed by circumstance.  Oh well.

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