About the author
George Orwell (pseudonym of Eric Blair [1903-50]) was born in Bengal and educated at Eton; after serving in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, he returned to Europe to earn his living by writing novels and essays. Essentially, he was a political writer who focused his attention on his own times, strong feelings and strong hatred. An opponent of totalitarianism, he served in loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. As well as the classic Animal Farm, his works include a novel based on colonial police experiences, Burmese Days, two first-hand studies of poverty in Paris and London, and the road to Wigan Pier, an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, homage to Catalonia; and an extraordinary novel of political prophecy, whose title became part of our language, 1984.
Take. Reprinted with permission from © . All rights reserved.
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were hitting thirteen. Winston Smith poked his jaw into his chest to escape the vile wind, slipping quickly through the glass doors of the victory mansions but not fast enough to prevent a swirl of dust from entering with him.
The hallway smelled of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end, a colorful poster too large for indoor display was glued to the wall. Just over a metre wide, he depicted an enormous face: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and solidly handsome features. Winston took the stairs. There was no use trying the elevator. It was rarely working, even at the best of times, and at this time the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. This was part of the economic desire as we prepared for Hate Week. The apartment was seven stories high, and Winston, who was thirty-nine years old and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, slowly progressed and rested several times on the way. Each landing, opposite the lifting shaft, was a poster with an enormous face facing off the wall. This was one of those pictures that was so contrived that the eyes followed you as you moved. Big Brother is watching you, the hood ran underneath.
Inside the apartment, a fruity voice was reading a list of figures that had something to do with pig iron production. The sound came from a rectangular metal plate, like a dull mirror, that formed part of the surface of the right wall. Winston flipped a button and the voice sank a bit, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (Telescreen, it was called) may have blacked out, but there was no way to turn it off completely. He made his way to the window: a small, frail figure, the weakness of his body accentuated by blue jumpsuits, the only form of the party. Her hair was very light, her face was naturally sanguine, her skin roughed up with coarse soap and blunt razor blades, and the winter cold ended.
Outside, even through closed window glass, the world seemed cold. On the street, small swirls of wind swirled with dust and tore the paper into spirals and the sun was shining, and while the sky was a harsh blue, there was no colour in anything except posters plastered everywhere. The black-whiskered face looked down from every commanding corner. There was one just across the street from the House. Big BROTHER watching you, the caption said, dark eyes peeked deep into Winston. At street level, another poster, torn in one corner, was aptly whipped in the wind, alternately covering and revealing a single INGSOC word. From a distance, a helicopter went down between the roofs, glided for a moment like a Blue Bottle and sprang up again in a meandering flight. It was a police patrol, sneaking into people's Windows. But the patrols were not important. Only the thought police were important.
Behind Winston, telescreen's voice was still babbling about the pig iron and the overfilling of the ninth three-year plan. The Telescreen was received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound Winston made, above a very low level of Whisper, would be captured by him; moreover, as long as the metal plate remained in his commanding field of view, it could be seen as well as heard. Of course, there was no way of knowing if you were being watched at any time. It was estimated how often or in what system the thought police connected to any individual cable. It could even be thought that they were always watching everyone. But in any case, they can wear your wire whenever they want. You had to live— you lived out the habit that became instinct—with the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and every move examined, except in the dark.
Winston turned his back on the telescope. It was safer; however, as he knows well, even a back can be exposed. A mile away, the Ministry of truth, the workplace, rose wide and white above the polluted landscape. This, he thought, with a kind of vague discontent-that was London, the chief city of Airstrip One, the third most populous city in the states of Oceania. He tried to squeeze in some childhood memories that he had to say if London was always like that. Were there always the decaying landscapes of nineteenth-century houses, their sides with timber roofs, their windows patched with cardboard and their roofs corrugated iron, the crazy garden walls dangling in all directions? And bombed-out places where plaster dust swirled in the air and Willow grass hovered over piles of rubble; and where bombs cleared a larger path and hideous colonies of wooden dwellings, such as chicken houses, emerged? But that didn't work, he couldn't remember: nothing from his childhood was left but a series of brightly lit paintings that appeared against the background and mostly incomprehensible.
The Ministry of truth-Minitrue in Newspeak * -was surprisingly different from other objects in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of shimmering white concrete, rising upwards, terrace after terrace, three hundred feet into the air. From where Winston stood, it was possible to read the party's three slogans by elegantly choosing them on his white face: