Monday, June 23, 2003

Somewhere down below I note that Thomas Pynchon's Guardian article on 1984 suggests that the past tense of the book's Appendix "suggests that Big Brother is in the past."

Here is Pynchon's quote:

... from its first sentence, 'The Principles of Newspeak' is written consistently in the past tense, as if to suggest some later piece of history, post-1984, in which Newspeak has become literally a thing of the past. . . . In its hints of restoration and redemption, perhaps 'The Principles of Newspeak' serves as a way to brighten an otherwise bleakly pessimistic ending -- sending us back out into the streets of our own dystopia whistling a slightly happier tune than the end of the story by itself would have warranted.

Margaret Atwood makes exactly the same point in a recent Guardian article on Orwell:

However, the essay on Newspeak is written in standard English, in the third person, and in the past tense, which can only mean that the regime has fallen, and that language and individuality have survived. For whoever has written the essay on Newspeak, the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is over. Thus, it's my view that Orwell had much more faith in the resilience of the human spirit than he's usually been given credit for.

Think she read Pynchon first?

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