1984 – George Orwell
I regard this as the most important novel of the 20th century. It’s very title has entered the lexicon to stand for the worst of all possible dystopias, so much so that even people who have not read the book – or seen any of the films made about it – know that to call something ‘like 1984’ is to regard it as a very bad thing.
There is a rather cynical joke that there are some authoritarians who regard 1984 not as a warning, but as an instruction manual. Many times in my life, I’ve come close to feeling that maybe people aren’t joking when they say that. This novel does get to grips with that authoritarian aspect of humanity that has managed to turn every promised utopia into a nightmare.
So even though it is – at times – an uncomfortable read, especially when we notice aspects of our own reflection in the mirror it holds up to humanity this is really an essential book, and anyone who hasn’t read it should do as soon as possible.
Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life–the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language–and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.