George Orwell and “Orwellian” as a Concept

Given the current surge of people calling everything they see around them “Orwellian” and doing so incorrectly, I thought I would just come here and try to explain the meaning of the word.

The term was named after the British author Geoge Orwell because of one of his most famous books, the novel “1984”. In his book, Orwell illustrates an oppressive society under a totalitarian government. The word “Orwellian” is often used solely to mean authoritarian, using the term in this way not only fails to fully convey Orwell’s message, but it also risks doing something he tried to warn against.

The government showed to us in “1984” controls its people’s actions and speech in obvious ways, such as watching and hearing their every move and word with punishment waiting for anyone who defies authority. But there are other forms of control which are not so obvious. People are overwhelmed with endless propaganda consisting of made-up facts and statistics, which come from the “ministry of truth”.

Here another term comes into place, “doublespeak”. In “1984”: the military is called the ministry of peace, labour camps are called joycamps, and political prisoners are detained and tortured in what is called “the ministry of love”. Doublespeak is when words are used not to communicate meaning but to weaken it. This has an effect Orwell calls “doublethink”, which is essentially cognitive dissonance, leaving the individual completely dependent on the State’s definition of reality.

These concepts aren’t something that can only happen in totalitarian states, but that could potentially take place in democratic societies. And this is why we can’t use “authoritarian” and “Orwellian” as synonyms.

Orwell was opposed to all forms of totalitarianism and spent most of his life fighting against anti-democratic forces. He was deeply concerned with how such ideologies propagate, giving a great amount of importance to the role of language when it comes to shaping our thoughts and opinions as individuals and as a society.

I would also really like to mention Orwell’s work is often used as being against communism and as well as fascism. Even though it is very much against fascism, as it should, we can’t call Orwell’s novel anti-communist if anything it was anti-capitalism and mostly anti-authoritarian. I say anti-capitalism because fascism is mostly a result of far-right ideologies, as seen throughout history and nowadays as well in a lot of different countries, such as the USA with Trump and Brazil with Bolsonaro, for example. Not to mention, Orwell himself was a democratic socialist which goes against the idea right-wight people have of him being against socialism.

With all this being said, I highly recommend you pick two of his non-fiction books that will make you understand his political ideologies and why he was so anti-totalitarian regimes. These books are Politics and the English Language and Fascism and Democracy.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful and I’m sorry if my rambling went on for way too long.

Bye, keep on reading.

Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers – Book Review

First of all, I want to thank Chronicle Books for the ARC.

I found the premise for Why She Wrote by Lauren Burke, Hannah K. Chapman and Kaley Bales to be super interesting, the introduction made me super excited to read the rest of the book and I thought this book was a neat take on a biography.

It’s such a unique idea, and honestly one of the most informative books I’ve ever come across. However, I found the transition from written biography to graphic novel mode was often disorienting. Within the illustrated sections, I found that the script font used was difficult to read and the font used in the rest of the book quite unattractive. The images themselves I liked, they were cute but nothing out of this world.

I found the stories of the women interesting, but the writing of the stories not so much, which is sad. More often than not, I was reading just in hopes to see if the chapter on the next writer/author was any better. 

With that being said, I think this book has a place on a shelf of a child with interest in literature and whose parents/teachers are enlighted enough to want their kid/student to read about the power of female authors. 

To sum up, I ended up liking the concept more than the actual book itself and maybe it was just not that well executed. I think the book has potential but needs significant editing and changes before being published. I think it is also very important to mention that the book is very euro-centric and I think it’s time to stop associating classics exclusively to white authors. 

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Book Review

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast is Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of his time spent in Paris after the war and beginning of his writing career. He was living alongside other writers such as Gertrude Stein, Joyce, Pound, Madox Ford and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

One day, I was roaming around a book shop, as one does, and came across this book. I felt this unspeakable urge to buy this book knowing nothing about it whatsoever. Once I got home and searched it on Goodreads, I saw it had more than four stars I thought to myself: “Nice to know this was not a waste of money”. It sat on my bookshelf for about a year, I picked it put this month and simply could not put it down for a second.

In this book, you read about someone becoming a writer and romanticize about it overlooking the fact that Hemingway describes going hungry somedays so that his wife and child could eat. I loved reading about the friendship between Hemingway and Fitzgerald and getting to see the perception the author had of him as both a person and a writer. It was just so heartwarming.

Every chapter in A Moveable Feast is sort of a little story from his life. You get a varied idea of what he was up to and came to realize that he had kind of a problem with gambling, most likely because he thought it was the only way he had to make money.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it.

“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and go on from there.” – Ernest Hemingway

Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis – Book Review

Woman, Race & Class is a non-fiction book about the connection between racism, class prejudice and white feminism.

Having read Angela Davis before (Freedom Is a Constant Struggle) I had already been introduced to the political activist’s narrative. However, this book was a pleasant surprise. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle is a collection of interviews and speeches, so it ended up being a bit repetitive, whereas Woman, Race & Class was objective, concise and exactly what I was hoping from it.

Angela Davis breaks down how misogyny, racism, and classism have shaped our society. She pays special attention to how white-dominated middle-class social movements have repeatedly forsake solidarity with both working class and black people in behalf of political convenience, as well as displaying how the biased goals of white reformists have allowed capitalist oppression throughout history.

This book moved through the atrocities of slavery, lynching and, overall, racist discrimination, especially by the feminist movement of the 20th century. Reading it, I felt outraged and angry towards my very own privileges.

Women, Race & Class is organized in such a way that everything you read sounds like new information even though we know it’s all connected which was exactly the book’s intent. The biggest take from this book is an extremely important one: INTERSECTIONALITY MATTERS, and sometimes we forget how much.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 starts.