Fascism and Democracy by George Orwell – Book Review | IcthusBookCorner

Hello hello, everyone! Today, I will be talking about Fascism and Democracy by George Orwell. If you know me personally, have been around my social media lately or have followed my blog for a while, you know I am a massive Orwell fan.

Fascism and Democracy is a collection made of five essays Orwell wrote during World War Two. The titles are Fascism and Democracy, Literature and Totalitarianism, Freedom of the Park, Review of “The Invasion From Mars” and Visions of a Totalitarian Future. In this small book, Orwell talks about the principles of democracy and the possibility of future reform. The author also tries to understand the future of literature and free speech overall during violent times when fascism is imminent. 

Orwell offered a compelling portrayal of a nation and world where norms and ideals could no longer be taken for granted due to the oppressive political powers. The essays also serve as reminders of the fragility of freedom. I loved them all equally, but there was this part in the first one, if I remember correctly, where Orwell lays out the common arguments given by fascists, refuting them all in simple terms afterwards.

The five essays never felt like historical texts but felt deeply modern in their concerns, due to all the things mentioned. If there is a quote I can use to sum up this book it is: “The feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world, this prospect frightens me much more than bombs.”

I feel like this the perfect companion for anyone reading 1984. It helps you understand the author’s political stance, giving almost zero opportunity for misunderstandings regarding his fictional work.

This book was part of the bibliography I used to write my post on George Orwell and “Orwellian” as a Concept. Check it out if it interests you or if you want to know more about the author.

I recommend this small book to anyone looking to learn more about politics, especially about the importance of democracy and how fragile freedom and democracy are. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Bye, keep on reading. 



You can find me at:

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.

She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics . . . and the World, by Caitlin Donohue – Book Review

She represents is a non-fiction title written by Caitlin Donohue. It brings light to 44 powerhouse women around the world.

First of all, I’m glad African and South American women were mentioned, however, in my opinion, the book would have had more impact if the approach had been even more global (more Asian and European women) since it focused mainly on women in the United States. The author gives us a summary of these diverse and interesting women in less than 3 pages per person. Not to mention, I was extremely happy to see a wide range of political ideologies represented.

The background stories come to life as a result of the references to their personalities or personal anecdotes. Those make the woman in power feel more relatable. I found the artwork to be both inviting and full of life (and I believe there might be more artwork to come, given it was only an arc).

I reckon this book would be nice for those seeking to learn more about women in politics, current political circumstances.

Thank you to Caitlin Donohue, Zest Books, and Netgalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Don’t forget that She Represents releases on September 1, 2020.

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard – Book Review

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard is an adaptation from two speeches she made in 2014 and 2017 where she tracks what women’s relationship with power has been, from ancient myths to current online discourse.36525023._sy475_

The book starts with Beard stating “Women in the west have a lot to celebrate; let’s not forget.”, reflecting on how times have changed since her own mother was born, a time when women did not have the right to vote. At the end of the text reflects on what can be done and ventures that power needs to be redefined, not womanhood.

Beard draws connections I had never before thought about, between classical imagery and modern politics, the cultural precedents for the oppression of women in the oldest literature, managing to completely blow my mind. Though in contemporary times women have achieved much more “power” as traditionally defined, such as political power,  she notes that women’s political is rather curtailed.

Overall, I really enjoyed it, I underlined so many passages from it, and I really liked thinking more about our understanding of power as a society. I can not recommend it enough!

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Bye, keep on reading.

Seeing by Saramago – Book Review

Seeing by Saramago is, to a certain degree, a dystopian novel about nameless city, ruled by nameless people, in a unknow year. 23558980

What would happen if 80% of the population of the capital decided to turn in blank ballots for the elections? After reading this book I’m still not quite sure but it certainly gave me an idea.

After having had time to take in the results of the elections, the government decides that the outcome must have been the result of some form of conspiracy. They decide to put the capital under siege, needless to say, this had no impact whatsoever on the population, who continued to live their lives as if nothing had happened.

This leads to the government taking increasingly hostile actions against the capital, blocking it off from the rest of the nation, taking over the press, using excessive surveillance, committing disloyal actions against their own citizens and after a while going after scapegoats to bring everything back to normal.

The first part of the book was rather slow, but 100 pages in I started to get into it and feeling more and more drawn into the plot. Most like in any other Saramago’s novel you have to be mindful of the long paragraphs with the dialogue embedded instead of pulled out as quotes, which if you have read anything by him before you have grown accustomed to.

This book is a brilliant political satire, which I was expecting, and my love for Saramago’s books remains, as it was, indestructible. When characters from Blindness started showing up halfway through the book my heart just gave in.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it to every single soul that inhabits this planet.

Bye, keep on reading.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – Book Review

I have two words to describe this book: MEANINGFUL DRAMA.

I’ve always been afraid of picking up Anna Karenina, I have a problem with big books, I’m always afraid I won’t like them and afraid to end up forcing myself to read them, as I do with all the books I end up not liking (I just can’t dnf a book). When books over 800 pages came along, I became truly afraid. As you can easily understand, forcing myself to read 800+ pages of something that doesn’t bring me joy is quite more dreadful than 300 unfulfilling pages.IMG_20190711_223955_408

Anna Karenina by Tolstoy is a Russian classic written in the nineteenth century. To me, the book serves to show us how difficult life can be and that all families have their own problems. It’s, in essence, a story about life at its core.

The writing is magnificent, the author manages to talk about farming methods, political policies, or philosophical discussions without making you feel bored. He’s also able to betray every single character in a flawless manner, you truly get to know and understand everyone’s perspective on life and on what is going on in the story.

If there is one problem if the story it’s the amount of drama, which might as well be a “me” problem. From time to time I had to stop and read other things in order to reflect on everything that was going on. There are so many subplots I just couldn’t keep up without before taking a step back.

Tolstoy has this incredible power of being capable to show how one person can change their mind, how a person, can become so infatuated with something or someone and then with the blink of an eye, the feeling can change (this made me think a lot about relationships and so on).

Anna is the heroine and the villain, you love her and you hate her, you want her to be okay and then at times you just want to shout “don’t be so stupid and start accepting the consequences of your actions!” HOW DID TOLSTOY MANAGE TO DO THIS??????

This book portrays an impulsive affair, a man questioning his beliefs, an unpleasant divorce and a woman questioning her mental health. All these are still incredibly relevant nowadays, ergo its timeless appeal.

Instead of listening to me, I recommend that you read it for yourself.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Bye, keep on reading.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly – Book Review

Hidden Figures is a non-fiction book that tells the story of three African American women who worked for NASA during the Space Race. The book takes place from the 1930s through the 1960s, time when most people still viewed women as inferior to men and many parts of the US still practised segregation.DzTexxxXcAAB0T5

This book was very well researched and it was definitely an eye-opener for me. The narrative is for sure helped by the author’s personal familiarity with the subject, not to mention the relevance of the topic. I loved not only the history and science aspects of this book (because I’m a nerd) but the stories of the women and their intelligence and courage as well.

I really enjoyed this book even though its writing was somewhat dry which may be a negative point to some. What annoyed me a bit was the fact that the narrative jumped around quite a bit, both in time and between individuals.

Overall, I think this is a really good book and its strengths outweigh any negative aspect I could find while reading. I also really recommend the film if you read the book and felt a bit lost at one time or another.  If you like science, history, stories about civil rights, this book is a must-read for sure.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Buy, keep on reading.

Mother by Máximo Gorki – Book Review

There is a story behind this book and I feel like I need to tell it before I review it. If you want to go straight to the review go ahead, I’ll use a line to separate this from the review.

The first time I ever saw this book I was probably around 12. It was on a living room cabinet, which meant it wasn’t my mother’s since her books have always been kept at our home office bookshelf. I remember asking my father what book it was and remember him saying it belonged to my grandmother. For 12 year old me this was meaningless and I just went on with my life.

I came across this book again about a month and a half ago (on my twenties). I once again asked my father about the book. This time the story was more detailed. You might not know but Portugal had a dictatorship that lasted about 41 years, which ended in 1974. My grandmother only ever lived inside this dictatorship, but I’d say she was pretty different from the women of her time.

This book was basically forbidden due to its socialist message, which means that if she had been caught with it she would have ended up as a political prisoner and most likely tortured to death. According to my father, she always kept the book under her bedside table just in case there was a swoop.

Even though I never met my grandmother I can for sure say that all my rebellion comes from her. Not mention that from the stories my dad tells me, she was probably an extraordinary lady who valued both education and culture, which is something I look for in every person I ever encounter.


REVIEW:

Mother follows the life of Pelágia (Pelagueya for the English edition), Pavel’s mother as she enters her son’s world when he embraces socialism and starts bringing home forbidden books. The author describes a group of factory workers in the small Russian community at the beginning of the Russian revolution.img_20190124_164321_107

It’s mainly a story about a woman, from the beginning of the last century, overcoming her political ignorance to become involved in the revolution, and for me, she is the true protagonist of this novel.

It was slow at times but the reality brought out by the author was outstanding. The way the author described the struggle of the working class from the perspective of a mother, was honestly outstanding. I really liked his style of writing: having lines spoken anonymously by anyone in the scene, it’s like we are inside the characters minds. Given its revolutionary intentions nowhere does the book become preachy.

This book was an emotional rollercoaster but it is for sure not just another book to pass the time, you need to take time to connect with the characters. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone that likes history or is at all interested in this “revolutionary” type of book.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

Bye, keep on reading.