26 February 2010

Oceania's 11

This week, the Words & Fixtures cultural excursion was to the theatre, dahlink. We went to see an adaptation of George Orwell's novel 1984; the "world premiere", in fact. It was the preview public performance, which technically isn't really first night, it's more of a last dress rehearsal but in front of "real people". It was well acted and executed (apart from being a tad on the long side), and, as I've come to expect of the Royal Exchange having been a regular visitor over the years, good use was made of the space (it's in the round, y'know), with some inventive set changes and appropriate props. Unfortunately, there was what appeared to the cast and crew to be a major technical hitch in the second half, which flummoxed the stage manager somewhat and stopped the show in its tracks for ten minutes or so, but which really didn't make a jot of difference to the audience, who took the mishap with good humour and a chance to record the problem on Twitter.


Anyway, as my memory's not as it once was, I seemed to have forgotten how the story concluded, which I suppose could be construed as not such a bad thing after all. Perhaps I fell asleep when I watched the film with Hurt and Burton. I certainly haven't got that far with the book, which I must have been reading for about four years and which I now realise I have mislaid. Note to self: maybe it's at my summer residence. Oh, maybe.

The part that always raises a knowing smile from me, however, is when Winston bumps into Syme in the canteen and they discuss the 11th edition of the Newspeak dictionary. The joy and enthusiasm with which Syme explains "the destruction of words" is somehow nicely ironic, given that Orwell is an author and must, ergo, like words. I just thought I'd share that with you. Intellectual, aren't I?

'We’re getting the language into its final shape – the shape it’s going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we’ve finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words – scores of them, hundreds of them, every day ... It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn’t only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word?'

Here's a list of Newspeak words. Very efficient.

The cover, by the way, is the British first edition, published by Secker and Warburg in 1949. If my recollection of an English Lit class about Orwell (we studied Animal Farm, but the teacher was contextualising it) is correct, he wrote the book during 1948 and simply transposed the numbers to get a date in the near future. A useful snippet of information that may one day be of assistance in pub quizzes.

1 comment:

  1. I wrote my dissertation on the quote "The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak" from 1984

    Think I'll have to get myself down to the Royal Exchange Theatre asap!

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