1985 (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Perhaps only a Briton—and a supremely self-confident one—could have written 1985. The idea of publishing not just a sequel but a corrective to George Orwell’s powerful Nineteen Eighty-Four seems almost presumptuous, an occasion of hubris to invite critical, if not divine punishment. Nevertheless, Anthony Burgess attempts to do the job, in both fiction and nonfiction, in his new work.
The first half of the book is straightforward literary criticism, even if it is slightly unorthodox in form. It begins with a short section titled “Catechism,” which sets forth the fictional history from 1945 to 1984 lying behind Orwell’s novistic nightmare. Burgess’ intention, as he forthrightly states, is to see where Orwell “went wrong,” and to give another picture, one of what the future may really be like.
Burgess concentrates first on demolishing what he sees as mistaken readings of Orwell’s novel. The task of clearing the ground begins in a dialogue with “an old man” who remembers the Britain of 1945 which first read the novel. The old man begins by pointing out the often overlooked comedy that enriches Nineteen Eighty-Four and insists that the first readers saw much more humor in the book than we do today. According to Burgess (who turns out to be the “old man”), the humor begins in the...
(The entire section is 2294 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Booklist. LXXV, September 15, 1978, p. 146.
Economist. CCLXIX, October 14, 1978, p. 144.
New Statesman. XCVI, October 6, 1978, p. 444.
Newsweek. XCII, October 9, 1978, p. 105.
Times Literary Supplement. October 6, 1978, p. 1109.
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