"The history books say that life before the Revolution was completely different from what it is now," said Winston. There was the most terrible oppression, injustice, poverty--worse than anything we can imagine . . . The great mass of the people never had enough to eat from birth to death . . . At the same time there were a very few people, only a few thousand--the capitalists, they were called--who were rich and powerful. They owned everything that there was to own." FROM "1984"
Last week, while playing under the Pulaski Skyway near Newark, N.J., a young boy uncovered a sheaf of papers that has been authenticated as a diary written by George Orwell, author of the famed novel "1984." Many of the pages were badly decomposed or illegible. All that was left of the diary is reprinted here: August 24, 1949 Dear Diary:
I, George Orwell, being of sound mind and body (okay, a little back pain now and again), am writing this down for the record, because I fear this whole notion of "1984" as an irrevocable projection of the future is getting out of hand. People are ascribing prognosticative powers to me that I never claimed. The truth is, the only reason I wrote the book was to make enough money to pay for a car I wanted to buy, a snazzy little TR-3 with bucket seats and rallye lights. I'm no Gloom and Doom futurist. I hope that by 1984 the world is just about like it is now, but with better television reception. Let Vaughan Monroe keep singing, Jerry Lester keep telling jokes, and let that cute Taylor girl from "National Velvet" be married happily ever after. As for me, I hope to be writing small novels and selling them to the movies. 'Sir or Madam, would you read my book? It took me years to write. Will you take a look?' There's a song in there someplace.
I set these words to clear my name. To whomever unearths them from under the swamps in New Jersey where they're buried--I ask only this: Take them to a good magazine (Look, perhaps), make the best deal you can for reprint rights, and if Hollywood is interested, tell them I always wanted Spencer Tracy to play me in the film. Gee, he's good.
Okay. True confessions:
First of all, it wasn't Big Brother; it was Big Bother. I was writing about how I'd be 81 years old in 1984, and what a Big Bother it would be. I guess the typesetter blew it. I admit that in the rough draft there was a mention of Big Brother. My older brother, Harry Orwell, was always spying on me. He wanted to become a private investigator; he practiced by keeping me under surveillance. He tapped my phone, trailed me on dates, he even installed a two-way mirror in my bathroom; big brother was always eyeing me. Maybe my agent never handed in the second draft. Who knows?
And it wasn't Newspeak; it was Newsweek. I heard about plans for a new news magazine that was going up against Time. I thought if I gave it some publicity by putting its name in my book, I'd get a free subscription. Typesetting error, I'm sure.
Everybody seems to be making such a big deal about those slogans I wrote: War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength. I didn't mean anything profound by them. They just sounded sort of catchy. At the time I was making a little side money working as an advertising consultant on Madison Avenue. The agency was trying to get this account for a new line of very lightweight winter outergear made from goose feathers. Really dumb idea, don't you think? Anyway, I wrote the slogan--Down is Up--and from there the other slogans came naturally. In the trade we call that kind of reverse logic "doublethink." I made a note of that word somewhere in the rough draft and it got into the book, too. But it carries the completely wrong connotation now. In the book it's defined as "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously and accepting both of them." The editor must have put that stuff in. I don't write like that. Outside of grad students, who does?
And the title. "1984." A lot of people figured that since I wrote the book in 1948, all I did was reverse the last two numerals to get 1984. The truth of the matter is I'm a very forgetful person. I named the book after the last four digits of my telephone number so I could remember it. I was living in a third-floor walk-up in Stuyvesant Town, and my number was TR7-1984. My first choice for a title was "New York's a Lonely Town (When You're the Only Surfer Boy Around)." But my publisher said it was too long for the ads. My next choice was "Brave New World," but it had been taken. Some guy named Huxley, I'm told. Win some, lose some.
The nation was never supposed to be called Oceania. From the beginning it was supposed to be OhSusanna; I just love Stephen Foster. Camptown races sing this song, doo-dah, doo-dah. And naming the main character Winston Smith wasn't my choice. That's much too British a name. I wanted an unmistakably American name, someone you might find at a dirt track in Tupelo, Miss., which is why my main character was named Billy Bob Jeffcoat. I can't imagine why they'd change it, but that's book biz for you.
Anyway, I don't mean to belabor the minor points. What troubles me most of all is the chapter they left out, the one where I wrote what I really thought would happen in 1984. Like I said, I'm no futurist, but I am psychic. You could ask my friends. They've seen me at parties. A total stranger will think of a number between 1 and 10, and most of the time--I'd say 75 percent--I'll either guess the number correctly or come within two either way. Not bad, right? So I thought I'd put my powers to the test in the book. That's what the whole final chapter was about. It really burns me that my editors dropped it. I mean it's not like I didn't have a track record.
It's probably pointless to go through them now--you're all living with them, obviously. But I think I ought to get credit for just a few of the highlights: Like the National Golf League, which I know all of you watch faithfully on TV every Thursday night; like a sunroof for Cleveland, which made that city the garden spot of the Midwest; like edible automobiles--a meal, not just a set of wheels; like taxidermy as an alternative to burial, for those loved ones who deserve the right stuff; like my revolutionary advancement in the process of filling potholes, which I called Chicken McNuggets.
I could go on, but I hope I've made my point. If you judge me just on what you've read in "1984," you're not getting the whole story. It seems the only way I can get the real me across to the public is to write another book about the future. Well beyond 1984. The working title is "2001." I'm going to call my editor about it now. His name is Hal.