György Dalos: 1985

May 10, 2021

     So, here is a novel that purports to be a sequel to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, in which Oceania is defeated by Eurasia and reduced to only the British Isles, and it turns out that the country resembles our current picture of North Korea in comparison with its rivals…

It’s based on the writings of O’Brien, Winston Smith and Julia, and annotated by someone who is allegedly a historian, fifty years after the events. And it’s poor, it’s shoddy, it’s unconvincing.

There’s nothing of the utterly broken and defeated Winston and Julia from the end of Orwell’s novel, no sense of the boot having stamped on the human face forever. There’s no Newspeak. Big Brother’s regime has collapsed in the wake of military defeat, is followed by reform and then revolution, both of which fail. Neither events nor characters convince; the events are necessarily chaotic but, aided by the strange Historian figure comments and ‘analysis’, verge on the comic, and the characters are mechanical, cardboard cutouts who strive to survive on the coat-tails of their namesakes from Orwell’s novel.

The new world of 1985 fails to hang convincingly together as Orwell’s did, and the novel fails to add anything of value or significance to the idea or the message of Nineteen Eighty-four. Clearly, Orwell’s novel is now rather dated – it was interesting living through the actual years preceding that ominous date, and then after them, with the speculations and the comparisons in the chattering press – but the overall messages about totalitarianism, manipulation, power, and the urge to control are as valid now as they were back then, even if the methodologies and the technologies are different. Dalos never really engages with any of this.

I found myself wondering why I had kept this book since I bought it, way back in 1985. Maybe I felt differently then; I never went back to it. Dalos was Hungarian, and although Janos Kadar’s regime was one of the more successful and liberal in the Eastern Europe of that era (within the limited meanings of both those terms in that context), he will nevertheless have been very familiar with the machinations of such regimes and their manglings of the language. But perhaps from inside he was not really capable of looking outside with any real insight. It’s a maddeningly superficial novel, trivial and not worth eyeball time.

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