Posts Marcados Com: literatura

Elegia 1938 (Carlos Drummond de Andrade)


Trabalhas sem alegria para um mundo caduco,
onde as formas e as ações não encerram nenhum exemplo.
Praticas laboriosamente os gestos universais,
sentes calor e frio, falta de dinheiro, fome e desejo sexual.

Heróis enchem os parques da cidade em que te arrastas,
e preconizam a virtude, a renúncia, o sangue-frio, a concepção.
À noite, se neblina, abrem guardas chuvas de bronze
ou se recolhem aos volumes de sinistras bibliotecas.

Amas a noite pelo poder de aniquilamento que encerra
e sabes que, dormindo, os problemas te dispensam de morrer.
Mas o terrível despertar prova a existência da Grande Máquina
e te repõe, pequenino, em face de indecifráveis palmeiras.

Caminhas entre mortos e com eles conversas
sobre coisas do tempo futuro e negócios do espírito.
A literatura estragou tuas melhores horas de amor.
Ao telefone perdeste muito, muitíssimo tempo de semear.

Coração orgulhoso, tens pressa de confessar tua derrota
e adiar para outro século a felicidade coletiva.
Aceitas a chuva, a guerra, o desemprego e a injusta distribuição
porque não podes, sozinho, dinamitar a ilha de Manhattan.

(Poema publicado em Antologia Poética – 12a edição – Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1978, p. 107)

&&&&&&&

A contemporaneidade de “Elegia 1938”, de Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Diante da decadência de uma sociedade que perde gradualmente seus referenciais, o poeta critica a mecanização do homem e a falta de sentido da vida

Sinvaldo Júnior
Especial para o Jornal Opção

Os temas políticos, o so­frimento do ser hu­ma­no e as guerras, a solidão, o mundo frágil, os seres solitários e impotentes ante o sistema são uma das facetas da poesia drummondiana. Num mundo em que se prezam os conflitos (so­bretudo com os quais não se aprende, mas se destrói), a automatização do homem, o cinismo, a indiferença, a hipocrisia, cabe ao poeta, lírico e angustiadamente (dada a sua impotência), cantar este mundo tal como ele é, visto que não pode, sozinho, modificá-lo — é o que se percebe no poema “Elegia 1938”, de Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

Elegia? O que é isso? É um poema composto de versos hexâmetros e pentâmetros alternados — conceito que não se encaixa ao poema em questão —, ou poema lírico de tom terno e triste; canção de lamento — conceitos que se encaixam plenamente com o tom e a temática do poema de Drum­mond.

Embora o sistema do mundo não ofereça nenhum exemplo, nada que verdadeiramente valha a pena, o homem é o maior construtor desse mundo, para o qual trabalha e, em consequência indireta, sente calor, frio, falta de dinheiro, fome e desejo sexual, o que denota sua incoerência ou tamanha cegueira, pois, pergunta-se: por que se ocupar com trabalhos que nada lhe oferecem mas, ao contrário, lhe privam de verdadeiramente viver?; por que contribuir para um sistema que dá mais importância ao capital?; por que se conformar em fazer o que todos fazem (gestos universais) se, mesmo dedicado (cegamente dedicado), não se ganha nada em troca? — são questões levantadas pelo poema, cuja atualidade nos espanta. Ou não?

Os heróis (aí cabe uma ironiazinha) fazem apologia à virtude (mas inventam guerras e matam), à renúncia (mas são vaidosos), ao sangue-frio (mas pregam o ódio) — discurso que contribui e corrobora o verdadeiro intento do sistema e de seus criadores: cegar, desindividualizar o ser humano o máximo possível, porque assim é mais fácil enganar. Prega-se uma coisa aos seguidores (cegos trabalhadores), mas os “heróis” fazem outra, o oposto e, poderosos, possuem direitos que os meros mortais não possuem, como abrir guarda-chuvas de bronze ou se recolher a sinistras bibliotecas quando, à noite, neblina. E jamais — jamais — aceitariam ser destituídos dos seus privilégios em prol do outro, até porque não aceita nem enxerga a alteridade do outro.

A impotência é explícita e inevitável: Amas a noite pelo poder de aniquilamento que encerra — única forma de fuga da realidade, válvula de escape. O sono é comparado à morte, pois dormindo, os problemas te dispensam de morrer. Porém, o subterfúgio é efêmero, dado que, ao despertar, tudo volta ao que/como era antes: a Grande Máquina (com letras maiúsculas) existe, é real, posto que invisível (impalpável), o que dificulta uma possível luta contra ela. O ser humano, pequenino, se confronta (confronta?) com o sistema, grandioso. Mas é a insignificância do homem, ante esse mundo, que, na verdade, sobressai. Sim, somos insignificantes. Ou ainda duvida disso?

Mortos, na quarta estrofe, pode equivaler às pessoas inseridas nesse (neste) contexto inumano — metáfora do ser humano, tal qual ele é, visto que, automático, passivo, conformado, é como se realmente morto estivesse. E não está? Os assuntos das conversas se referem — sempre, sempre — ao futuro: esperança adiada. E mais fugas: horas de amor e tempo de semear (sensações concretas e produtivas) são trocados por literatura e telefone (prazeres passageiros e improdutivos, porque segundo muitos a literatura é, de fato, inútil).

Em virtude de tudo isso, basta (infelizmente) conformar-se, adiar para outro século a felicidade coletiva, aceitar (a chuva, contra a qual nada se pode fazer), a guerra, o desemprego e a injusta distribuição (contra as quais muito se poderia (e pode) fazer, mas se…), pois não é possível, sozinho, dinamitar a ilha de Manhattan (símbolo, no passado e mesmo agora, decorridos 74 anos, do sistema capitalista, o qual é o corresponsável por tudo (ou nada). Resta, portanto, a revolta contida, a incapacidade — a frustração. O que mais restaria?

É, assim, possível fazer um paralelo do ano de 1938 (ano em que foi escrito o poema e ao qual se refere) e o século 21 (pleno…), pois se percebe que nada, ou pouco, mudou — daí a (infeliz) contemporaneidade do poema. Escrito um ano antes do início da Segunda Guerra Mundial, em que poderosos ditavam e subordinados cumpriam, em que homens (cegos ou indiferentes) se conformavam com o status quo (mesmo que esse status quo os oprimissem, os robotizassem, os subjugassem, os matassem) — época que se assemelha ao contexto vigente (de servilismo, de pseudodemocracia, de guerras (injustificáveis), de ditadores (camuflados), de falta de organização e cooperação entre indivíduos realmente individuais). Época, sobretudo e consequentemente, de frustrações, porque sozinho (talvez com um trabalho conjunto sim, vide [aqui cabe uma pitada de humor negro] o World Trade Center em setembro de 2001), não se pode — por mais que se queira — explodir Nova York, símbolo, ainda hoje, de poderio, do capitalismo, de dinheiro, de imperialismo, causas, mesmo que indiretas (é sensato não sermos simplistas), de grandes males da humanidade.

Os poetas (dentre eles Carlos Drummond) existem, felizmente, para explicitar e cantar e escancarar o medo: o medo dos soldados, o medo dos ditadores, o medo dos democratas. É uma voz que destoa, ou deveria destoar. Dessa voz (des)toante, claro está, surge libertações. Libertações inúteis que não mudam o mundo, posto que são libertações individuais e individualistas. Somente de um conjunto de vozes destoantes, mas harmônicas, surgiria a verdadeira libertação. Utopia? Sim, mas a utopia é sempre melhor do que a cegueira e o cinismo. Ou não?

Sinvaldo Júnior é escritor. Doutorando em Literatura.

Anúncios
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Evento gratuito semanal na USP


Oficinas de Leitura de Contos em Língua Inglesa

Ministrante: Profa. Dra. Solange de Almeida Grossi Corrêa da Silva

Objetivo: As oficinas pretendem engajar o público-alvo em leituras conjuntas de contos para familiarizá-lo não apenas com este gênero literário, mas também com alguns autores anglófonos (Ernest Hemingway, Howard P. Lovecraft, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, Oscar Wilde, Raymond Carver, Roald Dahl).

Público alvo: Alunos de graduação, pós-graduação e professores do estado ou rede particular.

Carga horária: 2 horas e meia por oficina – total: 35h

Período de realização: de 09/11 a 22/12

Horário: Quarta-feira (em Inglês) e quinta-feira (em Português), das 17:00 às 19:30

Local: Prédio da Faculdade de Letras – Av. Prof. Luciano Gualberto, 403 – Cidade Universitária – Butantã – S.P. – sala 166 ( *nos dias 30/11 e 01/12 na sala 134)

Valor: Gratuito

Pré-requisito: Conhecimentos básicos para leitura em língua Inglesa

Certificado: Os certificados serão enviados por e-mail para os interessados que comparecerem e assinarem a lista de presença.

Programação (sujeita a alterações):

Oficina 1 – 09/11 – HEMINGWAY, E. Hills like white elephants, 1927.
Oficina 1 – 10/11 – HEMINGWAY, E. Hills like white elephants, 1927.
Oficina 2 – 16/11 – MANSFIELD, K. Bliss, 1918.
Oficina 2 – 17/11 – MANSFIELD, K. Bliss, 1918.
Oficina 3 – 23/11 – JOYCE, J. Eveline, 1904.
Oficina 3 – 24/11 – JOYCE, J. Eveline, 1904.
Oficina 4 – 30/11 – CARVER, R. So much water so close to home, 1975.
Oficina 4 – 01/12 – CARVER, R. So much water so close to home, 1975.
Oficina 5 – 07/12 – DAHL, R. Genesis and catastrophe: a true story. 1962.
Oficina 5 – 08/12 – DAHL, R. Genesis and catastrophe: a true story. 1962.
Oficina 6 – 14/12 – LOVECRAFT, H.P. The haunter of the dark. 1936.
Oficina 6 – 15/12 – LOVECRAFT, H.P. The haunter of the dark. 1936
Oficina 7 – 21/12 – WILDE, O. The model millionaire. 1887.
Oficina 7 – 22/12 – WILDE, O. The model millionaire. 1887.

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O martelo de Thor


Este é o novo livro do Rick Riordan, segundo da série Magnus Chase e os deuses de Asgard (o primeiro foi A espada do verão). Dá para ler o primeiro capítulo dele clicando neste link aqui.

E, caso queira relembrar como começou a trilogia, tem os 5 primeiros capítulos do livro A espada do verão aqui.

Também tem o próprio Rick Riordan lendo o primeiro trechinho do primeiro livro:

A sinopse do segundo, que encontrei no hotsite da editora Intrínseca, é a seguinte:

Magnus Chase está de volta! Sua missão agora é ajudar o poderoso deus Thor a recuperar seu martelo e impedir uma invasão de gigantes.

Seis semanas se passaram desde que Magnus Chase viajou até a ilha Lyngvi para tentar impedir o Ragnarök, e nesse meio-tempo o garoto começou a se acostumar ao dia a dia no Hotel Valhala. Quer dizer, pelo menos o máximo que um ex-morador de rua e ex-mortal poderia se acostumar. Mas ele deveria imaginar que não seria assim por muito tempo…
Magnus vai descobrir que casamentos arranjados ainda não saíram de moda: para recuperar o martelo de Thor, que está nas mãos dos inimigos,Loki, o deus da trapaça, propõe uma aliança. Na verdade, um casamento.
Sem o martelo, Thor não consegue proteger Midgard — o mundo humano —, e os inimigos estão ficando cada vez mais ousados. O Ragnarök vai começar. Os nove mundos vão queimar. Agora, Magnus,Sam, Hearth e Blitz têm apenas cinco dias para encontrar a arma perdida do deus do trovão, evitar uma invasão e impedir um casamento.

Não entendi porque o evento de lançamento será apenas neste fim de semana (os cartazes abaixo divulga o evento em Vilha Velha e em São Paulo, mas haverá um evento nas maiores capitais do Brasil amanhã ou domingo, vejam mais abaixo os dados), quando o livro já está disponível há pelo menos 1 semana…eu já comprei, li e guardei na prateleira.

Vila Velha: 15/out – 15h
Livraria Saraiva Shopping Vila Velha
Rua Luciano das Neves, 2418 – Loja 2042, Piso L2 – Divino Espírito Santo

São Paulo: 15/out – 15h
Livraria Cultura Shopping Market Place
Avenida Doutor Chucri Zaidan, 902 – Lojas 222, 223, 224A, 224B, 224, Piso 1 – Vila Cordeiro

Rio de Janeiro: 15/out – 10h
Livraria Cultura Cine Vitória
Rua Senador Dantas, 45 – Centro

Curitiba: 15/out – 14h
Livraria Curitiba Shopping Curitiba
Rua Brigadeiro Franco, 2300 – Loja 126, Piso L1 – Batel

Brasília: 15/out – 15h
Livraria Cultura CasaPark
SGCV-Sul, Lote 22 – Loja 4-A, Piso 2 – Zona Industrial (Guará)

Fortaleza: 15/out – 16h
Livraria Saraiva Shopping Iguatemi
Avenida Washington Soares, 85 – Loja 68 – Edson Queiroz

Recife: 16/out – 14h
Livraria Saraiva Shopping RioMar Recife
Avenida República do Líbano, 251 – Luc 227 – Pina

Belo Horizonte: 16/out – 14h
Livraria Leitura Shopping Cidade
Rua dos Tupis, 337 – Loja GG01, Piso GG – Centro

Goiânia: 16/out – 15h
Livraria Leitura Goiânia Shopping
Avenida T-10, 1300 – Loja 321A, Piso 3 – Setor Bueno

Natal: 16/out – 15h
Livraria Saraiva Midway Mall
Avenida Bernardo Vieira, 3775 – Tirol

Belém: 16/out – 15h
Livraria Leitura Shopping Pátio Belém
Travessa Padre Eutíquio, 1078 – Piso 3 – Batista Campos

Manaus: 16/out – 15h
Livraria Saraiva Manauara Shopping
Av. Mário Ypiranga Monteiro, 1300 – Adrianópolis

Ah, querem saber o que achei do livro? A mesma coisa dos outros! *rs* O Rick Riordan é como certas bandas tradicionais de rock (Scorpions, AC/DC, Megadeth, Mötorhead…), ou seja, ele acertou uma fórmula (que deve render dinheiro pra caramba, aliás) e segue mais ou menos a mesma “receita” em cada livro. Afinal, como costuma ser dito, “não se mexe em time que está ganhando” (ou era “em time que está ganhando não se mexe”? Que seja…). Piadinhas engraçadinhas (que os mais adultos não acham engraçadas), trocadilhos, humanização dos deuses, mistura de mitologia com cenário urbano contemporâneo, etc. etc. Nada de novo para quem é leitor do Riordan. Alguns acham ruim esse tipo de “autoplágio”, mas há quem goste de previsibilidade. Já pensou se o autor começasse a matar os personagens queridos? Os leitores que estão acostumados aos finais felizes não gostariam nadinha…;) hahahhah

O protagonista, Magnus Chase (primo da Annabeth Chase, namoradinha do Percy Jackson na série de livros do Riordan que tem como base a mitologia grega), me parece mais interessante do que o protagonista mais famoso do Riordan, por conta de ter morado nas ruas. Mas, fora isso, acho que falta uma caracterização mais firme e consistente dos personagens da série de Asgard, sobretudo quando comparados aos personagens das séries grega, romana e egípcia.

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Gosta de mitologia?


Se sua resposta for “não conheço mitologia, nem faço ideia do que seja!” ou “sim, adoro!”, ou então se você conhece alguém que goste do assunto, compareça ao lançamento da obra A Nova Teogonia, escrita pelo meu marido. Obra ficcional, nela encontram-se deuses dos panteões grego, egípcio, nórdico, celta, hindu, japonês e afro-brasileiro.

O lançamento ocorrerá no dia 1º de setembro deste ano, durante a 24ª Bienal do Livro de São Paulo, das 19:30 às 21h, no Pavilhão de Exposições do Anhembi (Avenida 1 com Rua N). Endereço: Rua Olavo Fontoura, 1209 – Santana – São Paulo (S.P.).

PS 1 – Ironia: eu mesma provavelmente não poderei comparecer, pois leciono neste horário 😦

PS 2 – Enquanto isso, o livro 1 está disponível na Livraria Cultura e na Livraria Asabeça

LIVRARIA E LOJA VIRTUAL ASABEÇA
Rua Dep. Lacerda Franco, 107 – Pinheiros – São Paulo – SP – CEP 05418-000
Telefones: (11) 3031.3956 | (11) 3032-1179 | Skype: asabeca
e-mail: livraria@asabeca.com.br


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Felizzzzzzzzzzz…zzzzzzz….


Feliz ano novo, blablabla. Sempre blasé nessa época, credo. O gato foi viajar (sem me convidar para ir junto, snif…), fiquei aqui achando que conseguiria finalmente terminar de corrigir todas as provas e trabalhos, mas que nada, esse calor terrível me destruiu. Variando entre uma correção em ritmo de tartaruga, enxaquecas horrendas e a leitura de 2 livros (sim, tirei férias das férias, cansei de só ter obrigações ultimamente!), cheguei aqui, no último dia do ano, suada, fedida, com 46 traduções para corrigir (última parte das provas), tendo engordado 1 kg e com a missão de preencher um vasilhame de 3 litros (que mais parece um galão de suco de laranja!) com xixi durante as primeiras 24 horas do ano que se inicia a partir de amanhã….wooohoooo! 😛

Ah, detalhe: esses 2 livros que li não são nenhum dos dois livros com os quais vou trabalhar com os alunos em janeiro rsrsrs. E descobri que fazem parte de uma série…da qual tenho os volumes 1 e 3 (presentes do gato 😀 ). Ao terminar o volume 1, decidi não esperar para comprar o 2, então pulei pro 3 direto, na esperança de que desse para entendê-lo mesmo sem a ligação entre os dois volumes que já tenho. E estava certa, claro, sempre estou 😉 O problema foi perceber, ao final do volume 3, que existe a continuação…!!! E que, depois do volume 4 – o final da série -, a autora (desgranhenta!!) lançou mais uma série (de mais 3 volumes…) que continua a bagaça toda. Ou seja, mergulhei no que achei que fosse uma série de 3 livros (sendo que o 2 não me pareceu imprescindível) e acabei me enfiando em 7…arghghgh!!! O bom é que os livros são rapidinhos de ler 🙂

Obs1: para os curiosos, a série de 4 volumes se chama War of the Fae (A Guerra dos Fae, em Português), da escritora Elle Casey. A continuação dessa série chama-se Clash of the Otherworlds, e contém 3 livros (por enquanto??).

http://geracaoeditorial.com.br/a-guerra-dos-fae-as-criancas-trocadas/

http://geracaoeditorial.com.br/a-guerra-dos-fae-luz-e-trevas-vol-03/

Obs2: só não estou mais entediada com o ano que vai começar porque é o ano em que nos casaremos. Não vejo a hora!!! 😀 Mas o trabalho que terei nos preparativos finais, antes de chegar ao tão esperado ponto de partida da nossa vida em comum, me dá desânimo e cansaço só de pensar…!

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Jack Prelutsky


Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.

Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you’d be forced to smell your feet.

Your nose would be a source of dread
were it attached atop your head,
it soon would drive you to despair,
forever tickled by your hair.

Within your ear, your nose would be
an absolute catastrophe,
for when you were obliged to sneeze,
your brain would rattle from the breeze.

Your nose, instead, through thick and thin,
remains between your eyes and chin,
not pasted on some other place–
be glad your nose is on your face!

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As mulheres de 30


O que mais as espanta é que, de repente, elas percebem que já são balzaquianas. Mas poucas balzacas leram A Mulher de Trinta, de Honoré de Balzac, escrito há mais de 150 anos. Olhe o que ele diz:
‘Uma mulher de trinta anos tem atrativos irresistíveis. A mulher jovem tem muitas ilusões, muita inexperiência. Uma nos instrui, a outra quer tudo aprender e acredita ter dito tudo despindo o vestido. (…) Entre elas duas há a distância incomensurável que vai do previsto ao imprevisto, da força à fraqueza. A mulher de trinta anos satisfaz tudo, e a jovem, sob pena de não sê-lo, nada pode satisfazer’.

Madame Bovary, outra francesa trintona, era tão maravilhosa que seu criador chegou a dizer diante dos tribunais: ‘Madame Bovary c’est moi’. E a Marilyn Monroe, que fez tudo aquilo entre 30 e 40?

Mas voltemos a nossa mulher de 30, a brasileira-tropicana, aquela que podemos encontrar na frente das escolas pegando os filhos ou num balcão de bar bebendo um chope sozinha. Sim, a mulher de 30 bebe. A mulher de 30 é morena. Quando resolve fazer a besteira de tingir os cabelos de amarelo-hebe passa, automaticamente, a ter 40. E o que mais encanta nas de 30 é que parece que nunca vão perder aquele jeitinho que trouxeram dos 20. Mas, para isso, como elas se preocupam com a barriguinha!

A mulher de 30 está para se separar. Ou já se separou. São raras as mulheres que passam por esta faixa sem terminar um casamento. Em compensação, ainda antes dos 40 elas arrumam o segundo e definitivo.
A grande maioria tem dois filhos. Geralmente um casal. As que ainda não tiveram filhos se tornam um perigo, quando estão ali pelos 35. Periga pegarem o primeiro quarentão que encontrarem pela frente. Elas querem casar.

Elas talvez não saibam, mas são as mais bonitas das mulheres. Acho até que a idade mínima para concurso de miss deveria ser 30 anos. Desfilam como gazelas, embora eu nunca tenha visto uma (gazela). Sorriem e nos olham com uns olhos claros. Já notou que elas têm olhos claros? E as que usam uns cabelos longos e ondulados e ficam a todo momento jogando as melenas para trás? É de matar.

O problema com esta faixa de idade é achar uma que não esteja terminando alguma tese ou TCC. E eu pergunto: existe algo mais excitante do que uma médica de 32 anos, toda de branco, com o estetoscópio balançando no decote de seu jaleco diante daqueles hirtos seios? E mulher de 30 guiando jipe? Covardia.

A mulher de 30 ainda não fez plástica. Não precisa. Está com tudo em cima. Ela, ao contrário das de 20, nunca ficou. Quando resolve, vai pra valer. Faz sexo como se fosse a última vez. A mulher de 30 morde, grita, sua como ninguém. Não finge. Mata o homem, tenha ele 20 ou 50. E o hálito, então? É fresco. E os pelinhos nas costas, lá pra baixo, que mais parecem pele de pêssego, como diria o Machado se referindo a Helena, que, infelizmente, nunca chegou aos 30?

Mas o que mais me encanta nas mulheres de 30 é a independência. Moram sozinhas e suas casas têm ainda um frescor das de 20 e a maturidade das de 40. Adoram flores e um cachorrinho pequeno. Curtem janelas abertas. Elas sabem escolher um travesseiro. E amam quem querem, à hora que querem e onde querem. E o mais importante: do jeito que desejam.

São fortes as mulheres de 30. E não têm pressa pra nada. Sabem aonde vão chegar. E sempre chegam.

Chegam lá atrás, no Balzac: ‘A mulher de 30 anos satisfaz tudo’.

Ponto. Pra elas.

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The masterpiece that killed George Orwell


In 1946 Observer editor David Astor lent George Orwell a remote Scottish farmhouse in which to write his new book, Nineteen Eighty-Four. It became one of the most significant novels of the 20th century. Here, Robert McCrum tells the compelling story of Orwell’s torturous stay on the island where the author, close to death and beset by creative demons, was engaged in a feverish race to finish the book

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

Sixty years after the publication of Orwell’s masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, that crystal first line sounds as natural and compelling as ever. But when you see the original manuscript, you find something else: not so much the ringing clarity, more the obsessive rewriting, in different inks, that betrays the extraordinary turmoil behind its composition.

Probably the definitive novel of the 20th century, a story that remains eternally fresh and contemporary, and whose terms such as “Big Brother”, “doublethink” and “newspeak” have become part of everyday currency, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been translated into more than 65 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide, giving George Orwell a unique place in world literature.

“Orwellian” is now a universal shorthand for anything repressive or totalitarian, and the story of Winston Smith, an everyman for his times, continues to resonate for readers whose fears for the future are very different from those of an English writer in the mid-1940s.

The circumstances surrounding the writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four make a haunting narrative that helps to explain the bleakness of Orwell’s dystopia. Here was an English writer, desperately sick, grappling alone with the demons of his imagination in a bleak Scottish outpost in the desolate aftermath of the second world war. The idea for Nineteen Eighty-Four, alternatively, “The Last Man in Europe”, had been incubating in Orwell’s mind since the Spanish civil war. His novel, which owes something to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian fiction We, probably began to acquire a definitive shape during 1943-44, around the time he and his wife, Eileen adopted their only son, Richard. Orwell himself claimed that he was partly inspired by the meeting of the Allied leaders at the Tehran Conference of 1944. Isaac Deutscher, an Observer colleague, reported that Orwell was “convinced that Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt consciously plotted to divide the world” at Tehran.

Orwell had worked for David Astor‘s Observer since 1942, first as a book reviewer and later as a correspondent. The editor professed great admiration for Orwell’s “absolute straightforwardness, his honesty and his decency”, and would be his patron throughout the 1940s. The closeness of their friendship is crucial to the story of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Orwell’s creative life had already benefited from his association with the Observer in the writing of Animal Farm. As the war drew to a close, the fruitful interaction of fiction and Sunday journalism would contribute to the much darker and more complex novel he had in mind after that celebrated “fairy tale”. It’s clear from his Observer book reviews, for example, that he was fascinated by the relationship between morality and language.

There were other influences at work. Soon after Richard was adopted, Orwell’s flat was wrecked by a doodlebug. The atmosphere of random terror in the everyday life of wartime London became integral to the mood of the novel-in-progress. Worse was to follow. In March 1945, while on assignment for the Observer in Europe, Orwell received the news that his wife, Eileen, had died under anaesthesia during a routine operation.

Suddenly he was a widower and a single parent, eking out a threadbare life in his Islington lodgings, and working incessantly to dam the flood of remorse and grief at his wife’s premature death. In 1945, for instanc e, he wrote almost 110,000 words for various publications, including 15 book reviews for the Observer.

Now Astor stepped in. His family owned an estate on the remote Scottish island of Jura, next to Islay. There was a house, Barnhill, seven miles outside Ardlussa at the remote northern tip of this rocky finger of heather in the Inner Hebrides. Initially, Astor offered it to Orwell for a holiday. Speaking to the Observer last week, Richard Blair says he believes, from family legend, that Astor was taken aback by the enthusiasm of Orwell’s response.

In May 1946 Orwell, still picking up the shattered pieces of his life, took the train for the long and arduous journey to Jura. He told his friend Arthur Koestler that it was “almost like stocking up ship for an arctic voyage”.

It was a risky move; Orwell was not in good health. The winter of 1946-47 was one of the coldest of the century. Postwar Britain was bleaker even than wartime, and he had always suffered from a bad chest. At least, cut off from the irritations of literary London, he was free to grapple unencumbered with the new novel. “Smothered under journalism,” as he put it, he told one friend, “I have become more and more like a sucked orange.”

Ironically, part of Orwell’s difficulties derived from the success of Animal Farm. After years of neglect and indifference the world was waking up to his genius. “Everyone keeps coming at me,” he complained to Koestler, “wanting me to lecture, to write commissioned booklets, to join this and that, etc – you don’t know how I pine to be free of it all and have time to think again.”

On Jura he would be liberated from these distractions but the promise of creative freedom on an island in the Hebrides came with its own price. Years before, in the essay “Why I Write”, he had described the struggle to complete a book: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist or [sic] understand. For all one knows that demon is the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s personality.” Then that famous Orwellian coda. “Good prose is like a window pane.”

From the spring of 1947 to his death in 1950 Orwell would re-enact every aspect of this struggle in the most painful way imaginable. Privately, perhaps, he relished the overlap between theory and practice. He had always thrived on self-inflicted adversity.

At first, after “a quite unendurable winter”, he revelled in the isolation and wild beauty of Jura. “I am struggling with this book,” he wrote to his agent, “which I may finish by the end of the year – at any rate I shall have broken the back by then so long as I keep well and keep off journalistic work until the autumn.”

Barnhill, overlooking the sea at the top of a potholed track, was not large, with four small bedrooms above a spacious kitchen. Life was simple, even primitive. There was no electricity. Orwell used Calor gas to cook and to heat water. Storm lanterns burned paraffin. In the evenings he also burned peat. He was still chain-smoking black shag tobacco in roll-up cigarettes: the fug in the house was cosy but not healthy. A battery radio was the only connection with the outside world.

Orwell, a gentle, unworldly sort of man, arrived with just a camp bed, a table, a couple of chairs and a few pots and pans. It was a spartan existence but supplied the conditions under which he liked to work. He is remembered here as a spectre in the mist, a gaunt figure in oilskins.

The locals knew him by his real name of Eric Blair, a tall, cadaverous, sad-looking man worrying about how he would cope on his own. The solution, when he was joined by baby Richard and his nanny, was to recruit his highly competent sister, Avril. Richard Blair remembers that his father “could not have done it without Avril. She was an excellent cook, and very practical. None of the accounts of my father’s time on Jura recognise how essential she was.”

Once his new regime was settled, Orwell could finally make a start on the book. At the end of May 1947 he told his publisher, Fred Warburg: “I think I must have written nearly a third of the rough draft. I have not got as far as I had hoped to do by this time because I really have been in most wretched health this year ever since about January (my chest as usual) and can’t quite shake it off.”

Mindful of his publisher’s impatience for the new novel, Orwell added: “Of course the rough draft is always a ghastly mess bearing little relation to the finished result, but all the same it is the main part of the job.” Still, he pressed on, and at the end of July was predicting a completed “rough draft” by October. After that, he said, he would need another six months to polish up the text for publication. But then, disaster.

Part of the pleasure of life on Jura was that he and his young son could enjoy the outdoor life together, go fishing, explore the island, and potter about in boats. In August, during a spell of lovely summer weather, Orwell, Avril, Richard and some friends, returning from a hike up the coast in a small motor boat, were nearly drowned in the infamous Corryvreckan whirlpool.

Richard Blair remembers being “bloody cold” in the freezing water, and Orwell, whose constant coughing worried his friends, did his lungs no favours. Within two months he was seriously ill. Typically, his account to David Astor of this narrow escape was laconic, even nonchalant.

The long struggle with “The Last Man in Europe” continued. In late October 1947, oppressed with “wretched health”, Orwell recognised that his novel was still “a most dreadful mess and about two-thirds of it will have to be retyped entirely”.

He was working at a feverish pace. Visitors to Barnhill recall the sound of his typewriter pounding away upstairs in his bedroom. Then, in November, tended by the faithful Avril, he collapsed with “inflammation of the lungs” and told Koestler that he was “very ill in bed”. Just before Christmas, in a letter to an Observer colleague, he broke the news he had always dreaded. Finally he had been diagnosed with TB.

A few days later, writing to Astor from Hairmyres hospital, East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, he admitted: “I still feel deadly sick,” and conceded that, when illness struck after the Corryvreckan whirlpool incident, “like a fool I decided not to go to a doctor – I wanted to get on with the book I was writing.” In 1947 there was no cure for TB – doctors prescribed fresh air and a regular diet – but there was a new, experimental drug on the market, streptomycin. Astor arranged for a shipment to Hairmyres from the US.

Richard Blair believes that his father was given excessive doses of the new wonder drug. The side effects were horrific (throat ulcers, blisters in the mouth, hair loss, peeling skin and the disintegration of toe and fingernails) but in March 1948, after a three-month course, the TB symptoms had disappeared. “It’s all over now, and evidently the drug has done its stuff,” Orwell told his publisher. “It’s rather like sinking the ship to get rid of the rats, but worth it if it works.”

As he prepared to leave hospital Orwell received the letter from his publisher which, in hindsight, would be another nail in his coffin. “It really is rather important,” wrote Warburg to his star author, “from the point of view of your literary career to get it [the new novel] by the end of the year and indeed earlier if possible.”

Just when he should have been convalescing Orwell was back at Barnhill, deep into the revision of his manuscript, promising Warburg to deliver it in “early December”, and coping with “filthy weather” on autumnal Jura. Early in October he confided to Astor: “I have got so used to writing in bed that I think I prefer it, though of course it’s awkward to type there. I am just struggling with the last stages of this bloody book [which is] about the possible state of affairs if the atomic war isn’t conclusive.”

This is one of Orwell’s exceedingly rare references to the theme of his book. He believed, as many writers do, that it was bad luck to discuss work-in-progress. Later, to Anthony Powell, he described it as “a Utopia written in the form of a novel”. The typing of the fair copy of “The Last Man in Europe” became another dimension of Orwell’s battle with his book. The more he revised his “unbelievably bad” manuscript the more it became a document only he could read and interpret. It was, he told his agent, “extremely long, even 125,000 words”. With characteristic candour, he noted: “I am not pleased with the book but I am not absolutely dissatisfied… I think it is a good idea but the execution would have been better if I had not written it under the influence of TB.”

And he was still undecided about the title: “I am inclined to call it NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR or THE LAST MAN IN EUROPE,” he wrote, “but I might just possibly think of something else in the next week or two.” By the end of October Orwell believed he was done. Now he just needed a stenographer to help make sense of it all.

It was a desperate race against time. Orwell’s health was deteriorating, the “unbelievably bad” manuscript needed retyping, and the December deadline was looming. Warburg promised to help, and so did Orwell’s agent. At cross-purposes over possible typists, they somehow contrived to make a bad situation infinitely worse. Orwell, feeling beyond help, followed his ex-public schoolboy’s instincts: he would go it alone.

By mid-November, too weak to walk, he retired to bed to tackle “the grisly job” of typing the book on his “decrepit typewriter” by himself. Sustained by endless roll-ups, pots of coffee, strong tea and the warmth of his paraffin heater, with gales buffeting Barnhill, night and day, he struggled on. By 30 November 1948 it was virtually done.

Now Orwell, the old campaigner, protested to his agent that “it really wasn’t worth all this fuss. It’s merely that, as it tires me to sit upright for any length of time, I can’t type very neatly and can’t do many pages a day.” Besides, he added, it was “wonderful” what mistakes a professional typist could make, and “in this book there is the difficulty that it contains a lot of neologisms”.

The typescript of George Orwell’s latest novel reached London in mid December, as promised. Warburg recognised its qualities at once (“amongst the most terrifying books I have ever read”) and so did his colleagues. An in-house memo noted “if we can’t sell 15 to 20 thousand copies we ought to be shot”.

By now Orwell had left Jura and checked into a TB sanitorium high in the Cotswolds. “I ought to have done this two months ago,” he told Astor, “but I wanted to get that bloody book finished.” Once again Astor stepped in to monitor his friend’s treatment but Orwell’s specialist was privately pessimistic.

As word of Nineteen Eighty-Four began to circulate, Astor’s journalistic instincts kicked in and he began to plan an Observer Profile, a significant accolade but an idea that Orwell contemplated “with a certain alarm”. As spring came he was “having haemoptyses” (spitting blood) and “feeling ghastly most of the time” but was able to involve himself in the pre-publication rituals of the novel, registering “quite good notices” with satisfaction. He joked to Astor that it wouldn’t surprise him “if you had to change that profile into an obituary”.

Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on 8 June 1949 (five days later in the US) and was almost universally recognised as a masterpiece, even by Winston Churchill, who told his doctor that he had read it twice. Orwell’s health continued to decline. In October 1949, in his room at University College hospital, he married Sonia Brownell, with David Astor as best man. It was a fleeting moment of happiness; he lingered into the new year of 1950. In the small hours of 21 January he suffered a massive haemorrhage in hospital and died alone.

The news was broadcast on the BBC the next morning. Avril Blair and her nephew, still up on Jura, heard the report on the little battery radio in Barnhill. Richard Blair does not recall whether the day was bright or cold but remembers the shock of the news: his father was dead, aged 46.

David Astor arranged for Orwell’s burial in the churchyard at Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire. He lies there now, as Eric Blair, between HH Asquith and a local family of Gypsies.

Why ‘1984’?

Orwell’s title remains a mystery. Some say he was alluding to the centenary of the Fabian Society, founded in 1884. Others suggest a nod to Jack London’s novel The Iron Heel (in which a political movement comes to power in 1984), or perhaps to one of his favourite writer GK Chesterton’s story, “The Napoleon of Notting Hill”, which is set in 1984.

In his edition of the Collected Works (20 volumes), Peter Davison notes that Orwell’s American publisher claimed that the title derived from reversing the date, 1948, though there’s no documentary evidence for this. Davison also argues that the date 1984 is linked to the year of Richard Blair’s birth, 1944, and notes that in the manuscript of the novel, the narrative occurs, successively, in 1980, 1982 and finally, 1984. There’s no mystery about the decision to abandon “The Last Man in Europe”. Orwell himself was always unsure of it. It was his publisher, Fred Warburg who suggested that Nineteen Eighty-Four was a more commercial title.

Freedom of speech: How ‘1984’ has entrusted our culture

The effect of Nineteen Eighty-Four on our cultural and linguistic landscape has not been limited to either the film adaptation starring John Hurt and Richard Burton, with its Nazi-esque rallies and chilling soundtrack, nor the earlier one with Michael Redgrave and Edmond O’Brien.

It is likely, however, that many people watching the Big Brother series on television (in the UK, let alone in Angola, Oman or Sweden, or any of the other countries whose TV networks broadcast programmes in the same format) have no idea where the title comes from or that Big Brother himself, whose role in the reality show is mostly to keep the peace between scrapping, swearing contestants like a wise uncle, is not so benign in his original incarnation.

Apart from pop-culture renditions of some of the novel’s themes, aspects of its language have been leapt upon by libertarians to describe the curtailment of freedom in the real world by politicians and officials – alarmingly, nowhere and never more often than in contemporary Britain.

Orwellian

George owes his own adjective to this book alone and his idea that wellbeing is crushed by restrictive, authoritarian and untruthful government.

Big Brother (is watching you)

A term in common usage for a scarily omniscient ruler long before the worldwide smash-hit reality-TV show was even a twinkle in its producers’ eyes. The irony of societal hounding of Big Brother contestants would not have been lost on George Orwell.

Room 101

Some hotels have refused to call a guest bedroom number 101 – rather like those tower blocks that don’t have a 13th floor – thanks to the ingenious Orwellian concept of a room that contains whatever its occupant finds most impossible to endure. Like Big Brother, this has spawned a modern TV show: in this case, celebrities are invited to name the people or objects they hate most in the world.

Thought Police

An accusation often levelled at the current government by those who like it least is that they are trying to tell us what we can and cannot think is right and wrong. People who believe that there are correct ways to think find themselves named after Orwell’s enforcement brigade.

Thoughtcrime

See “Thought Police” above. The act or fact of transgressing enforced wisdom.

Newspeak

For Orwell, freedom of expression was not just about freedom of thought but also linguistic freedom. This term, denoting the narrow and diminishing official vocabulary, has been used ever since to denote jargon currently in vogue with those in power.

Doublethink

Hypocrisy, but with a twist. Rather than choosing to disregard a contradiction in your opinion, if you are doublethinking, you are deliberately forgetting that the contradiction is there. This subtlety is mostly overlooked by people using the accusation of “doublethink” when trying to accuse an adversary of being hypocritical – but it is a very popular word with people who like a good debate along with their pints in the pub. Oliver Marre

source: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/may/10/1984-george-orwell

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