A Letter From George Orwell's Publisher

He's happy with the overall tone of 1984, but has some serious questions about the portable telephones and the notion that Big Brother is a woman from Lincolnshire...
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He's happy with the overall tone of 1984, but has some serious questions about the portable telephones and the notion that Big Brother is a woman from Lincolnshire...


404

3rd March, 1949

Dear George,

Thank you so much for sending me the manuscript of the new book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it had some jolly shocking moments. I did have a few questions, which I’ve outlined below.

1. You frequently refer to the ‘warmers of the leg’ that many of the ladies in your futuristic dystopia choose to wear. Is there some environmental condition 40 years hence that brings out this climatic discomfort in that particular part of the body? And while the rest of the world you so vividly portray is drab and grim, these ‘warmers’ are often in vibrant, almost fluorescent colours. It seems a little out of place. I have a similar distaste for the ‘colourful bands of the head’ they also sport.

2. I think the idea of the populous communicating via portable telephones is very novel, if slightly far fetched. But I do wonder, if they have the technology to create these magical devices, why make them so big? You describe them as ‘the size of a brick, with a stout, rigid aerial at the outer edge’. This seems rather impractical.

3. The twist at the end where Big Brother is revealed to be not only a woman, but a woman of modest means from Lincolnshire, struck me as tonally confusing. Even in this horrifying world, I can’t really picture a woman from this bracket rising to the role of supreme leader and wielding such influence on a nation. And while I understand your beliefs in regards to the working man, her irrational hatred of miners feels like a diversion. Might be better to keep it vague.

4. I didn’t really understand the section describing the ‘small rotating cube, highlighted with colours, that transfixed all of Oceania who would spend hours besotted by its puzzlement’. I’m afraid I can’t really picture that at all. Even with the four-page instructional guide explaining how to complete defeat this brain-teaser with a series of diagrams. It rather took me away from the story.

5. While naming the character of Winston’s chief torturer as ‘Russ Abbott’ is fine, calling the place where the torture occurs as his ‘Madhouse’ struck an odd note with me. With the character enduring such harrowing occurrences there, the current name has a dash of light entertainment about it. And the subsequent chapter about Mr Abbott’s singing career seemed frivolous, despite the atmosphere you created.

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6. I think the idea of the counter-revolutionary group being called The Brotherhood is acceptable, but don’t really like it being shortened to Bros. Loses its power somehow.

7. Also, the long section about The Brotherhood obtaining funds thanks to the virtues of a ‘foul-mouthed Irishman, with long unkempt hair and aggressive tendencies’ releasing a 78RPM recording that would be ‘heard every year, when the birth of Christ is celebrated’ was confusing. But I’d keep in the bit with the rats.

8. The ‘Anti-Sex League’ may get us into trouble with the Royal Chamberlain, but I think it should stay. I think the ‘Just Say No’ campaign that Julia instigates might be overkill, especially when she emblazons her clothing with orders to ‘Relax’ and the like. I would imagine that the ‘Thought Police’ that you describe so vividly would soon put pay to all that.

Despite these few qualms, I think what we have here is a cracking read and with these few amendments I have no doubt it will be your most successful work to date.

Yours,

Finbar.

P.S.

Mr Disney has been back in touch about turning the talking pig book into an animated musical. I trust you have no objections to this?