Five Fascinating Facts about George Orwell’s 1984
1. George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on this day, 8 June, in 1949. But this wasn’t the original title of the novel. According to the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, Orwell initially planned to set the novel in 1980; this then became 1982, and finally 1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the title is usually rendered).
2. Orwell named Room 101 after a conference room in BBC Broadcasting House. In this room, during the Second World War, he had to sit through tedious meetings when he worked for the Ministry of Information. Indeed, the Ministry also served as the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth, where the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works. ‘Room 101’ has, of course, entered wider linguistic use as a term for something containing one’s pet hates or worst fears. Although the novel also popularised the terms ‘thoughtcrime’ and ‘thought police’, these did not originate in Orwell’s novel, and predated it by some fifteen years, first appearing in books about Japan.
3. An Italian translation of Orwell’s novel has the clocks striking ‘uno’ instead of thirteen because ‘Italian clocks don’t go up to thirteen’. That is, in the opening sentence, ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen’ (the original joke being that clocks only strike up to twelve, of course). We’ve covered this in a previous post, but felt it was worth raising again here, as it’s such a great story.
4. At Eton, Aldous Huxley was Orwell’s French teacher. Thus the future author of one of the great dystopian novels of the twentieth century, Brave New World (1932), taught the future author of one of the other great dystopian novels of the twentieth century. Huxley was only nine years older than Eric Blair (the real name of Orwell). Blair reportedly selected his pen name George Orwell from a shortlist which also included P. S. Burton, Kenneth Miles, and H. Lewis Allways.
5. In 1978, Anthony Burgess wrote a novel called 1985 as a tribute to Orwell’s novel. The author of another dystopian classic, A Clockwork Orange (1962), offered this novel as a tribute to Orwell’s classic. The Wikipedia page for the novel offers a very comprehensive summary of the novel, which is now not widely read.