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Friday, May 28, 2010

A Discourse on Dystopia

Ooh! I just noticed that the side bar (the only thing of real interest) is back in its proper place, and that the title for the ginger crunch story is no longer at the top of the blog! *Excited* - that said, I'll launch in to tonight's (really, this morning's) entry on Dystopian novels.
You've heard of them. They're books written at times in history when wars, repressive regimes and depressions are at their most severe; such times produce books that are counter-cultural. They question the structure and mechanics of society by satirizing the consequences of an exaggerated/extreme form of their own society, and of its leaders.
They're so fascinating. The authors have seen and analyzed their societies and have then projected what they believe may happen to the world because of the way societies run. In so many places you can see that things they futuristically wrote have come true - or are coming true..

Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World after visiting America in the 1930s; he was shocked at its prevalent materialism, commercialism and utopia engendering nature. Here's Iron Maiden's version:
What I found out today in reading the introduction of my copy of the book, was that Huxley believed that some sort of world control was necessary in order for the world to continue after WW1 and the Great Depression. Which is a puzzle - how could he write a book like Brave New World, yet believe that some sort of Mustafa Mond control would solve the world's problems?
I don't understand that. Perhaps he entirely disliked the idea of one world leadership yet felt that it was necessary.
It's a great book.

BNW's just a start though. If you wanted to get back to the real basics, you'd have to start with We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

This book was written by that guy with the cool Russian name, in the Soviet Union under Stalin.
Fascinatingly, he got away with writing this incredibly anti-communist, anti-Stalinist book - and the Party allowed him to satirize and condemn it; it even paid him to write articles that satirized the Party for one of the magazines.
The pleasant Leon Trotsky was behind the loosening of control over the arts - but it only lasted for a little while.
The book's all about a society embalmed in glass - everything was made of glass. It's similar to 1984 - because George Orwell nicked a lot of ideas from We.

1984 is where 'Big Brother is Watching You' came from. Elementary stuff.
It's a lot darker all the way through, compared to Brave New World's lightness and colour, synthetic-ness and extravagance. 1984 is descriptively gray and more despairing and troubled than BNW. It also seems more real.
Then there's Darkness at Noon. I've never read this book, but apparently Orwell got some ideas from it - particularly in regards to the interrogation scenes. It's about a man who used to work for the Soviet Union, finally getting dobbed in himself for some nefarious activity, then being locked up in virtual isolation. He starts to realize the justice of his sentence when he understands that the people he dobbed in himself had suffered exactly the way he had. Orwell used the interrogation scenes for his character Winston Smith - in his own interrogation by O'Brien.

They're all deeply disturbing, as is the usual product of people who are deeply disturbed themselves. Yevgeny was a creative genius trapped in the U.S.S.R while Stalin was in power; Huxley took psychedelic drugs, and Orwell.. well, anyone who could write 1984 and Animal Farm would have to be slightly messed-up in the brain.
Have you read any of these books? If you have, what did you think of them - do you think they were prophetic in any way? If you haven't, would these kinds of books interest you?

- Lydie


Anonymous FR said...

Actually, I feel very confused. Maybe cause I'm not very into sci-fi. But I'm the better informed for having read this:)
Oh, so I can legitimately and reasonably say that Animal Farm is seriously weird. Thanks, now I have something to back that up with!!
Yes...all very dark and broody and heavy and disturbing.

11:17 pm  
Blogger Lydz said...

Hmm. I guess it's a bit of an aquired taste - now that I think about it, there *is* a lot of doom and gloom in these stories. They foretell people's entrapment in their own society - and end depressingly.. I guess I find the whole slightly despairing, prophetic take on our society really intriguing.
Animal Farm! haha.. yes, it's weird. You have to keep unraveling it if you want to understand it (something I haven't done, and don't plan to do). What a strange way to write a dystopian novel though! Orwell was a mad genius.

12:47 am  
Anonymous FR said...

Mad genius. That's a very good way of putting it!!

1:32 pm  
Blogger Emz said...

Have never read 'We' or 'Darkness at noon'... will have to add them to my list of to reads :p I'm like you though, i find the prophetic despairing tone most intriguing.. it stirs in me a sort of noble rebellion to never let this happen, to oppose all tenancies towards this kind of a society. I also find the whole satirical edge to dysotopian as opposed to utopian novels quite cool. Sometimes its easier to see what we don't want to be rather than what we do.

9:33 pm  
Blogger Lydz said...

Emily, of course you just hit the nail on the head. Love the 'noble rebellion' - duude, that's cool!
haha.. I can quite easily imagine you being nobly rebellious.
Hmm.. yes. You're right, the satirical edge *is* one of the best things about reading these books - no wonder we read them, eh, we both like a dash of satire.
Yes, I like your parting comment. In a way, we are afraid of what we might become, without trying very hard to become more noble sorts of people.. Is that sort of what you were getting at?

1:23 am  

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