Why You Should Care NH: George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Is a Best-Seller Again

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George Orwell was a British journalist and author, who wrote 'Animal Farm' and '1984.'

By Bob Charest,
Why You Should Care NH

With the inauguration and talk of “alternative facts” in the news last month, an item that might have escaped your attention caught mine.

Bob Charest

Bob Charest

George Orwell’s “1984,” which many of us read in high school, made the list of Amazon bestsellers in January, hitting number one. Orwell, as you may recall, told of Big Brother, doublethink, unpersons and Victory Coffee. His novel, published in 1949, was a vision of a negative utopia. The government was able to infiltrate every facet of our privacy and personal lives.

In a fantastic preface by Walter Cronkite when the book was reissued in a commemorative edition in 1984, Cronkite wrote that Orwell meant his novel to be a warning, or a cautionary tale. It wasn’t so important what visions or predictions Orwell got right or wrong, but that we must heed the possibilities.

Cronkite wrote (in 1984, mind you), “We recognize, however dimly, that greater efficiency, ease, and security may come at a substantial price in freedom, that law and order can be a doublethink version of oppression,  that individual liberties surrendered for whatever good reason are freedom lost.”

Did you know that Manchester has its very own tribute to Orwell’s novel? It’s on display at the Currier Museum of Art. Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (can you grasp the irony?) created software shown on a giant monitor with a motion sensor and interactive camera that puts the viewer right in the art.

Called “1984×1984,” this piece has been at the Currier since last year and looks at first like a whole screen full of colorful and random numbers that change with a scrolling cursor. But then when you walk in front of it, there’s your silhouette, in the picture, and as you read the description of the piece, you realize the numbers are actually thousands of random numbers from addresses photographed by Google Street View from the front doors of buildings around the world.

A chemist by training, Lozano-Hemmer is an electronic artist whose installations are meant to be interactive. The Currier piece is one of a series. You can see how it works by clicking on this link.

Shameless plug time: The Currier Museum of Art, by the way, is a great place. I try to get over there at least once a year. The European Gallery is my personal favorite. When you are there, make sure to spend time in front of Mattia Preti’s “The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew.”

Painted around 1660, the canvas is over six feet by six feet, and the subject matter notwithstanding, it’s absolutely breathtaking. The emotion and mood conveyed in paint by a master are incredible, a true marvel. See it here on the Currier’s website: 

Bob Charest has been in the news business since 1977. He has worked at newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as a reporter and editor. A graduate of Boston University, he has been involved in volunteer advocacy work that has included speaking up for people living in institutions, group homes and foster care.  He has consulted with InDepthNH.org on editing and grant proposals since before its founding in 2015 and also leads a watershed association that monitors water quality at a small New Hampshire lake. He has been interested in the advances in technology and how they have affected our privacy in America.

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