Neither Simon nor myself laid much store on New Year resolutions but we had recently been thinking a lot about influencing where our lives were going rather than just merely letting ourselves be carried on by whatever wind prevailed at the time. One of the things we had long decided on, was improving our awareness of ideas and events by reading some of the great works of literature that had influenced our world. It was now time to put this into practice. And with 1983 slowly beginning to tick away, what better work could we begin with than George Orwell's spine-chilling vision of the future: 1984.

So huddled together around a blazing log fire, Simon's arm gently caressing the back of my head, I opened and read:

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

Despite the heat generated by the fire those words sent a chill down my back. I read on. We were hooked. Lunch was forgotten, our walk in the crisp, white snow paled into insignificance. All that mattered now was Oceania, Big Brother and Doublethink. We lit candles all around our hut and read right on deep into the evening until we finally finished the book. Silence followed. In an hour's time we were due to leave for the New Year's party down in the valley but our thoughts were far away from champagne revelries.

'Could such a thing happen in real life?'

It was Simon who proffered the question. No answer was forthcoming. 1983 had been a momentous year in France. Economic troubles saw the government clamping down on individuals travelling abroad by limiting the amount of money they were allowed to take out of the country. Searches were thorough and those transgressing severely punished. Citizens were induced to inform on their neighbours. Racism also reared its ugly head with massive turnouts at demonstrations against the election to the French Academy of the Senegalese poet and statesman Léopold Sédar Senghor. Even our own little village of Gensdouce was thrown into the forefront of events when it became one of the first localities to implement the government's proposal to extend limited voting rights to foreign citizens residing in France for more than five years. As a result Simon would be allowed to vote in the municipal elections due at the end of 1984. Needless to say, our very own Mayor Demille was ruthless in his attacks on the measure and threatened to lead an army of loyal Frenchman to the gates of the Bastille to have the measure overturned. Rhetoric, maybe, but effective rhetoric nonetheless.

Sitting there in our isolated cabin, the candles throwing jagged, shadowy forks on the walls around, the novel's seemed too real and too hideous to contemplate. How glad we were to strap on our skis and make the steep descent to the small village where we would dance away the night and welcome in 1984.


The process of writing releases such strange impulses.



28 January 2009 at 15:15  

1984 is one of my favorite books. you weave this well.

28 January 2009 at 18:50  

What a fun way to meet the 3WW challenge, though I am not so sure if champagne revelry would be had by those who would plaintively sing "I sold you, you sold me, under the spreading chestnut tree*"...

*(If my memory of Eric Blair serves me correctly.)

31 January 2009 at 15:09  

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