In All Authors are Equal (London: Hutchinson, 1973), pp. 103-4. Fredric Warburg (b. 1898), founder of Secker & Warburg, served in the Home Guard under Orwell; author of An Occupation for Gentlemen (1959).
This is amongst the most terrifying books I have ever read. The savagery of Swift has passed to a successor who looks upon life and finds it becoming ever more intolerable. Orwell must acknowledge a debt to Jack London’s Iron Heel, but in verisimilitude and horror he surpasses this not inconsiderable author. Orwell has no hope, or at least he allows his reader no tiny flickering candlelight of hope. Here is a study in pessimism unrelieved, except perhaps by the thought that, if a man can conceive 1984, he can also will to avoid it. It is a fact that, so far as I can see, there is only one weak link in Orwell’s construction; he nowhere indicates the way in which man, English man, becomes bereft of his humanity.
1984 is Animal Farm writ large and in purely anthropomorphic terms. One hopes (against hope?) that its successor will supply the other side of the picture. For what is 1984 but a picture of man unmanned, of humanity without a heart, of a people without tolerance or civilization, of a government whose sole object is the maintenance of its absolute totalitarian power by every contrivance of cruelty. Here is the Soviet Union to the nth degree, a Stalin who never dies, a secret police with every device of modern technology.
Part One sets the scene. It puts Orwell’s hero, Winston Smith, on the