George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

84.

Golo Mann, Frankfurter Rundschau

5 November 1949, p. 6

Golo Mann (b. 1909), German historian, author of History of Germany Since 1789 (1968), former Professor of History at Claremont College. Written in Claremont, California; translated by Michael Richter and Jeffrey Meyers.

The writer George Orwell, a socialist and fanatical fighter for individual freedom, is an outsider in English literature. He stands completely apart, though not as passionately and consciously as, for example, G. B. Shaw. Orwell’s ironical fairy tale, Animal Farm, has become known throughout the world. 1984, his satirical novel about the future, is a warning to the world, a very vivid presentation of the terror that could occur in the near future if all the implications of totalitarian ideas were put into practice and we were all forced to live in a world of fear.

Martin Esslin has adapted Orwell’s fascinating book as a BBC radio play. The moving performance directed by Julius Gellner was like a fantastic nightmare, especially for Germans, who perhaps more than any other nation can feel the merciless probability of Orwell’s utopia. Listeners were fascinated by the cold passion and inescapable consequences of the story. The intense performance was an emotional warning to those who even today are not free from totalitarian dreams.

Like Orwell’s utopian novel, the inevitable result of totalitarian attitudes was the theme of a radio play by Christian Bock, Fatal Reckoning. After its first performance by North-West German Radio the author, who thought he had not yet found the best form for his theme, rewrote the play. Fatal Reckoning concerns the consequences of the command that after a certain moment four and four will no longer equal eight, but six.1 This is what Bock’s citizen—the clerk Linie—has to come to terms with. Linie is expected to see reason in acts of despotism and to substitute the command of the state for his own conscience and personal judgment. Since Linie is unfortunately an

1 Bock’s 4 + 4 = 6 is obviously derived from Orwell’s 2 + 2 = 5.

-277-

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