REVIEW ARTICLE / MARGIT KOVES* & SHASWATI MAZUMDAR*^
Utopia and Despair
Alok Rai, Orwell and the Politics of Despair, Cambridge University Press, Pbk. 1990, price £ 8.95.
Akos Szilagyi, Ezerkilenszdznyolcvannegyen innen es tul (Before and after Nineteen Eighty Four), Budapest, 1988.
With the collapse of the East European socialist systems the media abundantly used the Orwellian language and imagery as the most easily available to describe the phenomena for the media. Once again the confrontation between the powers of 'freedom' and 'totalitarianism' were staged and this time there was also the peripeteia in the form of collapse.
Orwell, the man and his work, played a central and pervasive role in the creation of the ideological arena which defined the protagonist and antagonist as 'freedom' and 'totalitarianism*. What was the etiology of Orwell's explosive ideological impact and spreading influence? Which external factors and personal characteristics combined to produce the Orwell phenomenon? This is the issue which Alok Rai's eminently readable book, Orwell and the Politics of Despair, analyses. Defining Orwell's last work as representative of the genre of negative Utopia, Akos Szilagyi in his book Ezerkilencszdznyolcvannegyen innen es tul (Before and After Nineteen Eighty Four) approaches the problem from a different angle. Taking Huxley's Brave New World and Zamyatin's We as two other respresentatives of the same genre, Szilegyi analyses the connection of this genre to the conservative bourgeois world-view.
Alok Rai takes as a premise the disproportion between Orwell's literary achievement and his cultural importance, and defines the contours of an investigation which neither limits itself to literary-critical analysis nor loses sight of the underlying connection between the work and its cultural impact. His investigation takes off from what Raymond Williams has called the 'deep structures of consciousness and pressure that were producing the shifts during the thirties and forties
* Dept. of Slavonic Studies, Delhi University, Delhi.
** Dept. of Modem European Languages, Delhi University, Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol. 18, Nos. 6-7, June-July, 1990