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Top 3 Books of the 20th Century

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by Tammy Facey (subscribe)
Read. Write. Run.
Published February 2nd 2013
Clever literature from the last century
1984, George Orwell (1948)
A satire? It's debated. A Utopian fiction? Perhaps. A warning of the potential future of our media-loving technology addicted lives? Don't exaggerate ...

Set in the fictional world of 'Airstrip One' and governed by the dictatorship 'Big Brother', Orwell's 1984 is a groundbreaking novel that has set the stage for dystopian fiction. The premise of the novel being the study of humanity, and possibility of hope, 1984 has and been the inspiration for a number of subsequent films and books that follow a similar narrative.

1984 can be seen as a dystopia, for it is a world where thought, mere thought is criminal, language, as well as diet and beliefs are controlled. Under 24 hour surveillance, it is a wonder how any one survives in such a world.

Told from the point of view of protagonist Winston Smith, readers are privy to the single ideas of 'potential' and 'hope' harboured by Winston. We are taken through his emotional journey as he uncovers the truth (?) behind Big Brother, and struggles to come to terms with the reality of his situation. Orwell's presentation of the never ending strength of human nature proposes a question: can you eradicate human strength, or is the mind the only thing that can betray you?

Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie (1981)

Set in India, Rushdie's novel is essentially about the plight of children born at midnight, when India was granted it's independence (1947). They all have magical powers, are connected and can communicate through telepathy. Sounds relatively simple, but Midnight's Children is a weighty novel, heavy with politics, specifically the tensions in the Middle East, the power of symbolism, and the plight of a child.

There is the protagonist, Saleem Sinai, of course, who's narration is somewhat distracting, disconcerting, but also quite brilliant.

Intersecting the primary narrative, Rushdie weaves a tale, which never fails to capture the imagination, pull at your inner sceptic, and arguably scare the living day lights out of you.

Rushdie has received numerous awards for his writing, namely the covetedBooker Prize, but is also a man that should be admired for his bravery - the allusions, downright scandalous and controversies within Midnight's Children make Rushdie a clever writer who will have you screaming in frustration whilst simultaneously being gripped by sheer intrigue of the novel.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Brave New World. Such words are uttered internally by thousands when they have 'flown the nest', or made a lifestyle change - the 'new world' is something they are a little fearful of, but for the most part it is something welcomed.

Such a feeling does not quite exist in Huxley's dystopian novel. Instead readers are presented with a scientifically controlled environment, a terrifying displaying of the conditioning technique, and the possible extent of a consumer focused lifestyle. Yes Huxley's BNW is a satire, but how far is this work of fiction from our own lives, and when faced with the harrowing reality our 24 hour surveillance, and social 'norms' do we seek escape like the protagonist, or embrace the 'Brave New World'?

Huxley's novel has made history - Bernard Marx's (a nod to Karl Marx), discomfort with the class system, adversity to polygamy, and general approach to his New World is something that has rocked the literature world - can't we all be rounded individuals who seek 'more', a tangible fulfillment? Huxley's narrative if not at all inspiring, only begs the question whether we should we not wonder at our own world ... one can only hope.
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