1985 by Anthony Burgess
Kirkus Star


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An essay on Orwell's novel 1984; then Burgess' own stab--in the form of a novella--at adjusting the prophecy in Orwell's book to more likely scenarios. The essay? 1984 is "basically a comic transcription of the London of the end of World War Two"--Orwell's rather nostalgic English-cozy socialism coming face to face with (and affronted by) the vulgarity of the working classes. An interesting notion that might stir some controversy. Then Mr. B. has his go. 1985 London is an almost totally Arab-financed city ("They owned Al-Dorchester, Al-Klaridge's, Al-Browns, various Al-Hiltons and Al-Idayinns") yet is continually plagued by general strikes at the hands of unions gone wild with power: "holistic syndicalism." Learning is passe; juvenile delinquents learn classical Greek as a gesture of defiance against society. Bev Jones, a former history professor turned candy-factor worker, loses his wife in a hospital fire that striking firemen (and back-up Army troops) refuse to fight. Disgusted, enraged, he vows to quit the factory union; he's blackballed, put out of work, soon arrested, and eventually institutionalized. When a counterforce develops (the "Free British Army"), it turns out merely to be an Arab bid for total takeover. Bev finds liberty only in suicide. Libertarian in outlook, cartoony in shape, this novella has the charm of curiosity; but as with so much Burgess, it gets snagged in the groove of its cleverest idea and really succeeds only as an attractively trivial literary-boutique item.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
ISBN: 0316116513
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1978


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