Whether you’re reading dystopian fiction or a break down of New Labour’s policies, it has never been more important to engage with politics. Or, for that matter, with literature. Afterall, there are some things that a BuzzFeed article just won’t tell you. Inspired by the recent release of Michael Wolff’s tell-all book about Donald Trump, three of Venue’s writers give us a little insight into their favourite political literature.
George Orwell’s 1984
“Every time humanity appears to veer towards self-destruction, Nineteen Eighty-Four seems to pop up in conversation. The dystopian world of the novel was established way back in the late 1940s, long before the current young adult dystopian novels that have plagued our bookshelves since. In this respect, the novel was over half a century ahead of its time.
Perhaps the most memorable name from the novel is the elusive Big Brother, a powerful totalitarian leader who is unquestioningly worshipped, and the sole figure of constant positive propaganda throughout. This is an ideal which many extreme right-wing leaders today strive towards, most notably Kim Jong-un. Another idea the book explores is Newspeak, described as “a controlled language of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary designed to limit the freedom of thought”. What world leader do we know who is famous for his restricted grammar, limited vocabulary and tendency to dismiss anything clashing with his own views as “fake news”? It may be the same leader who adopts the Ministry of Truth’s philosophy when it comes to censorship of the press, which is to grossly exaggerate the positives and dismiss anything that contradicts this.
The emergence of this radical right-wing ideology in our current climate may appear shockingly close to George Orwell’s vision, but then it is important to remember that this can be traced throughout all of history. Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four after World War II, the most obvious example of the dangers of censorship, nationalism and the shift to the right which all lead to totalitarianism and genocide. Maybe if more people took notice regarding this classic cautionary tale we wouldn’t be heading down this very familiar dangerous path.” – Dan Struthers
Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
“A Clockwork Orange addresses the clash between the desire for freedom at the cost of safety and political control in the perusal of safety, but at the cost of individual freedoms. Written around the rise of communist power, the building of the Berlin wall, and the Vietnam War; fear of state control was rife across the Western world. Yet these themes are so present in world politics today. In June 2017, Theresa May reported she would change human right laws if they “get in the way” of tackling terror suspects. Burgess challenges this loss of humanity in the perusal of the eradication of evil when the state inhumanely experiments on our protagonist for the supposed protection of its citizens.
The character of Minister of Interior represents this support for an ordered society, that questions of individual liberty are insignificant compared with the values of safety and order. Yet his actions show us that these views are more about control and power to the party than actual concern over the safety of the citizens. Burgess encourages us to question our political leaders who claim to have our best interest at heart.
Burgess turns the disenfranchised apolitical youth he saw in Soviet Russia and countercultural Britain into a violent but likeable individual through which to explore this clash of ideals. His writing style is unique. He weaves in fears of an all-powerful political party who will use any means to grow their power whilst brainwashing their citizens; by brainwashing his own readers through his use of almost nonsense language. And his use of motifs in sex, art and music display the struggle for personal vs political power throughout the novel. An exceptional work of literary fiction dealing with ideas just as relevant now as then.” – Evlyn Forsyth-Muris
Andrew Rawnsley’s Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour
“If you really want to dig deeper in understanding the root causes of Jeremy Corbyn’s meteoric rise as well as the disillusionment with today’s political establishment that subsequently spawned Brexit, Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour by the journalist and broadcaster Andrew Rawnsley is a must-read.
Rawnsley’s book, a fly-on-the-wall account of what went on behind the doors of Number 10 during the first few years of New Labour’s time in office, hung out the dirty laundry of Blair’s government to dry in clear public view and elevated to new heights the now infamous feud between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Controversially relying on many sources of ‘private information’ ostensibly gathered from some of those closest to Number 10 – and tantalisingly perhaps even from those in the inner circle themselves – Rawnsley paints an intriguing picture of a publicity-obsessed government populated by neutered cabinet ministers, warring factions, feuding aides, and a Prime Minister almost neurotic in his fixation with focus groups, newspaper headlines and public opinion.
Whether staunch Blairite, Corbynista or otherwise, this book is the perfect tool with which to unwind the relentless spin that the New Labour government entwined itself in and, above all, is a thoroughly engrossing and thought provoking read that will provide you with new perspectives – for better or worse – on the inner workings of one of the most important periods in recent British political history.” – Jamie Rhodes