Taking shelter from typical February Lausanne weather, the Lausanne book club met back at Le Lacustre for an evening of pizza, wine, laughter, and (not as heated as expected) discussion of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Our newest member, Valentina (Val), was soon part of the furniture and after a quick apero, the group settled down to the business of the evening.
It’s possible that Nineteen Eighty-Four is the most popular book we’ve read, scoring 8/10. Current events weighed heavy on the minds of some and, as a result, the book was deemed “scarier” than when previously read (with a number of members having read it at school). Although the book lacked a little depth, all agreed that the topics covered were important and that it was a “fantastic cautionary tale.” Some of the group were a little frustrated that while Orwell went into the how and what of the totalitarian regime, there was little explanation of why.
The discussion started around language. It was mused whether if you can control the way people speak (through the restriction of words) you can limit their ability to think new ideas. The group explored the way in which language changes and the fact that most of us can’t understand “youth speak”. It was therefore decided that limiting language doesn’t limit imagination. As long as people have the ability to think, they will find/make up words to express what they feel.
Gaslighting (read more here) while an old concept, is a term which has recently come to the fore. We talked about how Big Brother was gaslighting the people of Oceania. While he may have started as a real person, Big Brother was now a concept, a cult of personality. By relying on an idea, not a person, the Inner Party could ensure the longevity of their ideas.
Book club then degenerated into a discussion of hot historical figures. (there’s a whole reddit dedicated to it)
For those who weren’t there… have a look at these two.
Goes to show, no matter your political leanings, you can still be hot.
After the little diversion, talk returned to the book. We discussed Winston (not Churchill) and his relationship with women. It seems Winston had always had bad luck with women – his mother, his sister, his wife – and was surrounded by women enslaved by drudgery – his next door neighbour, the prole hanging up the washing, the prostitute.
Discussion moved to O’Brien. It was mooted that when O’Brien talks about “The Brotherhood”, he’s actually talking about the Inner Party – the fact that no member of the Inner Party knows more than 10 or so other members, the fact that they’re all willing to die for the cause.
Finally, we discussed what each member of the group would have in their own private Room 101. Apparently, if you put book club in a box filled with snakes, reptiles, bees and worms, on the edge of a cliff with a rogue dentist and a lack of drugs, you’d have a very scared group.
Surprisingly, the conversation didn’t degenerate into the heated discussion about Trump that we were expecting (possibly because the benevolent dictator wouldn’t allow it until after the book had been discussed).
Next month we’re trying sci-fi. Interesting times ahead!