1984: ¿pellizco, plagio o cover?
La novela fundamental de George Orwell, 1984, cumplió este lunes 60 años de publicada y en el blog de The Guardian Paul Owen le hace un extraño homenaje: dice que Orwell se inspiró ("pellizcó" literalmente anuncia en el título del post: "1984 thoughtcrime? Does it matter that George Orwell pinched the plot?") en la trama de una novela editada en Rusia en 1924, titulada We y escrita por el desconocido Yevgeny Zamyatin. Orwell había reseñado para Tribune la novela rusa tres años antes de publicar 1984.
Orwell reviewed We for Tribune in 1946, three years before he published Nineteen Eighty-Four. In his review, he called Zamyatin's book an influence on Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, though Huxley always denied anything of the sort. "It is in effect a study of the Machine," Orwell wrote of We, "the genie that man has thoughtlessly let out of its bottle and cannot put back again. This is a book to look out for when an English version appears." He seems to have taken his own advice.
El parecido, según Owen, es obvio. Incluso aparece un Gran Hermano con el nombre de El Benefactor. La columna vertebral de ambas obras son idénticas. No hay duda de que Owen quiso hacer un cover de la novela rusa. Sin embargo, a pesar de que se le reconoce a Zamyatin algunos méritos literarios, según el autor del post la novela de Orwell es absolutamente superior y eso disculpa cualquier "pellizco". Dice:
So does it matter that Orwell borrowed plot and characters from the earlier book? After all, it seems clear that he made a superior work of literature out of them. Nineteen Eighty-Four's importance comes not so much from its plot as from its immense cultural impact, which was recognised almost immediately when it won the £357 Partisan Review prize for that year's most significant contribution to literature, and which has continued to this day. Most of the aspects and ideas of the novel that still resonate so strongly in political life are his own: newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrime, the Thought Police, Room 101; the extreme use of propaganda, censorship and surveillance; the rewriting of history; labels and slogans that mean the opposite of what they say; the role for Britain implied in the name Airstrip One. References to these things pervade all levels of our culture. Apart from the obvious, I remember an amusing NME review of an album by the laddish band Cast that read: "Imagine a trainer stamping on a human face ... for ever." In addition, unlike We, Nineteen Eighty-Four is written with expert control in an accessible style about a world recognisably our own, and its twists of plot – including the existence (or not) of the Brotherhood resistance movement – are gripping, sophisticated and convincing. The dark, pessimistic tone of Nineteen Eighty-Four is also all Orwell's. If any aspect of We takes the shine off Nineteen Eighty-Four, it's that Orwell lifted that powerful ending – Winston's complete, willing capitulation to the forces and ideals of the state – from Zamyatin. It's a wonderful, wrenching twist, in both books, and a perfect conclusion, though We and Nineteen Eighty-Four differ slightly in the fate of the female dissident: I-330 is killed without giving up her beliefs, whereas Julia is broken in the same way as Winston. Perhaps We deserves more recognition than it has had, but if Nineteen Eighty-Four had never existed, it is extremely doubtful Zamyatin's book would have come to fill the unique place Orwell's work now occupies. Nineteen Eighty-Four is an almanac of all the political ideas no "right-thinking" person would ever want their government to countenance, and the word Orwellian has come to signify a badge of shame intended to shut down any movement in that direction – with an imperfect record of success.