Welcome to the latest in our series of audio adventures, Tales for Our Time: This month's pick is George Orwell's ever more timely tale Nineteen Eighty-Four. Thank you for your kind words about our opening episodes. Aly, a California member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes:
I didn't want it to end so I listened to it again! Both riveting and horrifying, the parallels with current events are many. I'd read it in high school but at the time it wasn't viewed as a cautionary tale as it seemed impossible and unthinkable that such a thing could ever occur in America.
Mark, thanks for choosing this modern classic which so perfectly exemplifies the show's title - Tales for Our Time.
Thank you, Aly. In tonight's episode, Winston Smith is startled by his neighbor's kids. Under Big Brother, children are recruited to serve in the state's youth group - not the Scouts, but the Spies. After all, many grown-ups are barely aware of the moppets hither and thither, so it's very useful to the Party to train them to monitor what the adults are up to, including their own parents. Even when they're not spying, their fierce loyalty to the Party can lend footling children's games a frisson of terror:
'Up with your hands!' yelled a savage voice.
A handsome, tough-looking boy of nine had popped up from behind the table and was menacing him with a toy automatic pistol, while his small sister, about two years younger, made the same gesture with a fragment of wood. Both of them were dressed in the blue shorts, grey shirts, and red neckerchiefs which were the uniform of the Spies. Winston raised his hands above his head, but with an uneasy feeling, so vicious was the boy's demeanour, that it was not altogether a game.
'You're a traitor!' yelled the boy. 'You're a thought-criminal! You're a Eurasian spy! I'll shoot you, I'll vaporize you, I'll send you to the salt mines!'
Suddenly they were both leaping round him, shouting 'Traitor!' and 'Thought-criminal!' the little girl imitating her brother in every movement. It was somehow slightly frightening, like the gambolling of tiger cubs which will soon grow up into man-eaters. There was a sort of calculating ferocity in the boy's eye, a quite evident desire to hit or kick Winston and a consciousness of being very nearly big enough to do so.
If you have friends who might appreciate Nineteen Eighty-Four or our other tales, we have a special Steyn Club Gift Membership that lets them in on that and all the other fun in The Mark Steyn Club.
If you've only joined the Steyn Club in recent days and missed our earlier serials (Conan Doyle's The Tragedy of the Korosko, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel, Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, plus Kipling, Kafka, Dickens, Gogol, Louisa May Alcott, Jack London, H G Wells, Scott Fitzgerald and more), you can find them all on our easy-to-access Netflix-style Tales for Our Time home page. Indeed, it's so easy to access that we've introduced a similar format for the audio editions of The Mark Steyn Show.
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To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and please join me tomorrow for Part Four of Nineteen Eighty-Four.