1984 and all that

3 03 2011

David Taylor, George Orwell’s biographer, talked about the novel 1984  in Episode 4 of the BBC Programme The Beauty of Books this week. (Catch it on i-Player if you can.)

“One of the great advantages of 1984 in the 61 years of its existence is it always seems so contemporary. Whatever was going on in the world an echo could be struck in Orwell’s novel.” Publishers too have played their part in keeping the book contemporary.  The graphic is a selection of the covers that have appeared over the years.

I’m interested in this idea of remaining contemporary.  How do words published in 1954 maintain their voice today?  There’s an added fascination for me because 1954 was the year I was born and so I’m asking myself about my story too.  What’s my life about… today?

My Bible readings have taken me back to 2 Samuel – to David – the battles and the power struggles, the deceptions and intrigue, rivalry and forgiveness.  Contemporary themes, if thousands of miles and years adrift.   How do words written then and there maintain their voice today?How am I to read these stories?

Eugene Peterson is insightful-

“The biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, ‘Live into this. This is what it looks like to be human; this is what is involved in entering and maturing as human beings.’ We do violence to the biblical revelation when we ‘use’ it for what we can get out of it to what we think will provide colour and spice to our otherwise bland lives…

“The Samuel narrative will not allow that. In the reading..we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories, but to see ours in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.”

If you’re interested in storytelling, you might like to check out this YouTube interview with Eugene Peterson.

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