4 April 1984

One of my favourite opening sentences from a novel:
 
‘It was a bright cold day in April. and the clocks were striking thirteen.’
 
Gorgeous. Deceptively pedestrian start, then a smack in the face with something one recognizes — clocks striking the hour — yet not. Thirteen hundred hours is military time-keeping, not civilian time-keeping; the practice must be widespread because the clocks everywhere are striking thirteen. In fourteen words, two balanced co-orodinate clauses — and this sentence has to be a compound sentence, balance yet knocking off balance — Orwell SHOWS us we’re in a strange and perhaps threatening place. (We quickly learn that yes, this is a threatening place.)
 
Orwell’s prose is a joy.
 
The day Winston first writes in his diary is — he thinks — 4 April 1984.
 
I have a copy of the new Penguin edition pictured here. Brilliant cover design. The more you read and handle the book, the more the black censor’s bars fade.
 

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