Orwell – A Celebration: 1984, Torture

  • Clare Algar (executive director of Reprieve)
  • Glen Newey (Professor of Politics and International Relations at Keele University)
  • Chaired by Jean Seaton (director of the Orwell Prize)

The last of four panel discussions celebrating the 60th anniversary of 1984 and 70th anniversary of Coming Up for Air in conjunction with Orwell: A Celebration.

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

The interrogation scene at the end of 1984 is a chilling lesson in torture, its effect on the one being tortured, and its effect on the one doing the torturing. 60 years after Orwell wrote 1984 in the aftermath of the Second World War, torture is again at the forefront at the news agenda. Why does an individual, and why does a state, turn to torture? Can it ever be justified? How surprising is it that in 2009, it is still being conducted, and will it continue? And what else in Orwell’s work – notably his concern with the misuse of language – is relevant?

  • Clare Algar’s presentation

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