I’ve Read Nineteen Eighty-Four

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George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace are among the books people are most likely to have lied about reading, according to a poll. Two out of three people admitted lying about reading a particular book to impress someone, the survey released to mark World Book Day found. Charlie Brooker, like me, has read Nineteen Eighty Four.

I can’t say I’ve ever lied about reading a book, but I do wonder how many who criticize Charles Darwin have actually read his books.

What is it about War and Peace? I first read it when I was sixteen: my father (who I realized later had never read a book since he left school) accused me of just carrying the book around for show; when I protested that that was not the case (as it wasn’t), I was accused of not understanding it. Years later talking to a former USSR resident, we touched on the subject: she told me that in the Soviet schools it is read by the thirteen year olds – but confessed that she skipped the war passages to get to the romantic bits. A friend of mine bought a copy of War and Peace from a second hand shop in Oxford years ago, with its own bookmark listing all the characters and their relationships. He says he may not have got through it otherwise.

To be honest, I find it rather suspicious that Nineteen Eighty-Four comes top of the list. Why would people lie about that in particular? I’m also surprised by how many people lie about having read the whole of the Bible. I may be wrong but I can’t imagine very many people have read all of it or would expect to. I started a few years ago but eventually got stuck at Ezekiel because the cumulative effect of the whole thing was too depressing.



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