From Orwell's own manuscript, new light on '1984'; Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Facsimile of the Extant Manuscript, by George Orwell. Edited by Peter Davison, with a preface by Daniel G. Siegel. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; and Weston, Mass.: M & S Press. 381 pp. $75.

Orwell took no trouble to preserve the early drafts of his finished work. It is only by chance that these mostly handwritten drafts of ''Nineteen Eighty-Four ,'' representing about 44 percent of the completed novel, have survived. They cover a good deal of the story, from start to near-finish.

Originally donated by Orwell's widow for sale at an auction in 1952 to benefit the Save the Children Fund and Youth Aliyah (a Zionist fund for refugee children), the manuscript was sold and resold until it came into the hands of Mr. Siegel, who agreed to its publication in this format. It has been edited by Prof. Peter Davison of the University of Kent, Canterbury, England.

Crystal-clear photographs of the manuscript are on the right-hand pages, with painstakingly exact and easily readable transcriptions on the facing pages. It is a very handsome book (weighing six pounds), beautifully produced. It contrasts poignantly both to the draft itself, written mostly on torn foolscap, and to the misery, deprivation, and terror set forth in Orwell's small, neat hand as he was gravely ill shortly before his death.

Reading these drafts, we see Orwell developing ''Newspeak'' in this scene where the hero, Winston Smith, hears the sinister O'Brien dictating an official message into a ''speakwrite'' machine:

''. . . it would comma in my opinion comma be vy unwise to proceed with the actual construction until the Committee is better informed abt the probable cost of machinery & other overheads stop end.''

Crossing this out, Orwell rewrites the passage in language far more chilling:

''. . . unproceed constructionwise antegetting plusfull estimates machinery overheads stop end message.''

Other revisions take the form of cuts, as Orwell, following his own prescription for good writing as outlined in ''Politics and the English Language ,'' prunes excess verbiage to free the core of meaning. But there are expansions as well: At the same meeting with O'Brien, Winston and Julia are given a taste of one of the many commodities that have disappeared from Oceania. In the first draft, O'Brien merely informs them that this ruby liquid is called ''wine.'' Expanding on this passage, Orwell makes the link between wine and other talismans of the vanished past more explicit, and he also provides a better sense of what is going on in Winston's mind, adding:

''. . . Wine was a thing he had read & dreamed abt. Like the glass paperweight or oranges & lemons, it belonged to the lost, romantic past, the olden time as he liked to call it in his private thoughts. . . . he had always thought of wine as having an intensely sweet taste, like honey . . . when he came to swallow it, the stuff was somewhat disappointing. Indeed, after years of gin-drinking, he could barely taste it.

It is something to have preserved so beautifully and in such permanent form the incomplete version of a novel about a totalitarian state that vaporizes human beings and erases all memory and history.

Reading the novel once again, one remembers that it is not only a warning about the perils of manipulating language, but also a portrait of economic deprivation as a tool for maintaining political oligarchy. It is, most of all, a warning about the worship of power and the contempt for individual feeling that goes with it.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.