Prologues and their influence in the reading of a book

November 29, 2006

I understand prologues when they are an introduction of the author, but I cannot understand those long prologues with views about the work they are introducing.

I followed the advice I had from Richard, who is very fond of George Orwell’s works, and finally decided to buy “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. The prologue of the novel I bought was written by Ben Pimlott, a Warden of Goldsmiths College, University of London, and the prologue seems more a criticism than an introduction of Orwell.

Some prologues I have read in other works are in my opinion a brainwashing of potential readers making them read with a preconceived idea about their contents, and in the case of the prologue I am commenting I must check to see if what I will  think about the work coincides with what Pimlot thinks of it, something that will hamper my freedom of understanding. In a sentence Pimlott says: “Not only has the supposed warning been largely wrong within its time-span (there has, so far, been no third world war or Western revolution, and totalitarian systems are not more but less common than forty years ago)…”

I dissent. What happens today is that there exist totalitarian regimes, more perhaps than existed when Orwel wrote his novel, only that these totalitarian regimes are disguised under a democratic veneer which hides the true substance of totalitarianism. We have seen how by blaming terror for it, President Bush has adopted measures which, in some cases, are contested by the Judicial power, measure that attempt flagrantly against the rights and liberties of the American citizens.

The Labour government in Britain is following the same pattern, although in this case its steps are taken with more prudence.

I will keep comparing Orwell’s work with what Pimlott comments in his prologue, but I must state I usually refuse to read prologues because they, in many cases, try to conduct your way of thinking on the contents of the works.


One Response to “Prologues and their influence in the reading of a book”

  1. Richard said

    I agree Jose – and so avoid Ben Pimlott’s Prologue.

    With that said, my dog-eared 1964 Heinemann copy, which I picked up in an old second-hand bookshop in the early 1990’s, has an Introduction by Stephen Spender – it is more sympathetic than Pimlott’s…and this is what Spender says in the final paragraph :

    “Orwell perhaps lacked poetry, but, looking at our modern world of idealogies and wars, he echoes the message of Wilfred Owen, the greatest poet of the First World War : ‘All a poet can do today is to warn’.
    1984 remains, by and large,a necessary warning.”

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