You Do Not Exist

“What have you done with Julia?” said Winston.

O’Brien smiled again. “She betrayed you, Winston. Immediately–unreservedly. I have seldom seen anyone come over to us so promptly. She is the perfect penitent. There is not a trace of rebellion or illusion left in her. She is washed absolutely–everything has been burned out of her. She is clean all through. She loves Big Brother.

“You tortured her.”

O’Brien left this unanswered. “Next question,” he said.

“Does Big Brother exist?”

“Of course he exists. The party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party.”

“Does he exist in the same way as I exist?” said Winston.

“You do not exist,” said O’Brien.

A sense of helplessness assailed Winston. He was no good at philosophy, at metaphysics. He knew, or he could imagine, the arguments which proved his non-existence; but they were nonsense, they were only a play on words.

Did not the statement,” You do not exist,” contain a logical absurdity? But what use was it to say so?  His mind quailed as he thought of the unanswerable, mad arguments, with which O’Brien would demolish him.

“I think I exist,” he said wearily.

 

1984,

George Orwell

[From Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Facsimile*]

 

* “The Facsimile” contains preliminary drafts of approximately half of the 1984 manuscript.  In some cases I have restored, Orwell original text, not the final version. That’s might not be proper but since you can see his own final choices as well, I am hoping no harm is done and maybe we can all consider the aliveness of all texts, even iconic masterpieces such as this.

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