A Complete Reading of George Orwell’s 1984: Aired on Pacifica Radio, 1975

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Thus, with one of the best-known opening sentences in all English literature, begins George Orwell’s 1984, the novel that even 67 years after its publication remains perhaps the most oft-referenced vision of totalitarianism’s takeover of the modern Western world. Its fable-like power has, in fact, only intensified over the decades, which have seen it adapted into various forms for film, television, the stage (David Bowie even dreamed of putting on a 1984 musical), and, most often, the radio.

In recent years we’ve featured radio productions of 1984 from 1949, 1953, and 1965. On their program From the Vault, the Pacifica Radio network has just finished bringing out of the archives their own 1975 broadcast of the novel as read by morning-show host Charles Morgan.

Neither an all-out radio drama nor a straight-ahead audiobook-style reading, Pacifica’s 1984 uses sound effects and voice acting (some contributed by June Foray, of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame) to tell the story of Winston Smith and his inner and outer struggle with the repressive, all-seeing, language-distorting government of the superstate of Oceania (and the city of Airstrip One, formerly known as England) that surrounds him.

It makes sense that Pacifica would put the whole of Orwell’s dire novelistic warning on the airwaves. Founded just after World War II by a group of former conscientious objectors, its first station, KPFA in Berkeley, California, began broadcasting in the year of 1984‘s publication. As it grew over subsequent decades, the listener-funded Pacifica radio network gained a reputation for both its political engagement and its unconventional uses of the medium. (The Firesign Theater, the troupe that arguably perfected the art of the dense, multi-layered studio comedy album, got their start at Pacifica’s Los Angeles station KPFK.) Every era, it seems, produces its own 1984, and this one sounds as resonant in the 21st century — a time even Orwell dared not imagine — as it must have in the 1970s.

You can hear Part 1 of Pacifica’s 1984 at the top of the post, then follow these links to all ten parts on their Soundcloud page: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, Part 8Part 9Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13.

Related Content:

Hear the Very First Adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 in a Radio Play Starring David Niven (1949)

Hear George Orwell’s 1984 Adapted as a Radio Play at the Height of McCarthyism & The Red Scare (1953)

Hear a Radio Drama of George Orwell’s 1984, Starring Patrick Troughton, of Doctor Who Fame (1965)

George Orwell’s 1984 Staged as an Opera: Watch Scenes from the 2005 Production in London

David Bowie Dreamed of Turning George Orwell’s 1984 Into a Musical: Hear the Songs That Survived the Abandoned Project

George Orwell Explains in a Revealing 1944 Letter Why He’d Write 1984

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Comments (4)
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  • samir says:

    so many ads on this page that I cannot find the dwload link.
    beats the purpose.

  • Sven says:

    13 parts of a 10-part series? What kind of doublethink is this?

  • Terence Arthur Berrecloth says:

    Dear sirs/ madams
    I write to seek your aid to assist an 85 year old man obtain audio recordings of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 and any recordings of any of his earlier writings.
    Please spell the method as simply as my tired old brain can understand.
    About sixty years ago I read Animal farm and 1984 . Undoubtedly the message to me was “ moderation” on all views. Born of a council house.(in Kent) Father..Labour
    5 year engineering apprenticeship. In charge of commissioning the largest cold store in Asia in Bengal age 21. Joined a Hong Kong based British trading 10 years.
    Started my own Engineering company employing one mechanic and one typist.
    Played Rugby, represented HongKong in International. Learnt to Sail .crossed the
    South China Sea . Sailing master , Skippered several Yachts sailing Asian waters.
    Sold my Business in 1995 then consisting of large Air conditioning works ( 76 level tall buildings. Plumbing 10;000 government housing. Air cleaning air duct systems in high rise buildings.
    Equiped and Sailed own 55foot Sailboat across The China sea, the North Pacific and South Pacific oceans to Australia..Snow skied off 24,000 feet in Kashmir
    Racesd cars I’m Asia .in first tam to cross China in Rally cars . I still love to rally the wild outback of Australia..
    Now sadly slowed dawn , requiring twice weekly Dialysis thus the need for your help to listen to the great writers of recent history. Thank you
    Terence Arthur Berrecloth . I look forward to your response.!

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