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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