Martin Tyrrell’s review of Dorian Lynskey’s The Ministry of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell’s 1984, generated considerable activity on social media, and a small postbag.
Patrick Heenan writes: In “The Glimmer” (drb, September 1st, 2019) Martin Tyrrell writes that what he calls “the Appendix Theory” (that Nineteen Eighty-Four ends with a glimmer of hope) was “first propounded, as far as I can see, by Margaret Atwood more than fifteen years ago”. The theory has surely been around much longer than that. For instance, a teacher suggested it to an O-Level English class I was in forty-five years ago and most of us duly included it in our answers to the exam question on the novel.
In any case, Ms Atwood, who put the theory forward in ““Orwell and Me” (The Guardian, June 16th, 2003), was in fact scooped by Thomas Pynchon. He had put it forward some weeks earlier, in “The Road to 1984” (The Guardian, May 3rd, 2003), a version of his introduction to a new edition of the novel.
I now look forward to someone finding a version of the theory published before May 2003.
Mike Jackson writes: Martin Tyrrell writes: “For years, decades, the published text of Nineteen Eighty-Four included a scene, towards the end, where Winston writes in the dust ‘2+2= ‘ Eventually (I have it in my head it was in 1984 itself), that blank was identified as a printer’s error and fixed to ‘2+2=5’.” Sorry, but wrong. My Signet edition of the book, 14th printing, May 1956, has “2+2=5″, and of course the error may have been fixed long before.”
The article also says, about the “message of hope” implied by the use of the past tense in the Appendix, “That message is the Appendix. It is not in the Appendix. It is the Appendix itself. This is the Appendix Theory first propounded, as far as I can see, by Margaret Atwood more than fifteen years ago.” Mr Tyrrell is underestimating the vigor of circles unknown to him. I can state with certain recollection that the “Appendix Theory” was noticed and vigorously discussed in my junior high school English class in 1956. Of course, we were all far away from Belfast, but that is not necessarily a good reason for making us unpersons.
Martin Tyrrell responds: Thanks to Patrick Heenan and Mike Jackson for their comments, and happy to be corrected on the dating of the Appendix theory. It would indeed be interesting to know who first came up with it and whether it should be considered glimmer or gaffe. As for “2+2 = “. Sorry, but right! At least as far as Penguin’s 1954 UK paperback edition is concerned. In my copy (dated 1979 and the 33rd printing of that particular version) Winston, on p 233, unambiguously writes “2+2 = “. Five years later I went to a talk by Bernard Crick at Queen’s. That blank was a misprint, he said. Any faint hope we might have had that Winston was resilient should be extinguished. In future editions it was fixed to “=5”.
The drb nervously suggests: Perhaps the reason for the discrepancy between the evidence of Mike Jackson’s eyes and the evidence of Martin Tyrrell’s is that we are talking about an American edition (Signet) and a British one (Penguin) and two entirely separate typesetting operations, allowing for the possibility of differences in the texts introduced by human error. Just suggesting …