To Julia (second letter)

Dear Julia,
I found a new edition of George Woodcock’s book Orwell’s Message: 1984 and the Present. He lived here in Vancouver for years (until his death in 1995). I never met him. I never met Orwell either (he died before I was born — not long after his arguments with Woodcock about pacifism and the war against the fascists). I think they disguised themselves as writers. They never accepted the division of labor. I still don’t pretend to understand you though. Perhaps writing to you again like this will only exacerbate my confusion over your existence.
You continue to inhabit multiple figures simultaneously: a fictional character, an actual person (the actor Suzanna Hamilton), and a character suspected of standing in for someone (or a composite of people) Orwell had private relations with. You look and sound like Hamilton to me (as she was in the film adaptation of 1984 from 1984). You’re Hamilton and you’re not. I saw you as her before I saw her as you. I still don’t get it.
The mystery of all this is arresting. It’s seductive and frightening. It’s as disturbing as any other rupture of rational deduction and established laws of the universe. It’s like having your thoughts read. I’ve written to you about this before, but I’ve since realized that you hover out of time and will never receive or read this stuff.
You are an ongoing point of departure — an absent presence. I look at an image of Hamilton then (1984) and an image of her now (2009), and find that aging has not obscured a kind of constancy (but I can’t say of what exactly). It’s been twenty five years since I first saw an image of her/you and this feeling, this sense of something ongoing, remains the same. I am always being transported back to that first moment of intuitive recognition. The future keeps collapsing into the past, and I’m left at a loss for words.
Is this “timelessness” achieved through Literature, through Art? Woodcock argues that 1984 hybridizes disparate literary genres. He dismisses claims that the novel is, for the most part, a reworking of particular dystopia/utopia traditions (some kind of construction/deconstruction of an ideal society). His discussion of the Gothic in relation to the characters and plot is new to me, at least on a conscious level. Horror and romance now seem to engulf the text. Any reduction of the work to a simplistic, propaganda-oriented diatribe about the formation of a postwar global order has been irrevocably complicated. Are you Orwell’s female Gothic protagonist? Are you trapped within an entirely domesticated, almost infantile space — a cage completely inscribed by The Father (or in this case, Big Brother)? Is all of this somehow connected to that seemingly eternal something I can’t quite describe?
Your dangerous, risk-laden behaviors act as transgressions, but they also seem to be part of an elaborate predatory fantasy (perhaps Orwell’s own) about an erotic, youthful subversive as object of desire. Winston Smith/George Orwell remembers what life was like before The Party. He has been beaten down. His confidence has been infiltrated, compromised, but you have never known anything else. You proceed skillfully and without hesitation in your pursuit of pleasure. He feels he must possess you to find himself again.
It’s also possible that you extend completely beyond these kinds of scenarios — that you exist outside of any phallocentric ordering of things. Your desires might escape all points of reference or understanding. Perhaps you embody the “ineffable jouissance of the Other”.
You are definitely beyond me. I’ve often found myself feeling hopeful, even comforted, because of this. It’s got nothing to do with “radical” re-inventions of subjectivity or any agency in difference. This something I’m trying to understand about you doesn’t proliferate markets, alternative lifestyles or cultural capital. What seems constant about you is related, I think, to what allowed Woodcock-The-Anarchist and Orwell-The-Socialist to be friends in the first place. It also has something to do with their impersonations of writers.
They were able to recognize an eventual submission of all formulation, culture, ideology, language, reason, etc, to the transition of power from a means to an end — but they also acknowledged the persistence of revolutionary need. The inherent intelligence and empathic vitality of people, qualities which keep promising to bind us together as a human family, are perhaps retained in bearing witness to this persistence.
Much like yourself, this process is not necessarily of the past at all, but of an ongoing emotional (perhaps even bodily) anticipation of possibility and connection. It’s like remembering that you’re thinking a thought. It is forever resisting a history of forgetting. It is also unforgettable, and yet so hard to articulate, so difficult to abstract. We just live it.
jeremy