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Posts Tagged ‘Evelyn Waugh

“Ideologies do not map the complete living processes of a World”*…

 

We expect maps to tell us the truth. That is their eternal promise. But maps can’t help lying to us. That is their original sin. To be more precise: the map’s lie (or sin) is one of omission. They show us just one version of the truth, carefully edited by the cartographer.

This map does one better: it gives us not one but two versions of reality. Both are contained within the same frame, staged on a single world, denoted by an identical set of shading. All you need to do is tilt the image a quarter turn, and the cartographic form reveals an alternate version of the truth, while remaining entirely commensurate with the first one.

Clever and simple, as most brilliant things are.

The map shows you the world as it is in Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s political parable of a dystopian future (he wrote it in 1948) in which the world is dominated by three totalitarian superstates.

The book is set in Airstrip One, “once called England or Britain”, a province of Oceania. This superstate covers North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and large parts of middle and western Africa.

The second superstate is Eurasia, which covers continental Europe, Russia all the way to the Bering Strait, a small sliver of North Africa and a big chunk of the Middle East and Central Asia. The smallest superpower, at least in area, is Eastasia, essentially China, Japan, Korea and the northern half of the Indian subcontinent.

These three superstates are engaged in a war for global dominance. The battle is fought in two contested zones: the Polar Front, covering the North Pole plus northern Greenland and bits northern Canada and Siberia; and the Equatorial Front, a zone stretching from North Africa via the Arabian peninsula and the southern half of the Indian subcontinent all the way to New Guinea.

No single superstate is strong enough to win a victory on its own. So one superstate allies itself with another against the third. But no single superstate is weak enough to be defeated by the other two. With alliances shifting over time according to perceived strategic advantages, this is an eternal war…

Winston Smith, Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s protagonist, works at the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to eradicate newly inconvenient truths from photos, newspaper archives and encyclopaedia entries. All evidence of what was previously self-evident and true must be destroyed by throwing it in the Memory Hole.

This map, by pointing out the before and after simultaneously, would have been tantamount to blasphemy. But, by pointing out the similarities between two opposites, it hints at the frightening ease with which an audience preconditioned to Doublethink can process cognitive dissonance in accordance with the ruling ideology.

Or, as David Kendall, who found this map here on The Visual Telling of Stories, puts it rather more straightforwardly: “You tell me that isn’t the most clever use of shading, orthography, and legend placement to ever grace the printed page.”

Read the whole story at “Orwellian Cartography 101: How to Tell Two Truths with One Map“… and remember: the map is not the territory.

* William Irwin Thompson

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As we toe the line, we might spare a thought for Orwell’s critical antagonist, Evelyn Waugh; he died on this date in 1966.  A prolific journalist and writer of non-fiction, Waugh is best remembered as a novelist (e.g., Decline and Fall,  A Handful of DustBrideshead Revisited, and his trilogy of Second World War novels, Sword of Honour.  Waugh was a “difficult” man; writer James Lees-Milne judged him “the nastiest-tempered man in England.”  Indeed, when asked by Nancy Mitford how he reconciled his often objectionable conduct with being a Christian, he replied that “were he not a Christian he would be even more horrible.”   On his passing, long-time acquaintance and photographer-to-the-stars Cecil Beaton reckoned that Waugh “died of snobbery,” observing  that “his abiding complex and the source of much of his misery was that he was not a six-foot tall, extremely handsome & rich duke.”

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Written by LW

April 10, 2014 at 1:01 am

Catching ’em in the act…

 

Ever had that sense of deja vu when reading a news posting online?  Well, the Sunlight Foundation has your back: they’ve created Churnalism— a simple search tool that let’s one quickly determine whether what one’s reading is “a product of real journalism or just a spin off of another story posted elsewhere.”

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As we root out the sources, we might recall that it was on this date in 1928 that Evelyn Waugh wrote a letter of protest to the Times Literary Supplement.  His complaint wasn’t that they’d misjudged his novel (Decline and Fall); their reaction was, like the book’s wider reception, quite warm.  Rather, he objected to the fact that throughout the review he was referred to as “Miss Waugh.”

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Written by LW

May 17, 2013 at 1:01 am

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