Traveling with Orwell is a dystopia, in which old man Pavle tells stories in a bar in Ljubljana to anyone who is willing to listen to him and buy him a glass of wine. The stories are set in 2049, taking place in seven European capitals: Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Rome, Brussels, London and Ljubljana.
The author Jože Biščak does not describe the future as a society of progress, where people live better. All stories are, without exception, miserable, due to what is happening in the present: the mass arrival of different cultures from the African and Arab world collides with Western European culture. Values are so different that conflict is inevitable and further ignited by individuals who want to destroy century-old traditions in Europe and therefore join the invaders.
The influence of Orwell on the book is obvious, but with one essential difference. If in Orwell’s works, a system is to be blamed for the suffering and tyranny of ordinary people who would like to live freely and in accordance with their values, in Biščak’s book it is man’s fault.
“Traveling to the future is always a risky act, because it may soon turn out that it is not fiction and the future is already here. In Jože Biščak’s stories “Traveling with Orwell” – regardless of the fact that they are taking place in the near future – we can recognise our time. All the writer’s “exaggerations” quickly turn out to be something that has already happened somewhere one way or another. The stories speak and point to the complete decline of European civilisation, which is already occurring now and which brings with it totalitarianisms of unimaginable proportions. Under the disguise of liberating everyone from everything, freedom in slavery, the novel depicts a time that forces us to think about how to resist it. The author does not provide an answer, we have to find it ourselves,” wrote Vinko Vasle, a long-time journalist and editor and writer about Biščak’s book. Journalist and publicist Zlata Krašovec added: “But the terrible future is already here. Because we do not want to understand the present, the future will be a single brutal suppression of everything normal. In the midst of this bloody rift, we are surprised by the tenacity of the good. Oppressed people cling to the values of family, patriotism, honesty, truth, love… the seeds that bear fruit when they die. ”
The end of the story is interesting and surprising, as George Orwell is included in the book. He comes to the bar and we learn that him and old man Pavle are old friends and fellow time travelers.
“The novel is fiction. The main characters and stories in the book are fictional. Any resemblance to people and events in the present is purely coincidental,” Biščak writes in his address to readers. “Nevertheless, the book should be a reminder to future generations and hopefully they will not wake up one day and realise that fiction has become their reality.”
The book will be published in English in early 2021.
Here is a short excerpt from the chapter
“Everything was ready in the Great Hall of the Central Court of London at Mecca Gardens. The space was open, nicely decorated. The walls were lined with brass, the large windows scaling high above the floor all the way to gold ornaments on the ceiling. Except for a bench, there was no other furniture. Stratton sat on a long bench with his head wound dressed. It still hurt him. Although he received a severe blow and was bleeding, he was not taken to the hospital. In custody, he was only just patched up and thrown into solitary confinement.
It seemed as if the minutes are lasting forever when James Blake and Imam Amin Al-Sudais finally arrived. They sat on the upholstered rustic chairs. They looked like thrones studded with precious stones, though those glittering beads on the frames were just stained glass. They did not hesitate long before beginning the trial.
“Are you going to say anything?” Blake beckoned Stratton.
The academic felt wetness on his back. It sent a chill down his spine. At some other time, he would have a long defence. Maybe someone would even listen to him. This time there were only seven of them in the hall; if he excluded himself, all hostile to him. Without a jury, which was not present because of the gravity of the crime and its secrecy, there was no point in saying anything. The very absurdity of the moment made him hum to himself. When one of the officers warned him to respect the court, he stopped.
“What about you, what about you?” Stratton asked.
“You’re not here to ask questions.”
“Who is? Black clouds are not approaching England, they have covered it a long time ago, streaks of lightning have long been cutting through our culture, tradition, religion. The corrupt elites have betrayed this lineage, their nation. For as long as I can remember, you, Judge Blake, have sown hatred and destroyed what was sacred to us. You despised generations of our famous ancestors, their descendant and my friend Godfrey paid with his life. He did not hurt anyone, he mourned for his family, which was brutally trampled by the believers of Allah, close to the place where Judge Al-Sudais loves to go.
“He is our enemy, not me; his believers are our enemies, not us who humbly raise our hands to our God while his adherents rage through our streets, attacking, raping, robbing, and killing. Did you want that? Genocide over us? Do you think that you are succeeding, do you think the Islamic rabble will be lenient with you when they start settling the score with the patriots?”
Stratton was thrown naked on the ground, his legs spread while three Muslims pressed him firmly to the floor, and the chief executioner drove a pointed part of a nearly three-meter-long stake into his anus. They were real masters among the torturers, ensuring not to damage his internal organs. When the stake measuring fifteen centimetres in diameter at the bottom, came out of the body between the head and shoulders at the nape of the neck, it was placed upright and stuck in a quarter-meter-deep hole. Blake, who was watching at first, turned away, got up, and left. Al-Sudais glanced at him accusingly, but that did not spoil his satisfaction. He felt kind of at home, Allah is truly great. (…)
Stratton passed away in excruciating pain the afternoon of the next day. The execution was broadcasted live for twenty-two hours, and almost a billion people around the world watched the slow death of the infidel. “