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86-year-old returns George Orwell's "1984" to library 65 years late, saying it needs to be read "more than ever"

A first-edition copy of George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" has finally been returned to the library from which it was borrowed – 65 years overdue. And the fine for doing so is even more surprising. 

The novel was first checked out from the Multnomah County Library in 1958. Then on May 16, the person who checked out the book returned it to the library along with a typed note. 

The borrower, identified only as "WP" in their note, said they meant to return it when they graduated from Portland State University that year, "but somehow never got around to doing it." 

"After re-reading, I realize that, more than ever, this book should be put back in circulation. Significant parts are as relevant today as they were 65 tears [sic] ago," they said. "...Sorry to be so tardy. At age 86, I wanted to finally clear my conscience." 

Fine-free libraries for the win! A patron recently returned this first edition copy of 1984 by George Orwell. It’s 65...

Posted by Multnomah County Library on Tuesday, June 13, 2023

They pointed specifically to the words at the top of page 207, saying that if you "add the words internet and social media," you will be "reading about 2023." 

"1984" is a dystopian novel published in 1949 that serves as a warning against totalitarianism, using its main character Winston Smith to show how the always-watching "Big Brother" government manipulates individuals to achieve its end goals.

The book soared back to popularity in 2017 amid the Trump administration touting "alternative facts" and spewing misinformation about a range of topics. That same year the film version of the story was also screened in nearly 200 movie theaters in the U.S. after then-President Trump's budget proposed to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, among other agencies. 

A photo of the book posted on Facebook by the library shows its exterior to still be in relatively good condition, with just a mild stain in its corner. And even though it's decades late, the fee for the delayed return is minor. In fact, it's non-existent. 

"Fine-free library for the win," the library wrote on Facebook, saying the book has Library Association of Portland stamp on its pages. "Conscience cleared." 

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