George Orwell’s classic book “1984,” about a dystopian future where critical thought is suppressed under a totalitarian regime, has seen a surge in sales this month, rising to the top of the Amazon best-seller list in the United States and leading its publisher to have tens of thousands of new copies printed.
Craig Burke, the publicity director at Penguin USA, said that the publisher had ordered 75,000 new copies of the book this week and that it was considering another reprint.
“We’ve seen a big bump in sales,” Mr. Burke said. He added that the rise “started over the weekend and hit hyperactive” on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Since Friday, the book has reached a 9,500 percent increase in sales, he said.
He said demand began to lift on Sunday, shortly after the interview Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to Donald J. Trump, gave on “Meet the Press.”
In defending a false claim by the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, that Mr. Trump had attracted the “largest audience ever to witness an inauguration,” Ms. Conway used a turn of phrase that struck some observers as similar to the dystopian world of “1984.”
When asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” why Mr. Spicer had said something that was provably false, Ms. Conway replied airily, “Don’t be so dramatic.”
Mr. Spicer, she said, “gave alternative facts.”
In the novel, the term “newspeak” refers to language in which independent thought, or “unorthodox” political ideas, have been eliminated. “Doublethink” is defined as “reality control.”
On social media and elsewhere on Sunday, the book’s readers made a connection between Ms. Conway’s comments and Orwell’s language, and the attention on the book “kind of took a life of its own,” Mr. Burke said.
The dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster described the interview as “fraught with epistemological tension.” The dictionary also reported that searches for the word “fact” spiked after Ms. Conway’s comments, and then, as an apparent reminder, tweeted the dictionary’s definition.
"The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."
— George Orwell, "1984"
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) January 23, 2017
Even outside the United States, interest in “1984” has grown. So far this year, sales have risen by 20 percent in Britain and Australia compared to the same period a year ago, according to Jess Harrison, a London-based editor at Penguin Books. The novel is usually a best-seller, she said, and it sold 100,000 copies last year in English-speaking countries outside the United States and Canada. “But we’ve definitely seen an uplift” in sales, she added.
Dystopian novels are “chiming with people,” Ms. Harrison said, adding that “The Man in The High Castle” by Philip Dick, an alternative history in which the Nazis defeated America to win World War II, is also selling well. A television series based on Mr. Dick’s novel is now in its second season at Amazon.
Penguin also published Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here,” about the rise of a demagogue, last Friday in Britain for the first time since 1935, “and we’re already on to our third printing.”
On Wednesday, that book was also ranking among Amazon’s best sellers, as was Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” another dystopian classic.
Prof. Stefan Collini, a professor of intellectual history and an expert on Orwell at the University of Cambridge, said that readers see a natural parallel between the book and the way Mr. Trump and his staff have distorted facts.
“Everyone remembers ‘1984’ as containing various parodies of official distortions,” he said.
“That kind of unreality that is propagated as reality is what people feel reminded of, and that’s why they keep coming back.”
Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950), who used the pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist,essayist, journalist and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism.
Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction, and polemical journalism. He is best known for his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945). His non-fiction works, including The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), documenting his experience of working class life in the north of England, and Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, are widely acclaimed, as are his essays on politics, literature,language, and culture. In 2008, The Times ranked him second on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”.
Orwell’s work continues to influence popular and political culture, and the term Orwellian – descriptive of totalitarian orauthoritarian social practices – has entered the language together with many of his neologisms, including cold war, Big Brother, thought police, Room 101, memory hole, newspeak, doublethink, and thoughtcrime.
Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel by English author George Orwell published in 1949. The novel is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation. The superstate and its residents are dictated to by a political regime euphemistically named English Socialism, shortened to “Ingsoc” in Newspeak, the government’s invented language. The superstate is under the control of the privileged elite of the Inner Party, a party and government that persecutesindividualism and independent thinking as “thoughtcrime“, which is enforced by the “Thought Police“.
The tyranny is ostensibly overseen by Big Brother, the Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist. The Party “seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power.” The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party, who works for the Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue in Newspeak), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to rewrite past newspaper articles, so that the historical record always supports the party line. The instructions that the workers receive specify the corrections as fixing misquotations and never as what they really are: forgeries and falsifications. A large part of the Ministry also actively destroys all documents that have been edited and do not contain the revisions; in this way, no proof exists that the government is lying. Smith is a diligent and skillful worker but secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother. The heroine of the novel, Julia, is based on Orwell’s second wife, Sonia Orwell.
As literary political fiction and dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered into common use since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian orauthoritarian state. In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 13 on the editor’s list, and 6 on the readers’ list. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 8 on the BBC‘s survey The Big Read.
Sales of the book increased nearly 6000% for a short time in 2013 after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of a U.S. surveillance program created under the Obama Administration to the public. More recently, in January 2017, the novel has again become a best-selling book, seemingly in response to apparent attempts by members of organized groups or individuals, such as Buzzfeed or Kellyanne Conway, to present and perpetuate possible misinformation.