George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 has just hit the bestseller lists this week, probably because it’s about a totalitarian regime that discourages any possible dissent in a multitude of terrifying ways. Sales of the book in Britain and Australia have also risen 20 percent compared to a year ago.
What’s more, a theatrical adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan that has been previously staged in Britain several times, is about to get another reprisal–and this time, it’ll be headed for Broadway. The NY Times reports that British producer Sonia Friedman is partnering up with American producer Scott Rudin to bring the adaptation to the States, with a theatrical run starting on June 22nd at the Hudson Theater.
Orwell wrote the original novel back in 1949 as a reaction to the Soviet Union and Stalin, as well as the fears of a communist totalitarian regime arising in England, his home country. Orwell’s own thoughts on politics changed a lot over time; in some ways, one might characterize him as a “progressive” (he was against imperialism), but in other ways, he was more conservative, particularly in his later years. As a result, both left-wing and right-wing folks have tried to “claim” Orwell as one of their own, when neither label quite fits him.
Regardless of that, though, 1984 still holds up as a compelling criticism of totalitarianism. I also happen to think Animal Farm is pretty good, while we’re recommending Orwell books. It’s another example of a book that is nominally a criticism of communism, but which also serves as a criticism of dictators and cults of personality. So, still pretty topical, actually.
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