Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Orwell’s ‘1984’ becomes a best-seller in Trump era

NY Times News Service

George Orwell’s 1984, a literary classic 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.com best-seller list in the US and leading its publisher to have tens of thousands of new copies printed.

Penguin USA publicity director Craig Burke 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,” Burke said.

The rise “started over the weekend and hit hyperactive” on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, he said, adding that since Friday last week, the book has seen a 9,500 percent increase in sales.

Demand began to lift on Sunday, shortly after the interview that Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to US President Donald Trump, gave on NBC’s Meet the Press.

In defending a false claim by White House press secretary Sean Spicer that Trump had attracted the “largest audience ever to witness an inauguration,” Conway used a turn of phrase that struck some observers as similar to the dystopian world of 1984.

When asked why Spicer had said something that was probably false, Conway replied: “Don’t be so dramatic.”

Spicer “gave alternative facts,” she said.

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 Conway’s comments and Orwell’s language, and the attention on the book “kind of took a life of its own,” Burke said.

Dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster described the interview as “fraught with epistemological tension.”

The dictionary also reported that searches for the word “fact” spiked after Conway’s comments, and then, as an apparent reminder, tweeted the dictionary’s definition.

Even outside the US, interest in 1984 has grown. So far this year, sales have risen by 20 percent in Britain and Australia compared with the same period a year ago, said Jess Harrison, a London-based editor at Penguin Books.

The novel is usually a best-seller, and sold 100,000 copies last year in English-speaking countries outside the US and Canada, she said.

“But we’ve definitely seen an uplift” in sales, she added.

Dystopian novels are “chiming with people,” Harrison said, adding that The Man in The High Castle by Philip Dick, an alternative history in which the Nazis defeated the US to win World War II, is also selling well.

A television series based on Dick’s novel is now in its second season at Amazon.com.

Penguin also published Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, about the rise of a demagogue, on Friday last week 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.com’s best sellers, as was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, another dystopian classic.

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 that 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.”

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