George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four Will Be Retold from a Woman’s Point of View

Nine­teen Eighty-Four has been a byword for total­i­tar­i­an dystopia longer than most of us have been read­ing books. But apart from its the title and cer­tain words from its invent­ed “newspeak” — dou­ble­plus­goodunper­son, thought­crime — how deeply is George Orwell’s best-known nov­el embed­ded into the cul­ture? Most of us rec­og­nize the name Win­ston Smith, and many of us may even remem­ber details of his job at the Min­istry of Truth, where the facts of his­to­ry are con­tin­u­al­ly rewrit­ten to suit ever-shift­ing polit­i­cal exi­gen­cies. But how much do we know about the oth­er major char­ac­ter: Julia, Win­ston’s fel­low min­istry employ­ee who becomes his clan­des­tine co-dis­si­dent and for­bid­den lover?

“In some ways she was far more acute than Win­ston, and far less sus­cep­ti­ble to Par­ty pro­pa­gan­da,” writes Orwell in Nine­teen Eighty-Four. “But she only ques­tioned the teach­ings of the Par­ty when they in some way touched upon her own life. Often she was ready to accept the offi­cial mythol­o­gy, sim­ply because the dif­fer­ence between truth and false­hood did not seem impor­tant to her.” Juli­a’s amoral­i­ty throws the rigid­i­ty of Win­ston’s own atti­tudes into con­trast, and also shows up their imprac­ti­cal­i­ty. Now, in the hands of nov­el­ist San­dra New­man, Julia will become not just star of the sto­ry but its nar­ra­tor.

Or so it looks, at least, from the brief pas­sage quot­ed in the Guardian’s announce­ment of Julia, a re-telling of Nine­teen Eighty-Four approved by Orwell’s estate and to be pub­lished in time for the 75th anniver­sary of the orig­i­nal. Though it has no firm pub­li­ca­tion date yet, Julia will come out some time after New­man’s next book The Men, in which, as the Guardian’s Ali­son Flood puts it, “every sin­gle per­son with a Y chro­mo­some van­ish­es from the world.” It will join an abun­dance of recent retellings from the wom­an’s point of view, includ­ing every­thing from “Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, a ver­sion of the Ili­ad from the per­spec­tive of Bri­seis, to Mag­gie O’Farrell’s Ham­net, which cen­ters on the life of Shakespeare’s wife.”

Entrust­ing a lit­er­ary prop­er­ty to a writer of anoth­er era, cul­ture, and sen­si­bil­i­ty is a tricky busi­ness, but there arguably has nev­er been a more oppor­tune time to put out a book like Julia. It seems the dystopia-hun­gry pub­lic has nev­er been read­ier to iden­ti­fy the “Orwellian” in life, nor more respon­sive to re-inter­pre­ta­tions and expan­sions of long-estab­lished bod­ies of pop­u­lar myth. And what with women hav­ing con­quered the world of fic­tion, there will nat­u­ral­ly be great inter­est in Juli­a’s take on life under Big Broth­er — as well as in its inevitable tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tion.

via The Guardian/Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch the Live TV Adap­ta­tion of George Orwell’s Nine­teen Eighty-Four, the Most Con­tro­ver­sial TV Dra­ma of Its Time (1954)

George Orwell’s 1984 Staged as an Opera: Watch Scenes from the 2005 Pro­duc­tion in Lon­don

Aldous Hux­ley to George Orwell: My Hell­ish Vision of the Future is Bet­ter Than Yours (1949)

George Orwell Iden­ti­fies the Main Ene­my of the Free Press: It’s the “Intel­lec­tu­al Cow­ardice” of the Press Itself

George Orwell’s Final Warn­ing: Don’t Let This Night­mare Sit­u­a­tion Hap­pen. It Depends on You!

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (8)
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  • Emmanuel Goldstein says:

    How to rake in cash for the min­i­mal amount of effort, whilst still man­ag­ing to claim cred­it as a SERIOUS AUTHOR in two easy steps:

    1. Take an estab­lished, well known, book that exists with­in the col­lec­tive con­scious­ness of the pub­lic. There­by ensur­ing loads of free pub­lic­i­ty, whilst also ensur­ing you don’t have to do any­thing dif­fi­cult like think up a plot, or char­ac­ters, or a com­pelling world of your own.

    2. “Re-write” said book by sim­ply chang­ing the per­spec­tive from one char­ac­ter to anoth­er, try­ing if pos­si­ble to make the new main char­ac­ter ™ a woman. This guar­an­tees sev­er­al things: 1. You don’t have to actu­al­ly do any real work (see point 1), 2: You can imme­di­ate­ly dis­miss any­one who crit­i­cis­es your work as the shame­less cash grab it is a “misog­y­nist”, 3: In fact you won’t even need to do that, as you’ll have a hoard of bay­ing lunatics ready to engage in a two minute hate on any­one who does­n’t toe the par­ty line (iron­ic would­n’t you say?)

  • Alan says:

    By far the most inter­est­ing char­ac­ter in We, the book that inspired 1984, is the female char­ac­ter I‑330, an actu­al rev­o­lu­tion­ary, unlike Julia. You can read Orwell’s 1946 review of Zamy­at­in’s book here:

  • Johnnymalone says:

    Sounds awful. Women dont resist. They’re sub­mis­sive by nature. This is just gonna be straight up pan­der­ing

  • BenjaminMorgenstern says:

    There were no dis­abled Black veg­an char­ac­ters in 1984. There actu­al­ly is a woman char­ac­ter by the name of Julia in 1984, which you’d know if you’d ever read it. What’s wrong with telling the sto­ry from her per­spec­tive?

  • BenjaminMorgenstern says:

    Women don’t resist? Sophie Scholl, Josephine Bak­er, the Moth­ers of The Dis­a­peared, the female par­ti­sans of WW2…none of these were women? You’re laugh­able!

  • Kez says:

    It’s just a lazy and tired way to come up with a new nov­el. Why not write your own dystopi­an nov­el with a female per­spec­tive instead? Must be the TV rights.

  • Scott says:

    The Minestry of Truth approves.

  • Robert moore says:

    Well of course, kind of a self ful­fill­ing prophe­cy

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