After Donald Trump assumed the role of president of the United States, sales of dystopian novels shot through the roof, and now George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Ray Bradbury are topping bestseller lists again. In 1988, the dystopian writer J.G. Ballard said, “Reality is now a kind of huge advertising campaign, selling television’s image of what life is about.” Today’s world feels to many like the kind of reality that Ballard might have conjured up.
On Friday, George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 saw its sales increase by 9,500 percent, as ranked by Signet Classics. The American publishers were faced with ordering an extra 100,000 copies of 1984, along with Animal Farm, according to the BBC. Orwell’s 1984 has sold 30 million copies since its release in 1948 and has never been out of print since it was originally written. The last serious spike in sales of this novel happened in 2013, during the time that saw Edward Snowden in the news.
The largest spike in sales of 1984 occurred immediately after Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s senior advisor, began using the term “alternative facts” to refer to Trump’s assertion that the media had been playing down attendance at his inauguration.
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
Andrew Simmons, a California history teacher and writer, explains that people are now reading 1984 as a sort of “safety valve” when imagining possible horror scenarios.
“The cultural mood in America is dystopian, particularly among people who read a lot of classic fiction. The president’s promise that he was the only person who could protect them does potentially echo for people the Party’s pattern of whipping up fear among the populace and then presenting them with a narrative trumpeting victory over the source of said fears.”
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, written in 1935, is also seeing a massive surge in sales today and is currently in the top 10 list of bestsellers. The time period in this book is set at 2450 and, unlike George Orwell’s 1984, citizens are happy participants in their slavery to totalitarianism. They are made complacent by a barrage of nonstop entertainment as well as drugs, technology and more than their fair share of material goods. Some have said that this book is even more in keeping with the times we live in today than 1984.
Neil Postman once stated that George Orwell and Aldous Huxley differed slightly in their views of a dystopian, futuristic society, with Orwell believing we would end up being held captive, whilst Huxley worried that we would grow into a culture obsessed by trivial things.
“Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.”
In the foreword to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Huxley describes a civilization which has come to love and cherish their own servitude.
“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, written in 1953, is another dystopian novel which is currently slotted in at number 15 in the Amazon chart. This book revolves around Guy Montag, who inhabits a lifetime in the 24th century. It is his job to burn not just illegal books, but also the homes of those who own these books. In Fahrenheit 451, the end of books is predicted, to be replaced by glaring television screens.
“With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be.”
Which of these dystopian novels that is topping lists again by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Ray Bradbury do you think is most relevant to life after Donald Trump and why?
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