Feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four approved by Orwell’s estate | Books

The estate of George Orwell has approved a feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which reimagines the story from the angle of Winston Smith’s lover Julia.

Opening with one of literature’s most well-known strains – “It was a vibrant chilly day in April, and the clocks have been hanging 13” – Orwell’s 1949 novel is about in a dystopian future the place Nice Britain, often called Airstrip One, is an element of the totalitarian state of Oceania. Huge Brother guidelines supreme and the Thought Police stamp out any particular person considering. Winston Smith works at The Ministry of Fact, rewriting historical past to swimsuit Huge Brother’s narrative. He begins a forbidden affair with Julia – who works on the novel-writing machines within the Fiction Division – till each are captured and despatched for re-education through Room 101.

Julia by Sandra Newman
Julia by Sandra Newman {Photograph}: Granta

In Julia by Sandra Newman, the incidents of Nineteen Eighty-Four are seen by way of the girl’s eyes. “It was the person from Data who started it, him all unknowing in his prim, grim manner, his above-it-all oldthink manner. He was the one Syme referred to as ‘Outdated Distress’,” writes Newman. “Comrade Smith was his proper identify, although ‘Comrade’ by no means suited him in some way. After all, should you felt silly calling somebody ‘Comrade’, much better to not converse to them in any respect.”

Writer Granta stated that Julia understands the world of Oceania “much better than Winston and is actually pleased along with her life”. As Orwell places it in Nineteen Eighty-Four, “in some methods she was much more acute than Winston, and much much less prone to Celebration propaganda … She additionally stirred a kind of envy in him by telling him that through the Two Minutes Hate her nice problem was to keep away from bursting out laughing. However she solely questioned the teachings of the Celebration after they indirectly touched upon her personal life. Usually she was prepared to simply accept the official mythology, just because the distinction between reality and falsehood didn’t appear necessary to her.”


“She has identified no different world and, till she meets Winston, by no means imagined one. She’s opportunistic, believing in nothing and caring under no circumstances about politics. She routinely breaks the principles but additionally collaborates with the regime every time essential. She’s a super citizen of Oceania,” stated Granta. “However when at some point, discovering herself strolling towards Winston Smith in a protracted hall, she impulsively arms him a observe – a probably suicidal gesture – she comes to grasp that she’s dropping her grip and may now not safely navigate her world.”

Orwell’s estate stated it had been “in search of a while” for an creator to inform the story of Smith’s lover, and that Newman, who has beforehand been longlisted for the Ladies’s prize and shortlisted for the Guardian first guide award, “proved to be the proper match”.

Granta added that “Richard Blair, Orwell’s son, has been consulted and approves of the undertaking”.

“Two of the unanswered questions in Orwell’s novel are what Julia sees in Winston, and the way she has navigated her manner by way of the social gathering hierarchy. Sandra will get underneath the pores and skin of Huge Brother’s world in a totally convincing manner which is each true to the unique but additionally provides a dramatically completely different narrative to face alongside the unique,” stated the estate’s literary executor Invoice Hamilton. “The thousands and thousands of readers who’ve been introduced up with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four will discover this a provocative and satisfying companion.”

Julia might be printed after Granta releases Newman’s new novel The Males – through which each single individual with a Y chromosome vanishes from the world – subsequent June. It’s the newest in a collection of feminist retellings of traditional tales, from Natalie Haynes’s reimagining of the Trojan battle A Thousand Ships, and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Women, a model of the Iliad from the angle of Briseis, to Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, which centres on the life of Shakespeare’s spouse, and Jeet Thayil’s Names of the Ladies, which tells the tales of 15 ladies whose lives overlapped with Jesus.

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