June 8 marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s classic, dystopian novel 1984. To celebrate, here are 13 facts about the novel and its author.
- The title of Orwell’s dystopian novel was almost The Last Man in Europe. However, his publisher, Frederic Warburg, thought the title needed a bit more punch to it. So, Orwell decided to name the book after the year in which the story took place. Problem was, he hadn’t decided on the year yet. Before settling on 1984, other titles were 1980 and 1982. Since the book was written in 1948, some people believe that Orwell decided on the title by inverting the year the book was written.
- George Orwell was the pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair. Other pen names that he considered were P.S. Burton, Kenneth Miles and H. Lewis Allways.
- Orwell learned to speak French from Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World. Huxley briefly taught at Orwell’s boarding school.
- In 1984’s infamous first line “It was a bright, cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen” thirteen was changed to “uno” when it was originally translated to Italian, because, according to the translator, “Italian clocks don’t go up to thirteen.”
- The slogan “2 + 2 = 5” was a real propaganda slogan used in Russia by Iakov Guminer to help them to accomplish the goals of their five-year economic plan in only four years. Orwell used this slogan in 1984 as part of Big Brother’s brainwashing.
- Orwell also included Japanese propaganda in his novel. The “Thought Police” are based on Japan’s Kempeitai, the Imperial Japanese Army’s military police arm, who could arrest Japanese citizens for having “unpatriotic thoughts.” This pursuit was officially called the “Thought War.”
- Orwell actually worked as a propagandist for the BBC during World War II, where there was a conference room numbered 101. In 1984, Room 101 is the place where people receive re-education and punishment for thought crimes and where some of the most horrifying scenes of the book take place. Orwell described his time as a propogandist at the BBC as distasteful and the work as useless.
- Orwell was under government surveillance while writing 1984. In fact, he was under surveillance for more than 12 years, because the British government believed he held socialist opinions. One piece of incriminating evidence against Orwell was that he “dresses in a bohemian fashion.”
- Orwell wrote 1984 between two wars, World War II and the Cold War. In fact, the first recorded usage of the phrase “cold war” was in Orwell’s 1945 essay “You and the Atom Bomb,” written just two months after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima. In the essay, he describes “a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of ‘cold war’ with its neighbors.”
- In 2017, Kellyanne Conway’s comment about “alternative facts” reminded many people of the doublespeak from Orwell’s 1984, (e.g. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength) and caused sales of the book to skyrocket. The novel also experienced a spike in sales in 2013 following the leak of NSA documents.
- The title of the reality show Big Brother pays homage to Orwell’s 1984, because of the idea of being under constant surveillance.
- In a letter to Noel Wilmett, Orwell discussed his idea behind 1984 and how the ideas that drive men like Hitler and Stalin live on and are championed by new generations of men. He believed that fighting for independence of thought and action would be a constant battle.
- 1984 is one of the most frequently banned books in the world. Ironically, some ban it for what they claim are pro-communist views, while others ban it for what they claim are anti-communist views.
Bonus Fact: A movie adaptation of the novel was released in 1984, and many of the film’s scenes were shot on the actual dates in the novel. A couple of years ago, information was released that another adaptation would be released sometime in 2019, but there is no official release date yet, or in fact any other information about the production of the movie. So, we’ll have to wait and see if the movie is in fact released this year, or at all.
While we wait, we should all pull out our copies of 1984 and reread this classic novel. What? You don’t have a copy?! Half Price Books has got you covered. Just stop by your local HPB or shop HPB.com. If you’re looking for a collectible version of this book, our Montrose location in Houston, TX has a first edition available. You can also check out the 1984 George Orwell Tote from our Out Of Print collection on HPB.com.