Orwell’s Estate Approves Feminist Update of '1984'

The retelling — titled 'Julia' — will be written by an American author

The estate of author George Orwell has approved the retelling of his classic novel 1984 from a feminist perspective.

The original work follows the life of Winston Smith, a man who lives in Oceania, a totalitarian country ruled by Big Brother. Citizens are under constant surveillance and language is manipulated and distorted to serve the dominant regime. The dystopian novel was published on June 8, 1949, and was Orwell’s last work before his death from tuberculosis in 1950.

Its opening line — “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” — is considered one of the most famous lines in literature. 

Seventy-two years after its debut, the novel will be now be told from the eyes of Julia, the woman with whom Winston Smith has a forbidden affair.

The new version will be written by Sandra Newman, an American author whose past works include Cake and Challenging: How Not to Write a Novel, a memoir co-authored by Howard Mittelmark.

In an excerpt obtained by The Guardian, Newman opens Julia with:

It was the man from Records who began it, him all unknowing in his prim, grim way, his above-it-all oldthink way. He was the one Syme called ‘Old Misery’ … Comrade Smith was his right name, though ‘Comrade’ never suited him somehow. Of course, if you felt foolish calling someone ‘Comrade,’ far better not to speak to them at all.”

Granta, Newman’s publisher, says Julia’s understanding of their totalitarian world is “far better than Winston and is essentially happy with her life.”

“She has known no other world and, until she meets Winston, never imagined one,” the publisher said via a spokesperson, per The Daily Mail. “She’s opportunistic, believing in nothing and caring not at all about politics. She routinely breaks the rules but also collaborates.”

“She’s an ideal citizen of Oceania,” Granta adds. “But when one day, finding herself walking toward Winston Smith in a long corridor, she impulsively hands him a note — a potentially suicidal gesture — she comes to realize that she’s losing her grip and can no longer safely navigate her world.”

Orwell’s estate had been looking for an author to give a voice to Julia “for some time” and believes Newman “proved to be the perfect fit.”

“Two of the unanswered questions in Orwell’s novel are what Julia sees in Winston, and how she has navigated her way through the party hierarchy,” said Bill Hamilton, who is the estate’s literary executor. “Sandra gets under the skin of Big Brother’s world in a completely convincing way which is both true to the original but also gives a dramatically different narrative to stand alongside the original. The millions of readers who have been brought up with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four will find this a provocative and satisfying companion.”

Granta also told The Guardian that Orwell’s son, Richard Blair, had been involved with and approved of the project.

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8 responses to “Orwell’s Estate Approves Feminist Update of ‘1984’”

  1. Devilsgun says:

    Interesting, but writing Orwellian fanfic that’s so close to the original protagonist’s story kinda stinks of feminist Mary Sue girlpowering off of a famous man’s work, to be stunning and brave or whatever…

    I could see some interesting tales from the Prole side of things, or from other Party divisions which are tied into the same universe, but writing the Herstory for the famous male protagonist’s love/lust interest is just fucking lazy and none too fresh.

  2. annunaki0311 says:

    Re-writing 1984 is the most 1984 thing the totalitarian left could possibly do. His son is approving this only for the money. The irony of this world is so sad at times, but, “there is only the now”

  3. HerrDoktor says:

    “Julia’s understanding of their totalitarian world is “far better than Winston and is essentially happy with her life.””

    Just in time for “You will own nothing, and you will be happy.” I’m sure feminists everywhere are overjoyed to find a replacement for 1984 which praises the totalitarian regime rather than warn against it.

  4. Turk_Longwell says:

    JOESC sees it. By the headline alone, you may not read the article. ooorr. That’s why you do read the article.
    I need to reread 1984 and see what they’re talking about when it comes to Julia.
    It does sound interesting, if done the right way.

  5. JoeSC says:

    OK, I missed the part where it’s going to be an alternate book. That could be interesting. Which part is particularly feminist?

  6. Night_Coder says:

    What I’m getting from this is almost a sequel rather than a rewrite. Kind of like “Wizard of Oz” and “Wicked”.

  7. JoeSC says:

    Isn’t this by definition Orwellian?

  8. PseudoSwede says:

    Based on the description and excerpt, I do NOT find this to be a provocative and satisfying companion (to Orwell’s ‘1984’).

    What’s next, a woke rewrite of ‘Animal Farm’ told from the perspective of the “evil two-legged tyrants?”

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others…”