1984

History and title

Orwell "encapsulate[d] the thesis at the heart of his unforgiving novel" in 1944, the implications of dividing the world up into zones of influence, which had been conjured by the Tehran Conference. Three years later, he wrote most of it on the Scottish island of Jura from 1947 to 1948 despite being seriously ill with tuberculosis.[11][12] On 4 December 1948, he sent the final manuscript to the publisher Secker and Warburg, and Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on 8 June 1949.[13][14] By 1989, it had been translated into 65 languages, more than any other novel in English until then.[15] The title of the novel, its themes, the Newspeak language and the author's surname are often invoked against control and intrusion by the state, and the adjective Orwellian describes a totalitarian dystopia that is characterised by government control and subjugation of the people. Orwell's invented language, Newspeak, satirises hypocrisy and evasion by the state: the Ministry of Love (Miniluv) oversees torture and brainwashing (to ensure a love for Big Brother), the Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty) oversees shortage and rationing, the Ministry of Peace (Minipax) oversees war and atrocity, and the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) oversees propaganda and historical negationism.

The Last Man in Europe was an early title for the novel, but in a letter dated 22 October 1948 to his publisher Fredric Warburg, eight months before publication, Orwell wrote about hesitating between that title and Nineteen Eighty-Four.[16] Warburg suggested choosing the latter, a more commercial choice for the main title.[17]

The introduction to the Penguin Books Modern Classics edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four reports that Orwell originally set the novel in 1980 but that he later shifted the date to 1982 and then to 1984. The introduction to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition of Animal Farm and 1984 (2003) reports that the title 1984 was chosen simply as an inversion of the year 1948, the year in which it was being completed, and that the date was meant to give an immediacy and urgency to the menace of totalitarian rule.[18]

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There's a very popular theory—so popular that many people don't realize it is just a theory—that Orwell's title was simply a satirical inversion of 1948, but there is not evidence for this whatsoever. This idea, first suggested by Orwell's US publisher, seems far too cute for such a serious book. [...] Scholars have raised other possibilities. [His wife] Eileen wrote a poem for her old school's centenary called "End of the Century: 1984." G. K. Chesterton's 1904 political satire The Napoleon of Notting Hill, which mocks the art of prophecy, opens in 1984. The year is also a significant date in The Iron Hill. But all of these connections are exposed as no more than coincidences by the early drafts of the novel Orwell was still calling The Last Man in Europe. First he wrote 1980, then 1982, and only later 1984. The most fateful date in literature was a late amendment.

— Dorian Lynskey, The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984 (2019)[19]

Throughout its publication history, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been either banned or legally challenged, as subversive or ideologically corrupting, like the dystopian novels We (1924) by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley, Darkness at Noon (1940) by Arthur Koestler, Kallocain (1940) by Karin Boye, and Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury.[20] Some writers consider the Russian dystopian novel We by Zamyatin to have influenced Nineteen Eighty-Four,[21][22] and that the novel bears significant similarities in its plot and characters to Darkness at Noon, written years before by Koestler, who was a personal friend of Orwell.[23]

The original manuscript for Nineteen Eighty-Four is significantly the only literary manuscript of Orwell's to survive; it is presently held at the John Hay Library at Brown University.[24][25]

Copyright status

The novel was first published by Secker & Warburg in the United Kingdom on 8 June 1949 and published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in the United States on 13 June 1949.[14] The usual copyright period within the UK extends to 70 years from the end of the calendar year of the author's death. For works published prior to 1978, the usual copyright duration within the US is 95 years from the date of publication, if copyright was renewed during the 28th year following publication.[26] Both the UK and the US are signatories to the Berne Convention and the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

Under the Berne Convention, Article 5(4), when a work is published simultaneously in several party countries (under Article 3(4), "simultaneously" is defined as "within 30 days"[27]), the country with the shortest term of protection is defined as the country of origin.[28]

In the case of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the United Kingdom is considered the country of origin and its copyright period extends until the first day of January following 70 years after the death of the author. George Orwell, the novel's author, died in 1950,[29] so the novel enters the public domain on 1 January 2021.

This same copyright period must be honoured by all other parties to the agreement.[30]


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