George Orwell’s only work of science fiction - the dystopia that introduced Big Brother to the world.
Written by a dying man in the wake of the horrors of World War II, Nineteen Eighty-Four’s morbid pessimism makes it one of the darkest of all dystopias. Set in a totalitarian Britain in a state of perpetual war, it follows Winston Smith’s struggle to assert his individuality against an overbearing system.
Orwell’s vision of a world where language is bastardised to control thought and reshape history was drawn from his service as a propagandist for the BBC, where such techniques proved valuable to the war effort. Nineteen Eighty-Four was also indebted to the highly influential 1927 Russian dystopia We, by Alexander Zamyatin, as well as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, to which Orwell’s novel was, in part, a response.
The book was adapted by Nigel Kneale in 1954 for a BBC television play - considered deeply shocking at the time - and was made into a film starring John Hurt in 1984. But its relevance extends much further than fiction, with everything from reality television to the unprecedented level of surveillance in today’s Britain seeming to relate back to Orwell’s masterpiece.