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Looking to the literary past for the post-truth




Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the US presidency has coincided with sales of George Orwell’s 1984 going through the roof


You may have read over the last couple of days about how Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the US presidency has coincided with sales of George Orwell’s 1984 going through the roof, to the point where even Amazon has run out of copies.

Clearly, the populace has some deep seated concerns about whether we’re heading for the kind of dystopian future (or should that be past?) depicted in the novel.

Obviously it’s fantastic that the public has chosen to digest a modern classic to provide insight on the situation, rather than spend yet more time hand wringing in Facebook’s echo chambers.

But also, to step back from Trump for a moment, sales spikes in older books in relation to real world goings on aren’t at all uncommon – we experience it all the time here at Wordsworth.

Sometimes these spikes can be predicted (blockbuster adaptations of the classics), other times they creep up on us (for example, we were completely unaware of Netflix’s version of The Little Prince.)

Of course, there are plenty of other ‘classic’ works that fit the current political zeitgeist, as highlighted superbly by The Guardian - Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and and PD James’s Children of Men being among our favourites.

Within our own archives, there are also a few academic texts that might be worthy of further reading, particularly in relation to North American society, notably Henry David Thoreaux’s Walden & Civil Disobedience and, closer to home, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty & Utilitarianism.

So it seems we should all be reaching into the literary past when searching for the meanings behind post-truth. Sweet dreams!

...And rest in peace the late, great, John Hurt.

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