Jean Seaton interviewed for Boston Review’s article on Orwell
Below we reproduce an extract from the article Saving Orwell, by Peter Ross, for the Boston Globe.
“It was a bright cold day in April,” said Richard Blair, “and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Blair is seventy-three and the son of George Orwell. To witness him stand at a lectern and read the opening line of his father’s great final novel, 1984, is to experience a sense of completion, an equation solved.
We were in Senate House, now part of the University of London, for 1984 Live. For the first time in the United Kingdom, the book was to be read aloud publicly from start to finish. It had been estimated that it would take sixty or so readers—well-known journalists, academics, actors, activists—thirteen hours, that Orwellian number, to get from the bright cold day to the gin-scented tears.
The event was being staged as part of the University College London Festival of Culture and organized by the Orwell Foundation, a charity celebrating the author’s work and values. Its director, Jean Seaton, explained that the idea had come “last summer, just after Brexit, but before Trump. The world felt dark and full of lies. Still does.”
Since then, 1984 has taken on a strange currency; the electric charge of Orwell’s thinking hums and crackles through the culture. In January the novel topped Amazon’s bestseller list, almost seventy years since it was first published in 1949. Demand began to rise, according to Penguin Random House, shortly after Kellyanne Conway used the expression “alternative facts” to defend Sean Spicer’s claim that Donald Trump had attracted the largest audience ever to witness a presidential inauguration, period. By July 2017 sales had doubled over the same period in 2016. Half a million copies were printed in January alone.