Why is George Orwell's 1984 a bestseller again?

US president Donald Trump is a 'boon for sales of dystopian literature'

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(Image credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty)

It's almost 70 years since George Orwell published his prophetic and nightmarish novel 1984 and now it's shooting up the bestseller lists again.

Sales of the classic skyrocketed by 9,500 per cent after Donald Trump took the Oath of Office last Friday, according to its publisher Penguin USA, which has had to order 75,000 new copies and is even considering another reprint.

Orwell predicted a future authoritarian state, managed completely by "Big Brother", where controlled language known as "Newspeak" limits freedom of thought with restricted grammar, spelling and self-expression.

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So why is it striking a cord with so many Americans?

The novel jumped to number one on Amazon's US bestselling book list shortly after Trump's adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, notes the New York Times.

In the interview, Conway defended White House press secretary Sean Spicer's disputed claims about Trump's inauguration crowd size, insisting he was not lying but giving "alternative facts".

"Donald Trump may not be a big reader, but he's been a boon for sales of dystopian literature," says the Washington Post, and "by far the greatest beneficiary of our newly piqued national anxiety is George Orwell's 1984."

The newspaper adds: "Leaders have always tried to manipulate the truth, of course, and modern politicians of all persuasions want to 'control the narrative', but there's something freshly audacious about the president's assault on basic math, his effort to assemble from the substance of his vanity hundreds of thousands of fans on the Mall."

Twitter is lighting up with tweets about Orwell's concept of "crimestop", a government confusion tactic whereby public scepticism was deliberately eroded so they would learn not to ask difficult questions, and "reality control", the slow eradication of history in favour of government-approved stories.

Quartz points out that "while we can't be sure that the Trump administration's recent blunders are driving sales of the novel", there is an "eerie reflection" of today's world in 1984.

This isn't the first time sales of the book have jumped. Orwell scholar John Rodden told PBS Newshour that sales increased in the early 1980s under Reagan's administration and also in 2013 after whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed numerous global surveillance programmes.

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