Orwell Estate Authorises Feminist Retelling of 1984

The Guardian reports, “George Orwell’s estate approves retelling ‘1984’ from woman’s point of view”. Oddly, this story is published under the rubric “Changing America”.

The estate of George Orwell has approved a feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which reimagines the story from the perspective of Winston Smith’s lover Julia.

In Julia by Sandra Newman, the incidents of Nineteen Eighty-Four are seen through the woman’s eyes. “It was the man from Records who began it, him all unknowing in his prim, grim way, his above-it-all oldthink way. He was the one Syme called ‘Old Misery’,” writes Newman. “Comrade Smith was his right name, though ‘Comrade’ never suited him somehow. Of course, if you felt foolish calling someone ‘Comrade’, far better not to speak to them at all.”

Orwell’s estate said it had been “looking for some time” for an author to tell the story of Smith’s lover, and that Newman, who has previously been longlisted for the Women’s prize and shortlisted for the Guardian first book award, “proved to be the perfect fit”.

Julia will be published after [publisher] Granta releases Newman’s new novel The Men – in which every single person with a Y chromosome vanishes from the world – next June. It is the latest in a series of feminist retellings of classic stories, from Natalie Haynes’s reimagining of the Trojan war A Thousand Ships, and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, a version of the Iliad from the perspective of Briseis, to Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, which centres on the life of Shakespeare’s wife, and Jeet Thayil’s Names of the Women, which tells the stories of 15 women whose lives overlapped with Jesus.

“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." — George Orwell, 1984


Well, at least this is in line with what he probably would have wanted. I can’t imagine a died-in-the-wool communist like Orwell would have any opposition to feminism or the modern progressive movement.

Another ‘like’ as in ‘thank you for bringing this to my attention, despite the demoralising message contained therein’.


A prediction: In 2084, people will still be reading George Orwell’s “1984”, and no-one will ever have heard of “Julia” – or of Sandra Newman. (Shouldn’t that be Sandra Newwoman? Just asking).


Because everyone knows that a man cannot write from a woman’s perspective and visa versus. See Terms of Endearment for an example.


I am at a loss for words. Which I guess is the point.


Telling a well-known story from a different point of view can be challenging. Consider “Traveller” – Richard Adams attempt to tell the story of the American Civil War from the perspective of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s horse. Interesting idea – but the book failed to live up to its promise. Probably, the same will be said of “Julia”.

In Orwell’s “1984”, there were hints that Julia was a bit slutty – although Orwell had her only casually mention her prior history with Party officlals. Great risk then that telling the story from Julia’s perspective will turn into “mommy porn”.


I was wondering if this idea has ever been hugely successful?

Given the lack of creativity of today’s mainstream art, it doesn’t surprise me they need to try to leverage someone else’s work.

But I am unsure if they have enough talent to determine what works. Take the all girl Ghostbusters. They leveraged Dan’s creativity and tried to copy the story. Then they tried to copy a model (sequels) that has and can work. It bombed. But the question is whether they even know what templates work. Sounds iffy.