Orwell’s Problem and Partisan Fiction

To help ground the weblog, over the next couple weeks I’ll excerpt from some of my articles on fiction and social change. At some point I may serialize an antiwar novel and other partisan fiction.

Speaking of which:

Orwell’s Problem and Partisan Fiction
An Obvious Deficiency — the Lack of Fact-Based Partisan Novels

…what about progressive partisan fiction? How about a great novel of ambition — literary or popular — portraying figures like some of the most ambitious and powerful strivers of our day: George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright and others? There is a problem. Progressive partisan novels about such figures would have to be in definitive part scathing, well beyond what plenty of literary (and commercial) authors would find acceptable, since they generally support at least some of these figures, and their types, and if they do not, the dominant publishing houses and the dominant media do. This support of the status quo is very similar to what existed in the day of Orwell, with equally troubling implications for literature and the society and world it helps create. As Noam Chomsky notes:

About Orwell’s 1984, I thought, frankly, it was one of his worst books. Could barely finish it. Some parts (e.g., about Newspeak) were clever. But most of it seemed to me–well, trivial. The problem is not a very interesting one; the modes of thought control and repression in totalitarian societies are fairly transparent…

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