The Enduring Relevance of George Orwell’s 1984

Jeffrey Wasserstrom at The New Statesman:

Lynskey’s background in musical criticism also leads to a highly original intervention in the ongoing debate over how authors influence one another. This has long been a contentious subject with respect to Orwell. Before composing 1984, Orwell claimed that Aldous Huxley’s classic satire warning of the dangers of hedonism and materialism, Brave New World (1932), essentially plagiarised Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, a Soviet science fiction novel published in the 1920s. Critics later raised their eyebrows at how much Orwell’s own account of a conformist-mad land, which was published in 1949, owed to both of those earlier works.

Instead of trying to establish clear lineages and settle disputes over originality, Lynskey – who devotes a stimulating chapter to Zamyatin – approaches these dystopian visions the way that some musicologists handle folk songs: as entities that are modified so promiscuously when taken up by different figures that they become collectively created.

more here.