The cover of 1984 (updated)

“The typescript of George Orwell’s latest novel reached London in mid December, as promised. Warburg recognised its qualities at once (“amongst the most terrifying books I have ever read”) and so did his colleagues. An in-house memo noted “if we can’t sell 15 to 20 thousand copies we ought to be shot”.

– From the Guardian’s look back at 1984, the “Masterpiece that killed George Orwell”.

1984 is no longer the book that’s most influential on me, or my favourite, but it is still a part of who I am – like a literary tattoo. I read it at just the right age and the right place – a wordy 17 year old at college in Luton, obsessed with books and how they describe the world – and I’ve got some beautiful copies of it at home (including a beautiful illustrated one) as mementos. Penguin recently posted up a competition on Twitter to win a signed print of the Shephard Fairey image adorning the the current 1984; you had to come up with an image Penguin’s publicist can use on his Twitter page that reflects the book. I pulled two contenders from my Flickr account:


It’s a shot of the Colossus computer at Bletchley Park. I liked the flatness of the colours, the lack of shadows, and the suggestion of words being monitored. And also, of course, the reference to “the commons”. In the end though, I went for this one:

Rothko colours

A favourite of mine, snapped on the iPhone at Tate’s Rothko show. I think it’s funnier and stranger than a lot of 1984-derived images tend to be; of course, it doesn’t shy away from the central darkness of the novel, of how bleak life is when words cannot be trusted.

Update: I won!

4 thoughts on “The cover of 1984 (updated)

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