Dystopian novels on the rise

Politics generates a new literary trend

The radical changes which have been occurring on the world’s political scene in the last few months seem to have increased readers‘ appetite for dystopian novels. Alarmed by what seems to be a fall of democracy and by the uncertainty of a new world order, more and more people show an interest in classics such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, as sales of books belonging to this genre rise.


This phenomenon has been especially visible in the USA, where the fear instilled by the actions of the recently inaugurated President Trump has created an atmosphere comparable to that found in the totalitarian regimes of dystopian novels. Americans have thus started to draw a parallel between Trump’s views on political and social matters and the features of the imaginary worlds illustrated in dystopian fiction. At the Women’s March on Washington (which I have mentioned in a previous article), several protesters displayed signs that referenced novels such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which portrays a society where women’s rights have been abolished. Some of these signs quoted by the New York Times which criticise Trump’s attitude towards female citizens read “Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again!” (an ironic adaptation of Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”) and “The Handmaid’s Tale is NOT an Instruction Manual!”. According to the aforementioned newspaper, the sales of Atwood’s 1985 novel rose by 30% in comparison with last year.

George Orwell’s novel 1984 has also been enjoying a surge in popularity, as last week it reached the first place in Amazon’s list of bestselling books. The novel attracted interest especially after Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway claimed that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not lie about the crowd size at the president’s inauguration, but offered “alternative facts”.  This reminded readers of Orwell’s representation of a totalitarian society, where “language becomes a political weapon and reality itself is defined by those in power. Similar rates of success were registered by Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 satire entitled It Can’t Happen Here, the main character of which greatly resembles Donald Trump. This novel was 9th in the Amazon list, while Brave New World by Aldous Huxley reached 15th place.

Regardless of whether people are looking for clues about what to expect next from their leaders or for evidence that societies worse than theirs exist, a new cultural trend was brought to life, hopefully encouraging more and more readers to explore the universe of dystopian literature.

English – German glossary

to occur = stattfinden

uncertainty =Unsicherheit

world order = Weltordnung

sales = Verkäufe

genre = Gattung

visible = offensichtlich

to instill = einflößen

comparable = vergleichbar

to draw a parallel = einen Vergleich ziehen

to display = ausstellen

signs = Schilder

to reference sth = auf etw verweisen

to portray = darstellen

to abolish = abschaffen

to read = (hier) lauten

surge = Anstieg

bestselling = meistverkauft

entitled = mit dem Titel

in power = an der Macht

to resemble = ähneln

regardless = ungeachtet

clues = Hinweise

to encourage = ermutigen