Clas­sics with po­lit­i­cal warn­ings

The Hamilton Spectator - - BOOKS - DEB­O­RAH DUN­DAS

Dic­ta­tors, mil­i­tary coups and fas­cism in worlds imag­ined years ago have been find­ing their way back on to best­sellers lists.

1984 by Ge­orge Or­well

The use of the term “al­ter­na­tive facts” by Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion sparked shock at the par­al­lels be­tween that and the term “dou­ble­s­peak” used in this 1948 book by Or­well to de­scribe the idea of rhetoric that twists and dis­torts words and ideas. The Min­istry of Truth rewrites his­tory, and thoughtcrimes (hold­ing views counter to the rul­ing party) are pun­ish­able.

The Hand­maid’s Tale by Mar­garet At­wood

A to­tal­i­tar­ian regime has over­thrown the U.S. gov­ern­ment; the main char­ac­ter is Of­fred, forced to have a child for an in­fer­tile cou­ple. She is a spe­cially cho­sen “hand­maid.” At­wood’s is a fem­i­nist vi­sion, writ­ten in the shadow of the rise of the re­li­gious right in the 1970s and ‘80s and asks the ques­tion: What hap­pens if women’s rights are re­versed?

Brave New World by Al­dous Huxley

Huxley cre­ated a tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced world set in the 21st cen­tury where the mind-numb­ing “soma” was given to the pop­u­la­tion to keep them happy and with­out pain. It was writ­ten as fas­cism across Europe was ris­ing, but he also dealt with Amer­i­can con­sumerism and en­ter­tain­ment.

Dark­ness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

The lead char­ac­ter Ni­cholas Rubashov is im­pris­oned and tor­tured af­ter a life­time of de­vot­ing him­self to the party that promised utopia but de­liv­ered some­thing quite dif­fer­ent. First pub­lished in 1941, it takes a look at the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion, but ex­poses the in­ner logic of dic­ta­tor­ships in gen­eral.

It Can’t Hap­pen Here by Sin­clair Lewis

Writ­ten dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, Lewis’ book tells of the rise of a dictator, Berzelius “Buzz” Win­drip, who gains the votes of mil­lions of Amer­i­can vot­ers by promis­ing to com­bat welf are fraud and crime and who ex­co­ri­ates a lib­eral press. As the “fas­cism” rises, U.S. cit­i­zens in the book form a steady stream to­ward Canada. Sound fa­mil­iar?

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