Orwell in Chile

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Notes on the Americas

Grafitti on a wall in Santiago provided the cover picture for the Chilean edition of 1984. Grafitti on a wall in Santiago provided the cover picture for the Chilean edition of 1984.

This month marks the 65th anniversary of George Orwell’s death, and here’s one of the lesser-known stories of the great writer’s legacy, courtesy of the Pinochet regime in Chile.

It was 1983, the military dictatorship had been in power nearly ten years and the first stirrings of protest on a national level were about to explode into demonstrations up and down the length of Chile’s narrow territory. Three young journalists—two Chilean, one American—began an afterhours project to translate and publish Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, 1984.

There were plenty of copies of Animal Farm, Orwell’s bitter satire of Stalinism, on offer in Chilean bookstores, but 1984 seemed conspicuous by its absence.  A search around Santiago turned up a Spanish language copy in the British Council Library, an edition translated in Spain under Franco which had…

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