Orwell works given new lease of life in audio

Orwell works given new lease of life in audio

George Orwell will have his words brought to life in new audiobooks from Penguin Random House, including his two best-known works: Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.

In fresh recordings, Nineteen Eighty-Four, first published in 1949, is read by "The Thick of It" star Peter Capaldi, while comedian and podcaster Adam Buxton reads the 1945-published Animal Farm.

The release date for the new audiobooks is 7th January 2021.

Penguin Random House said the castings would would bring "new energy" to the works in audio, describing how Buxton's "comedic take" emphasised the satire in Animal Farm while Capaldi was able to "capture the darkness and repressive themes" of Nineteen Eighty-Four in a "powerful and intense" narration.

Buxton said: "That Animal Farm resonates so long after it was written and holds valuable meaning for people from across the political spectrum is a testament to Orwell’s humanity as much as it is to his writing…..If my take on Animal Farm plays any part in introducing people to Orwell’s classic, I’m delighted."

Capaldi said: "The cultural impact that Nineteen Eighty-Four has had on our world cannot be understated, and I hope that with this new audiobook edition, yet more listeners are able to discover its significance."

As well as his two most recognised novels, Penguin Random House will also roll out new audio recordings of Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), Burmese Days (1934), A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Homage to Catalonia (1938), Coming Up for Air (1939), and a series of Orwell’s essays.

Orwell—the majority of whose work is newly out of copyright as of 1st January—has been published by Penguin Books for 80 years, starting with the publication of the essay "Shooting an Elephant" in November 1940. Penguin Modern Classics will be publishing a new paperback edition of this essay on 7th January, alongside which it has announced new-look paperback editions of Orwell’s "best-loved" works of fiction, including Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. Covers feature the artwork of British artist Francis Bacon, and new clothbound hardback editions of the two books designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Later in the year, on 1st April, Penguin will publish the first ever graphic novel of Nineteen Eighty-Four illustrated by the artist Fido Nesti.

Jess Harrison, editor of Penguin Classics, said: "George Orwell speaks to readers as powerfully today as when Penguin first published his writing 80 years ago. In mid-century Britain, the affordable, iconic Penguin triband editions brought his work to many thousands of readers for the first time. Since then, every generation has found itself represented anew in Orwell’s great novels and political writings, and it is thrilling to see how readers still turn to Orwell in their droves in times of crisis and uncertainty. He is the great political writer for our time, and all times."

As Orwell's work falls out of copyright and into public ownership, the development has prompted a number of reissues and spin-offs. Oxford University Press is publishing World’s Classics versions of the author's major books. Nineteen Eighty-Four will also be available as part of the Macmillan Collector's Library, featuring an introduction by writer and journalist Dorian Lynskey, and as part of the Collins Classics collection, from 7th January. Constable is meanwhile publishing a fresh biography of George Orwell by D J Taylor, whose earlier 2003-published book on the writer won the Whitbread; the author noted in a recent article for the Guardian that an Animal Farm video game has been newly released also.