The "Orwellian" Night of December 12
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Although it is rare that one can pinpoint an historical moment in which a writer’s public reputation is “launched,” the day of destiny is clear in George Orwell’s case: Sunday, 12 December 1954. BBC-TV’s adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four that night, and especially the debates in the British press that ensued for three weeks thereafter, ignited controversy that permanently boosted sales of his dystopian novel and made his very name as proper adjective—“Orwellian”—a household word. Sixty Decembers ago, the iconic figure of “Orwell”—the mythic bogeyman rather than a writer or literary figure—became one of the first examples of a celebrity created by modern television. George Orwell’s posthumous fame owes less to his strictly literary achievement than to the Zeitgeist’s embrace of his work in the era of the telescreen.