George Orwell’s classic works to be published on Substack

Down and Out in Paris and London will start the project and be delivered to subscribers in ‘coffee break’ segments

Despite his death in 1950, George Orwell has become the latest author to join Substack, following in the footsteps of Salman Rushdie and George Saunders.

The Orwell Foundation is set to launch Orwell Daily, which will serialise Orwell’s work via the email subscription platform.

Orwell Daily will begin on 28 October with the writer’s memoir Down and Out in Paris and London. Published in 1933, this was Orwell’s first published full-length work. It begins in Paris, where Orwell worked as a dishwasher at Hotel X, and then moves to London where the author comments on everything from diet to language.

Subscribers to the newsletter will receive around 1,000 to 1,500 words of the book each day. The extracts are led by the original chapters, although some longer chapters will be “paused at the least intrusive moment,” said Jeremy Wikeley, editor of the Orwell Daily.

The emails are described as “a five-to-10 minute ‘coffee break’ read” on Substack. It is estimated it will take around 50 days to get through the first book, with the second serialisation to be announced just before Down and Out in Paris and London is finished.

Orwell Daily is free, but there is also a paid option which will allow subscribers to join a community and comment on each post.

Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Foundation, said previous dramatisations of Down and Out in Paris and London and Nineteen Eighty-Four showed that “Orwell’s books often fall into perfect snippets – each wholly formed”.

“One of the things we’ve seen with other recent serialisations on Substack is that the format enables people to read alongside each other and to start conversations about the books, whether that’s with friends or through the app and social media,” she added. “It is a kind of book club, with the convenience of it coming straight into your inbox. We also want to get people reading and discussing the books themselves rather than Orwell, the pasted-on cultural reference point. We want to show how much more there is to him as a writer.”

The serialisation will coincide with the launch of a new writing prize from the Orwell Foundation. The prize for reporting homelessness, in partnership with the Centre for Homelessness Impact, joins the foundation’s other prizes, for political fiction, political writing, journalism and the prize for exposing Britain’s social evils.

Other authors to have used Substack include Rushdie, who joined in 2021, and serialised his novella The Seventh Wave on the website for paid subscribers. He also posted free content including film reviews, stories about encounters with other novelists and answered questions from readers.

In his first post, Rushdie wrote that “the point of doing this is to have a closer relationship with readers, to speak freely, without any intermediaries or gatekeepers”.

Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk also joined Substack in 2021, serialising his book Greener Pastures for subscribers. Others with newsletters on the platform include singer Patti Smith and the Israeli writer Etgar Keret.


Sarah Shaffi

The GuardianTramp

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