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2084 by Boualem Sansal review – a timely tribute to George Orwell

Author: Claire Kohda Hazelton
Newspaper: The Guardian
Date: Feb 12 2017

This tribute to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four by one of the Arab world’s most controversial novelists couldn’t be more timely. Real events add pathos to a protest novel translated from the French by Alison Anderson that explores the cowardliness of and deception exercised by totalitarian leaders. In near-future Abistan, where history has been eradicated and other cultures banned, Ati finds cracks in the world constructed by the prophet Abi and the rulers, the Just Brotherhood. He and a friend, Koa, investigate the legitimacy of the government and religion. They discover a history of mass deportation, and fragments of a lost time – the reader’s current time – its languages and cultures, and a “ghostly” concept, “democ”. Abistan borrows aspects from Islam, but recalls oppressive regimes both religious and non-religious. Sansal’s world will feel familiar: there are “separation walls”, other cultures and religions are banned, and a totalitarian leader unites the people through fear of a never-defined “Enemy”. 2084 is a powerful novel that celebrates resistance.