For one weekend in June, the small town of Narrowsburg, New York will host contemporary literature’s visionaries, as they reflect on the great English novelist’s legacy
At the 2023 Deep Water Literary Festival, authors and artists such as Lucy Sante, Marlon James, and Jad Abumrad will explore the literary contributions and cultural impact of visionary novelist George Orwell. This year’s festival, which is co-directed by Aaron Hicklin and Lucy Taylor, will run from June 16 to 18 in the small town of Narrowsburg, New York.
Founded by Hicklin in 2018, Deep Water aims to synthesize readings and panels with arts programming that encourages audience engagement. With its remote location off the Delaware River, the festival is committed to promoting the literary arts in regions outside of New York City. By situating itself upstate, rather than in one of the five boroughs, Deep Water draws attention to artists who live and work on the cultural periphery.
This year’s panelists will examine Orwell’s legacy through the lenses of biography, politics, and contemporary literature. Richard Blair, the author’s adopted son, will give audiences a glimpse into the Orwell Archive—a collection of his father’s manuscripts, diaries, and personal belongings, usually housed at the University College London. To complement these archival materials, Blair will also share some stories and childhood memories of his father.
“By situating itself upstate, rather than in one of the five boroughs, Deep Water draws attention to artists who live and work on the cultural periphery.”
Writer and activist Rebecca Solnit will describe her personal journey to locate several rose bushes planted by Orwell in his garden in Hertfordshire, England, deepening her understanding of the relationships between politics, pleasure, and the natural world. Her talk will feature a short film by G. Anthony Svatek, in which Tilda Swinton narrates an essay by Orwell, “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad.”
The author Sandra Newman will join Darcey Steinke to discuss Julia, the former’s most recent novel. It retells Orwell’s 1984 from the perspective of Julia Worthing, the woman who inspires the protagonist’s rebellion against the dystopian government that dictates their fictional society. Newman and Steinke will examine the ethics of feminist revision, and consider what it means to write about dystopia in a society that seems to be accelerating towards authoritarianism.
Deep Water’s diverse lineup is testament to society’s enduring fascination with Orwell’s work. As his vision of the future commingles with our own emerging present, his writing will continue to resonate across different spheres of literary, cultural, and political consciousness.