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The author has written a study that places George Orwell's 1984 in a variety of contexts: the author's life and times, the book's precursors in the science fiction genre, and its subsequent place in popular culture. Lynskey delves into how Orwell's harrowing Spanish Civil War experiences shaped his concern with political disinformation by exposing him to the deceptiveness The author has written a study that places George Orwell's 1984 in a variety of contexts: the author's life and times, the book's precursors in the science fiction genre, and its subsequent place in popular culture. Lynskey delves into how Orwell's harrowing Spanish Civil War experiences shaped his concern with political disinformation by exposing him to the deceptiveness of people he'd once regarded as allies against fascism: the Soviets and their Western apologists.


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The author has written a study that places George Orwell's 1984 in a variety of contexts: the author's life and times, the book's precursors in the science fiction genre, and its subsequent place in popular culture. Lynskey delves into how Orwell's harrowing Spanish Civil War experiences shaped his concern with political disinformation by exposing him to the deceptiveness The author has written a study that places George Orwell's 1984 in a variety of contexts: the author's life and times, the book's precursors in the science fiction genre, and its subsequent place in popular culture. Lynskey delves into how Orwell's harrowing Spanish Civil War experiences shaped his concern with political disinformation by exposing him to the deceptiveness of people he'd once regarded as allies against fascism: the Soviets and their Western apologists.

30 review for The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's "1984"

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    In January 2017, Sean Spicer claimed that the crowd gathered to see President Trump take the oath of office was the "largest audience to ever witness an inauguration." When accused of misrepresentation Kellyanne Conway said her statement was "alternative facts." Over the following four days, sales of George Orwell's novel 1984 rocketed to number one bestseller. Dorian Lynskey writes that more people know about 1984 than know 1984. It's catchphrases have entered the common language. Big Brother. D In January 2017, Sean Spicer claimed that the crowd gathered to see President Trump take the oath of office was the "largest audience to ever witness an inauguration." When accused of misrepresentation Kellyanne Conway said her statement was "alternative facts." Over the following four days, sales of George Orwell's novel 1984 rocketed to number one bestseller. Dorian Lynskey writes that more people know about 1984 than know 1984. It's catchphrases have entered the common language. Big Brother. Doublespeak. Newspeak. In his book, Ministry of Truth, Lynskey examines the novel's origin, development, and influence in its time and its afterlife. Lynskey shows how Orwell's values and experiences shaped the novel and Orwell's purpose and intended message of the novel. The book is in two parts, first telling the story of Orwell's life and beliefs, his world, the history of utopian and dystopian novels. In the second part, Lynskey covers the novel's influences, interpretations, and uses since its publication. Since January 2017, dystopian novels have topped the best-seller lists and newly published ones find a ready audience. 1984 was not meant to be prophetic, but a warning based on Orwell's experience. "What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening," Trump proclaimed in a July 2018 speech, echoing the 1984 lines, "The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command." Orwell feared that objective truth "is fading out of the world." Seventy years later, we still share that fear. Upon its publication, some thought it was a book that would only speak to one generation. Sadly, it has proven resiliently evergreen. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. "The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one," [Orwell] explained in a press statement after the book came out. "Don't let it happen. It depends on you." quoted in The Ministry of Truth by Dorian Lynskey

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is about the making and repercussions of the book 1984 (also known as Nineteen-Eighty-Four). It is divided in two sections: Orwell’s life and how he came to write 1984 – and the impact and durability of 1984 since its’ publication in 1949. Orwell died of complications from tuberculosis in 1950, he survived 1984’s release by only 227 days (page 186, my book). 1984 was a long work in the making and Orwell was scrupulous about editing his writing. He eliminated portions of his work that he felt This is about the making and repercussions of the book 1984 (also known as Nineteen-Eighty-Four). It is divided in two sections: Orwell’s life and how he came to write 1984 – and the impact and durability of 1984 since its’ publication in 1949. Orwell died of complications from tuberculosis in 1950, he survived 1984’s release by only 227 days (page 186, my book). 1984 was a long work in the making and Orwell was scrupulous about editing his writing. He eliminated portions of his work that he felt unnecessary and detracted from the main themes. The foremost impact on Orwell was his participation in the Spanish Civil War where he witnessed first-hand how forces like the Soviet Union were abusing power with the Republican Spanish forces that were against Franco. It would seem that there was more animosity within the Republican coalition than against their Franco opponents. Friends one day could easily become enemies the next day. All this influenced his two most important works of fiction “Animal Farm” and 1984. Orwell also realized that totalitarian regimes can be an intersection – Fascism and Communism – both are authoritarian with a strong emphasis on an omnipotent and worshipped leader (Hitler, Stalin, Mao…), an unrestricted secret police, surveillance with informants… The author also discusses the various works and authors who influenced Orwell. H.G. Wells is prominent with many of his works of science fiction. Also, Edward Bellamy, and very interestingly, Yevgeny Zamayatin, a Russian writer of the book “We” who fled the Soviet Union, and Arthur Koestler. Unlike many intellectuals and writers of the era, Orwell was never fooled by the professed workers paradise of Stalin’s Soviet Union. In a very real sense Orwell would have agreed with Groucho Marx’s expression “I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member”. He was an honest and profound skeptic. 1984, like “Animal Farm” was popular from the moment it was published. It continues to be successful due to the many levels of meaning within it. Winston Smith is the common underdog trying to find his way through an oppressive and labyrinthine regime that constantly saps his energy and relentlessly removes his privacy. He finds temporary bliss and companionship with Julia. In the 1950’s and 1960’s it served to exemplify the Cold War and the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union and its’ repression in the Eastern Bloc countries. It also served as a warning to the conformity and witch-hunts of the Joe McCarthy period. Later (Big Brother) it came to represent government, large corporations (IBM, Exxon…) and then the growth of computer data. There were some after the year 1984 that felt the books' relevance would fade away. But then came 9/11 clearly illustrating the malevolence of fundamentalist religion (admittedly Orwell does not touch on religion, but in a very real way they are a form of Big Brother’s conformity and surveillance). This was followed by the endless wars in the Middle East, the rise of Putin in Russia, the economic rise of China and the total control by the Chinese Communist Party on its population where among other issues they have erased any reference to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and then came Trump with fake news, a constant word-play of truth and lies, enemies of the people… Page 168 (my book) One of the novels’ dark jokes is that it may not even be 1984. When Winston comes to write in his diary, he realises he isn’t sure, because “it was never possible nowadays to pin down any date within a year or two.” So the very first line he writes may be untrue. Orwell is telling the reader early on that this is a book in which you can trust nobody and nothing, not even the calendar.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I love books about books and so this, the biography of George Orwell’s most famous novel, “1984,” was a must read for me. This is split into two main sections; the first dealing with Orwell’s writing of the novel and the second part looking at the impact of the book. If you are looking for a biography of George Orwell, this is not really the book for you. Although it covers part of his life, which mainly deals with the period where he was either considering writing, or actually working on, “1984, I love books about books and so this, the biography of George Orwell’s most famous novel, “1984,” was a must read for me. This is split into two main sections; the first dealing with Orwell’s writing of the novel and the second part looking at the impact of the book. If you are looking for a biography of George Orwell, this is not really the book for you. Although it covers part of his life, which mainly deals with the period where he was either considering writing, or actually working on, “1984,” this is not a book about his entire life. Rather it looks on influences on the novel, including Orwell’s time in Spain, the political situation leading up to the Second World War, utopias and dystopian novels that were popular at the time, the work of H.G. Wells, Orwell’s time at the BBC (including working with Guy Burgess), London during, and after, the war and other such events. Some of this is very funny – including a rather disastrous dinner party with H.G. Wells, other parts are insightful, such as Orwell’s thoughts on Dickens – you can only create if you care – some touching, such as Orwell’s refusal to accept his life was almost over, when he was terribly ill, and others really give a sense of those turbulent, political times. Orwell’s time in Spain allowed him to feel the paranoia and fear that comes with a totalitarian state, while he was obviously heavily influences by Stalin’s regime of obliterating free speech, rewriting history and forced confessions; even if such thoughts were not always welcomed by those who were concerned that books like, “Animal Farm,” would not be welcomed by our Allies… Looking at whether, “1984” is still relevant, after being published in 1949 is almost a pointless question. The author shows how, throughout history, the book constantly comes back into favour during turbulent times. After Trump’s inauguration, when the press questioned his office claiming the largest crowd ever, which was obviously untrue, they were blithely informed that this was, “alternative facts.” Sales of “1984,” rocketed, as it had before and, undoubtedly, will again. Phrases from the book have come into common use – from Room 101, Big Brother, The Ministry of Truth and even the term, ‘Orwellian.’ Sometimes, you feel the author has really discovered every single reference to the novel is every television show, song, slogan and film. However, from ‘The Prisoner ,’ to David Bowie, these are covered in detail. I think, overall, I preferred the beginning of this book and the writing of the novel itself, but this is also interesting. It was also fascinating to learn what people imagined was warned against in the novel, and how they interpreted it. For example, the book is often seen as a warning about computers, and social media, when actually Orwell’s vision of a screen that watched you, came from televisions – which he never owned and which was taken off air during the war years anyway. Indeed, his understanding of technology was, in Lynskey’s words, rudimentary at best. Overall, though, this is a wonderful read and very well written. The research is thorough and comprehensive – even exhausting at times. Yet, Dorian Lynskey manages to keep this readable and constantly unearths interesting nuggets of information, which will make you wish to read the novel again – or, if you have not read it before – discover Orwell’s world for yourself.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    I discuss this book in my video covering round 1 of the 2020 Booktube prize here: https://youtu.be/pwlQ_UqP8Uo I discuss this book in my video covering round 1 of the 2020 Booktube prize here: https://youtu.be/pwlQ_UqP8Uo

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Decided very quickly this was not a book for me. I did not complete it. Tried it in June 2019. I am not a fan of either dystopian or utopian novels! There is a lot of name dropping of authors and titles that do not interest me. I wanted it to be about Orwell, but it isn't. The superficial way it covered his time in Spain, put me off immediately. Never does it say clearly how Orwell's experiences in the Spanish Civil War directly influenced his writing. I find the writing long-winded. It seems to m Decided very quickly this was not a book for me. I did not complete it. Tried it in June 2019. I am not a fan of either dystopian or utopian novels! There is a lot of name dropping of authors and titles that do not interest me. I wanted it to be about Orwell, but it isn't. The superficial way it covered his time in Spain, put me off immediately. Never does it say clearly how Orwell's experiences in the Spanish Civil War directly influenced his writing. I find the writing long-winded. It seems to me the book is more about other authors than it is about Orwell. Neither does it help that the narration by Andrew Wincott, which although clear, is over-dramatized.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Richard Luck

    I've a thousand and one things I'd like to say about The Ministry Of Truth. However, for the time being, I'll limit myself to this - if I had written this book, I think I would've died of pride.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    1984 is huge these days of rising authoritarianism and surveillance states undreamt of in Orwell's work. How does this short novel written by a dying man on the island of Jura in 1948 become such a touchstone for 70 years following its publication? This book documents Orwell's life experience and reading sources that went into this timely work. From his experience of British working class that pulled him towards socialism and his experience in Spain and the betrayal of its cause by the Soviets f 1984 is huge these days of rising authoritarianism and surveillance states undreamt of in Orwell's work. How does this short novel written by a dying man on the island of Jura in 1948 become such a touchstone for 70 years following its publication? This book documents Orwell's life experience and reading sources that went into this timely work. From his experience of British working class that pulled him towards socialism and his experience in Spain and the betrayal of its cause by the Soviets for realpolitik reasons and the fanaticism and cynicism of ideologues. 1984 was made by this hard-won life history. The book then talks about the books afterlife in politics in the seventy years since. Including misunderstandings and obfuscation by various figures. And of course the exploding popularity of this authoritarian moment. A nice supplement to the critical 1984 a video on 1984 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQxOK...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Luke Gardiner

    Dorian Lynskey has written one of the greatest and most compelling biographies possible in this book, and it is not even about a person! However, the first part, with its emphasis on the life of George Orwell, is a brilliant biography in itself. Lynskey brilliantly brings the man to life, with all his foibles and character, in a way that perfectly helps the reader understand how 1984 became the masterpiece that it is. The latter section also does a fantastic job of illustrating how Orwells death Dorian Lynskey has written one of the greatest and most compelling biographies possible in this book, and it is not even about a person! However, the first part, with its emphasis on the life of George Orwell, is a brilliant biography in itself. Lynskey brilliantly brings the man to life, with all his foibles and character, in a way that perfectly helps the reader understand how 1984 became the masterpiece that it is. The latter section also does a fantastic job of illustrating how Orwells death saved him from a great deal of anguish around the constant misinterpretation of his magnum opus. Well written, and surprisingly chilling when read in the modern age, this book is a must buy companion to the original novel. I heartily recommend it to any Orwellophile!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peter Beck

    “The Ministry of Truth” provides a fascinating if at times all too brief look at one of the most important books ever written. “1984” made such an impression on me when I read it in 1984 as a teenager that I would later name my daughter after the female protagonist. 70 years after its publication, it remains as relevant as ever. The fact that it is both embraced and attacked by all points on the political spectrum speaks for itself, but it was the Trump (mis-) Administration that catapulted “198 “The Ministry of Truth” provides a fascinating if at times all too brief look at one of the most important books ever written. “1984” made such an impression on me when I read it in 1984 as a teenager that I would later name my daughter after the female protagonist. 70 years after its publication, it remains as relevant as ever. The fact that it is both embraced and attacked by all points on the political spectrum speaks for itself, but it was the Trump (mis-) Administration that catapulted “1984” back to the bestsellers list. The first two-thirds of “The Ministry of Truth” intersperses a biography of George Orwell with literary influences on “1984.” This hybrid approach by British music critic Dorian Lynskey generally works well, but “Utopia Fever” (Chapter 2) is the one chapter I would skip because it focuses on an obscure book by Edward Bellamy that Orwell never acknowledged reading. In contrast, Lynskey does a fine job looking at the interactions of H.G. Wells and Aldus Huxley with Orwell and how they shaped his thinking. I was disappointed with Huxley’s “Brave New World” when I read it two years ago, but Lynskey left me wanting to give Wells a try. Lynskey rightly points to Orwell’s Spanish Civil War memoir “Homage to Catalonia” and his allegory “Animal Farm” as the two most important works for understanding “1984.” “Animal Farm” is the only book I can still remember reading in middle school. I had no idea who Stalin or Trotsky were, but that didn’t really matter. In “Homage to Catalonia,” Orwell nearly lost his life fighting for Communism, but he ultimately concluded that the theory is unworkable in the real world due to the unchecked powers of its leaders. Lord Acton got it right: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lynskey clears up some of the myths and misconceptions about “1984,” starting with the title. My English teacher told us the title was the inversion of the year Orwell wrote the book (1948), but this is just a “theory” as Lynskey puts it because Orwell died of TB seven months after publication and never provided an explanation. Some have dismissed “1984” for providing too bleak an assessment of the fate of mankind, but here Orwell was perfectly clear. Lynskey closes his book by repeating this quote from George, “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one. Don’t let it happen. It depends on you” (p. 269). It is important to point out what “The Ministry of Truth” is not. Lynskey only spends a few pages actually analyzing and assessing “1984.” You will have to look elsewhere for literary criticism. Lynskey provides a summary of “1984” as an appendix, but I would have much preferred an “Additional Readings.” Readers wanting to dig deeper must wade through 50 pages of footnotes. The final 80 pages of “Ministry of Truth” focuses on the literary and popular culture progeny of 1984. This is where I wish Lynskey had gone into much more detail. Lynskey describes “1984” as being “intertwined" with Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951), but only devotes a few sentences to this seminal work. Lynskey offers this tantalizing statement, “Although Arendt was more knowledgeable about Germany and Orwell more interested in Russia, they came to many of the same conclusions: totalitarianism was the unprecedented intersection of ideology, bureaucracy, technology and terror” (p.193). I would devote a whole chapter to unpacking this. I hope Orwell would have been disturbed if he had lived to see that the animated version of “Animal Farm” was funded by the CIA, but then Lynskey relates the even more disturbing fact that Orwell passed on a list of Brits he suspected to be Communists to British intelligence. Two examples Lynskey provides of the Orwell-inspired pop culture landscape intrigued me. Even though I had recently read Dylan Jones “oral biography” of David Bowie, I had no idea that his album “Diamond Dogs” was intended to be part of a “1984” musical, but Orwell’s widow rejected the proposal. The second is this tidbit, “The BBC television series “Blake’s 7” knitted the cruelest innovations from Orwell, Huxley and Wells into a kind of “Star Trek” for the chronically pessimistic.” Hmmmm. Lynskey devotes less than three pages to the biggest “1984” pop cultural artifact of the past 50 years, the movie released in 1984. Lynskey omits such basic information as box office receipts and critics’ reaction to the film. Lynskey trashes the Eurythmics soundtrack as “ill-fitting synth-pop.” Setting aside my belief that Annie Lennox has one of the most beautiful voices of all time, I think “Doubleplusgood” and “Sexcrime” work quite well. “Julia” is hauntingly beautiful. Lynskey also only makes one passing reference to the country that most resembles “1984” today: North Korea (p.246). North Korea is listed with China and Iran, but neither of those countries are totalitarian. I cannot describe the overwhelming sense of relief when my flight from Pyongyang arrived in Beijing. It is the only time I have ever wanted to yell “Freedom at last!” in China. The final chapter of “Ministry of Truth” only briefly takes up the topic of Donald Trump and his Orwellian tendencies. Lynskey is somewhat dismissive, suggesting that Trump is closer to Joseph McCarthy than Big Brother. “He has the cruelty and power hunger of a dictator but not the discipline, intellect or ideology” (p. 261). That might be the case, but it merits much more discussion than Lynskey gives it. Lynskey doesn’t do more than list several books taking a darker view at the end of his introduction. The one book that he does not list that I wish he had devoted several pages to is “How Democracies Die” (Levitsky and Zablat, 2019). These Harvard professors argue that for the first time in history, Trump’s America meets all four of the criteria they establish for democracy to die, including jailing opponents (“Lock her up!”) and demonizing the press (“Enemy of the People!”). Hillary is not in jail (yet) and one of the countless people Trump has sued in the past just called him a “whiny little bitch” last night on HBO (comedian Bill Mahler in tip top form), but what concerns me most is that roughly 40% of American voters continue to support him. Thanks to voter suppression, Project Veritas/Russian-style disinformation campaigns, and the electoral college, 40% could be enough to reelect Trump in 2020. “1984” might then just go from nightmare to reality.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Denson

    Dorian Lynskey’s The Ministry of Truth brilliantly seeks to uncover what forces shaped the novel 1984, both in terms of Orwell’s personal experiences and larger cultural elements, as well as survey how the novel has remained so popular in the seven decades since its publication. The first part of the book could be described as a mixture of biography, history, and literary history. Lynskey does diligent work in piecing together the events and experiences of Orwell’s life that had a profound impac Dorian Lynskey’s The Ministry of Truth brilliantly seeks to uncover what forces shaped the novel 1984, both in terms of Orwell’s personal experiences and larger cultural elements, as well as survey how the novel has remained so popular in the seven decades since its publication. The first part of the book could be described as a mixture of biography, history, and literary history. Lynskey does diligent work in piecing together the events and experiences of Orwell’s life that had a profound impact on his ideas and writing, such as his early experiences with colonialism in Burma, and his time in Spain fighting against fascists. This is interwoven alongside the historical events of the rise of fascism, the two world wars, and the Russian Revolution, events and political phenomena that he was keenly fascinated by and was a voracious reader of all the reports coming out of these developments. Lastly, his personal experiences and the political chaos is set against the backdrop of the late 19th/early 20th century fascination with utopian literature and optimism that science would supposedly lead to unbounded progress. Most notably, the voluminous body of works written by H. G. Wells dominated such discussions over how to craft an ideal society. While Orwell was certainly not the first to create an anti-utopian (or dystopian as it more commonly known today), his desire to create an inversion of such a popular genre would be combined with his political ideas and historical trends. The second part deals largely with the aftermath of the novel. It sparked controversy and debate from day one of publication as many misinterpreted Orwell’s message or sought to paint it primarily as a critique of their own political opponents. This situation was further complication by Orwell’s own death, less than a year after its publication, leading to only more turmoil over who could claim Orwell’s message for their own. This part vividly shows the surge in popularity of both 1984, as many of its terms and ideas became implanted in our culture, and the rise of the dystopian genre, with many imitating or crafting altered versions of such Orwellian nightmares. People began to draw parallels between their own times and the world of 1984. David Bowie, for instance, was known to be an avid fan of the book and imbedded references to 1984 throughout his music. One chapter details the extremely high interest in the book during the 1984, ironic considering Orwell only alter the title to the year as a late change. Lastly, a chapter focuses on 1984 in the 21st century, where recent events, notably the 2016 American presidential election have caused a surge in sales of the book and interest in its themes of a post-truth world. Many have also seen the parallels in new surveillance technology, once an idea that 1984’s early readers dismissed as an outlandish possibility. Lynskey’s book is a magnificent work for anyone who has enjoyed reading 1984. You don’t need an in-depth knowledge of the novel to understand this book, but that certainly will help as avid fans of 1984 will pick up the many connections, like Orwell’s extreme dislike of rats that he developed when fighting in Spain. The book is also a thought provoking one as readers will no doubt (unfortunately) be able to relate many ideas to current day situations. Today is the 70th anniversary of the publication of 1984 (published June 8th 1949), and even after so long the novel’s themes have continued to fascinate and terrify so many.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joe O'Donnell

    Can there be any novelist or journalist from the last century who has proved more enduringly influential than George Orwell? And has any single novel had anywhere the same influence as his dystopian masterpiece, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”? As Dorian Lynskey writes in “The Ministry of Truth”, his masterful biography of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, it “remains the book we turn to when truth is mutilated, language is distorted, power is abused, and we want to know how bad things can get”; a warning from his Can there be any novelist or journalist from the last century who has proved more enduringly influential than George Orwell? And has any single novel had anywhere the same influence as his dystopian masterpiece, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”? As Dorian Lynskey writes in “The Ministry of Truth”, his masterful biography of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, it “remains the book we turn to when truth is mutilated, language is distorted, power is abused, and we want to know how bad things can get”; a warning from history that – sadly – never seems to lose its relevance. And, in “The Ministry of Truth”, it finally has a biography – and in Dorian Lynskey a biographer – worthy of its reputation, that so eruditely maps its origins and ever-lasting influence. Firstly, readers should be aware that “The Ministry of Truth” is not a straight-ahead biography of George Orwell’s life (if that is what you’re looking for, Christopher Hitchens, Gordon Bowker, and Robert Colls have all produced terrific biographies of Orwell since the turn of the century). Instead, Dorian Lynskey bifurcated “The Ministry of Truth” into two halves: the first analysing the literary and political influences baring down on George Orwell during the production of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”; the second half discussing the massive cultural influence it has had in the seventy years since its publication and how “Orwell’s book continues to define our nightmares”. “The Ministry of Truth” is superb at uncovering the influences and building blocks that made “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, and Lynskey expertly traces the genealogy of Orwell’s last novel, from the utopian sci-fi visions of H.G. Wells, on to the more dystopian work of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, through to Arthur Koestler’s anti-totalitarian masterpiece “Darkness at Noon”. Lynskey also unearths the roots of Orwell’s pessimism about the possibility of objective truth in bureaucratic societies in the writer’s personal life, through his persecution at the hands of Stalinist forces during the Spanish Civil War, or his wartime work at the BBC producing pro-allied propaganda (“for Orwell, working for a large bureaucracy in wartime was an invaluable education in the machinery of the state”). But it is during the latter half of the book, when Dorian Lynskey uncovers the enormous influence that “Nineteen Eighty-Four” has had - not just on contemporary politics but also on popular culture – that “The Ministry of Truth” is really at its most impressive. It is this section, that really plays to Lynskey’s background as one of the foremost music writers of his generation, which shows the inspiration that “Nineteen Eighty Four” has been to everything from The Lego Movie to the Judge Dread ‘2000AD’ comics, from ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and the 1960s sci-fi series ‘The Prisoner’ on to the TV adaption of Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ during the 2010s. There are absolutely fascinating tangents on David Bowie’s failed attempt to written an opera based on “Nineteen Eighty Four” (thwarted by Orwell’s flinty widow, Sonia) and how Orwell’s anti-totalitarian, anti-bureaucracy message was appropriated by advertisers like Apple (hi-jacked, as Lynskey says, as a form of “anti-corporate marketing, twisting Orwell’s fable into an upbeat fable for the information age”). And there is a terrific chapter on how “Nineteen Eighty Four” was covered and commemorated in the year 1984 itself – which saw what amounted to the creation of an ‘Orwell Industry’ - and when it appeared that “Orwell had graduated from literary hero to ubiquitous celebrity, while “Nineteen Eighty Four” had mutated from a novel into a meme”. One of the threads running throughout “The Ministry of Truth” is how “Nineteen Eighty Four” has throughout the last seventy years, so often been embraced and appropriated by everyone from the neoconservative right, the anti-Stalinist left, classical libertarians, and on to more modern-day Infowars-addled conspiracy theorists. Despite Orwell’s best intentions and his lifelong commitment to Democratic Socialism), after his death “Nineteen Eighty Four” was twisted into “an ideological superweapon”. For decades after its publication, it would be employed as a cudgel by the Cold War-Right against all strands of the Left. Orwell’s early death meant his life overlapped with the public life of “Nineteen Eighty Four” for a mere 227 days. Lynskey is insistent that the novel does not, despite frequent misconceptions, represent Orwell’s repudiation of Socialism. Nonetheless, he acknowledges that “even before (the book) was out, people seemed determined to understand it”). Dorian Lynskey isn’t a starry-eyed sycophant of Orwell’s and is unafraid to take to task the “wintry conscience of his generation”, whether for being unduly pessimistic or, alternatively, for having a wholly unrealistic view of ‘the proles’ as the potential saviours of liberty and freedom (“the least persuasive element of “Nineteen Eighty Four”). Lynskey also warns against glib assessments of “Nineteen Eighty-Four’s” nightmarish atmosphere as being the product of Orwell’s gloomy temperament or terminal illness (six months after the novel was published, he succumbed to the tuberculosis that wracked him during its writing). “Nineteen Eighty Four” is seventy years old this month, and this remarkable biography captures just why it remains every bit as relevant as when it was first published. “The Ministry of Truth” is an absolutely essential read about Orwell’s ultimate warning from history, about his siren call about the pervasiveness of intrusive technology – particularly when it is combined with unaccountable bureaucracy and authoritarian politics. “The Ministry of Truth” makes overt (although never in a heavy-handed manner) how it is just a hop, skip and a jump from Big Brother, Newspeak, and the Two Minute’s Hate, to Russian troll farms, the Chinese Government’s Social Credit system, and “Alternative Facts”. This is a chilling forewarning about where our human civilisation might be going if we’re not extremely careful, extremely lucky or are not prepared to fight for it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert Sheard

    Lynskey takes us through Orwell's career, decade-by-decade, and then continues a decade-by-decade discussion of Orwell's role in culture since his death in 1950. It's an important topic today, of course, as the USA has a presidential administration waging war on objective reality and some 60 million "believers" buying into the "alternative facts." As a subject, then, I think Lynskey's work is hugely important. As a reading experience, however, it's less compelling. Lynskey has done tremendous re Lynskey takes us through Orwell's career, decade-by-decade, and then continues a decade-by-decade discussion of Orwell's role in culture since his death in 1950. It's an important topic today, of course, as the USA has a presidential administration waging war on objective reality and some 60 million "believers" buying into the "alternative facts." As a subject, then, I think Lynskey's work is hugely important. As a reading experience, however, it's less compelling. Lynskey has done tremendous research, but he feels compelled to quote from everything at every turn, which really hampers any narrative drive. He's at his best when he's wrapping up and summarizing in his own words. But reading the individual chapters can be a bit slow.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    More like a 3.5 but goodreads sucks and won’t let me rate books PROPERLY.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    4.5 stars, but rather dry - even as an audiobook. I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed it more in physical form where I could more readily trace/write down titles of all the books mentioned, or less because then paying attention would be even more taxing. George Orwell had a long and varied life filled with lived experiences, but Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably his masterpiece. This biography of the book itself focuses on the conversations and literary influences that forged elements of the book 4.5 stars, but rather dry - even as an audiobook. I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed it more in physical form where I could more readily trace/write down titles of all the books mentioned, or less because then paying attention would be even more taxing. George Orwell had a long and varied life filled with lived experiences, but Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably his masterpiece. This biography of the book itself focuses on the conversations and literary influences that forged elements of the book, so the biography of George Orwell the man is largely in the background. However, for casual readers like me, that means learning an awful lot about George Orwell. For example, I knew he fought in the Spanish Civil War and slept on the streets of Paris and London, but I didn't know that Eric Arthur Blair took on the name George Orwell to spare his "lower upper middle class" family the embarrassment of hearing of his travails in Down and Out in Paris and London (which I still haven't got around to reading, despite years of pestering from my mother). See also: Orwell knocking the pretensions of his fancy schools, Orwell in Burma, Orwell's Oxford-educated wife dropping out of her master's and joining him in Spain, H.G. Wells calling him a "shit," a long radio and columnist history covering everything from op-eds slipped into opera reviews to fairy-tale adaptations for colonized India, popularizing Yevgeny Zamyatin's We and probably being solely responsible for its enduring legacy in English, escaping to a Greek island, marrying a self-professed "gold-digger" on his death bed, McCarthy getting ideas, David Bowie trying to make a musical version... The whole book ends (and turns) on the difference between the first and subsequent editions of 1984: (view spoiler)[as he sits in a café, Winston traces "2+2=5" and "2+2=" in later printings. Biographers can't agree who made the change - an accident, an overzealous editor trying to change the meaning of the book, or Orwell on his deathbed leaving Winston a *possibility* of not capitulating. (hide spoiler)]

  15. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bradley

    Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-re... If this book had ended a chapter sooner, I would have given it a solid five-star rating. Instead, in the last chapter, author Dorian Lynskey succumbed to the most boring, cliched, overwrought hysteria imbibed by the boring and overwrought to discover in the not-leftist-of-the-moment if not the true Big Brother, then something that could pass for Big Brother if one squints just right. Oh, bother. Up to that point, Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-re... If this book had ended a chapter sooner, I would have given it a solid five-star rating. Instead, in the last chapter, author Dorian Lynskey succumbed to the most boring, cliched, overwrought hysteria imbibed by the boring and overwrought to discover in the not-leftist-of-the-moment if not the true Big Brother, then something that could pass for Big Brother if one squints just right. Oh, bother. Up to that point, this book is something of a tour de force. It has three broad sections. The first section surveys all of the influences that preceded Orwell's "1984." I say preceded rather than influenced because it is not clear whether or how much influence earlier authors and books had on Orwell. Thus, we are introduced to the Utopian genre and its classics before moving into the dystopias that began cropping up after the Russian Revolution. With respect to the latter we get a discussion of Zamyetin's "We" and Huxley's "Brave New World," both of which seem to contain elements that Orwell would combine in 1984. There is a longish section on H.G. Wells - virtually a mini-biography - who developed the utopian and anti-utopian sub-genres of science fiction. We learn that Orwell and Wells knew each other, that in his later years, that Wells became something of an egotistical crank, and that Orwell didn't much get along with Wells. The second section is simply about Orwell and the book itself. This section gives a relatively brief survey of Orwell's life and his writing of Animal Farm and 1984. He wrote the latter while fighting tuberculosis; he would die of TB in 1949 barely appreciating the success of 1984. 1984 is a rare book that captures both a moment and speaks to eternity. Totalitarianism was very much in the air in 1948, but it was also a new - and yet, somehow, ancient - form of government. 1984 spoke to the specific moment of a totalitarian superpower taking over the ancient countries of Europe. It also spoke to what was timeless about that moment; the eternal quality of government power unhindered by human virtue. The third section speaks to the legacy of 1984. We are told how 1984 shaped political discourse and pop culture. We are told about plays, TV shows and movies. (I've been inspired enough to purchase the 1984 version of 1984 on DVD.) We get a surprising bit of information about David Bowie and his fascination with 1984, albeit maybe too much, but, on the other hand, Bowie and rock music have something to say to and about popular culture. As much, perhaps, as a movie or a play. Lynskey seems to have dug into the Orwell archive. I've appropriated this quotation as a nice way of capturing my concerns about Antifa street thugs: "Orwell wrote in his review of Borkenau, anticipating the title of Emmanuel Goldstein’s book in Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. “The sin of nearly all leftwingers from 1933 onwards,” he later wrote, “is that they have wanted to be anti-Fascist without being anti-totalitarian.” Lynskey, Dorian. The Ministry of Truth (p. 47). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Lynskey cites a letter to Arthur Koestler as a source. (“The sin of nearly all leftwingers”—Orwell, “Arthur Koestler,” CW XVI, 2548, p. 394.) This makes for a pithy aphorism: “The sin of nearly all leftwingers from 1933 onwards is that they have wanted to be anti-Fascist without being anti-totalitarian.” - George Orwell It also seems to explain the Antifa totalitarians in the streets who pride themselves on being "anti-Fascist" without reflecting on the role that their predecessors played in supporting the equally monstrous but longer-lived totalitarianism that Orwell wrote about. And that leads up to my complaint. In the last chapter, Lyndsey joins the party line and reveals that Donald Trump is not Big Brother exactly, but horrifically employing the dark arts of the Inner Party: "Still, there are precedents in Orwell’s writing. During Trump’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, it was hard to watch the candidate whipping supporters into a cry of “Lock her up!” without being reminded of the Two Minutes Hate and Orwell’s description of the Party mindset: “a continuous frenzy of hatred of foreign enemies and internal traitors, triumph over victories, and self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the Party.” Really? Was it the "Two Minutes Hate" or, to play the devil's advocate, was it a democratic expression of community outrage that "laws are only for the little people" while those with connections can get away scot-free with acts that would see someone who was not a Clinton indicted? This sense grows only stronger now that we have seen how the former Director of the FBI can violate security clearance laws, leak information, start a baseless investigation for two years, and, then, escape indictment, while opponents of the state can live to see SWAT teams breaking in their doors at 3 am with CNN stationed across the street because they have misremembered a date. Which is more Orwellian? Likewise, although painting Trump as an incipient fascist, Lyndskey says nothing about the street-level thuggery of Antifa or how leftists are suppressing speech on college campuses or how leftists are using their clout with internet companies to "deplatform" competing ideas. What would Orwell have thought about that, one wonders? We get the obligatory Kellianne Conway mentioned "alternative facts," as an Orwellian abandonment of objective truth, but apparently the modern delusion that people with penises can be "women" is nothing like 2+2=5. Of course, my writing that will probably cause this review to be unpublishable....and how Orwellian is that? It must have been so very rewarding for Lynskey to drop into conventional, boring, cliches, but it was so very stupid. Equating Trump in any way to Stalin, let alone Big Brother, does a disservice to the resistance to totalitarianism and to the victims of totalitarianism. Certainly, it is a quick way to earn five-star ratings and loud applause from the coastal elites and their fellow-travelers, but it is so brain dead and obscures deeper insights. It also insults the intelligence of us who don't buy into the potty ideologies of the left or right. It offends those of us who are anti-totalitarian, and not merely anti-fascist.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Tremendous resource and overall entertaining read. The final section is the weakest, but it is still good. Political biases pop up towards the end and some sections were a bit daunting for someone like me with little knowledge of contemporary English politics, but this is a solid, solid work of scholarship. Hopefully, there will be many secondary English teachers who supplement their teaching of 1984 with sections from this text. I know that I will be one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Excellent, excellent! I will try to review soon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jason Wilson

    Fascinating. This sparkling book is both a biography of the writing of 1984 and an analysis of its prescience and effects. There is good stuff on how fighting in the Spanish Civil war destroyed Orwell’s early infatuation with communism , and I loved the account of his prickly relationship with HG Wells, whose sci-fi dystopias were a huge influence. The second section, which deals with the book’s afterlife , is good too. During the Cold War the book was virtually a bible for the Hungarian uprisin Fascinating. This sparkling book is both a biography of the writing of 1984 and an analysis of its prescience and effects. There is good stuff on how fighting in the Spanish Civil war destroyed Orwell’s early infatuation with communism , and I loved the account of his prickly relationship with HG Wells, whose sci-fi dystopias were a huge influence. The second section, which deals with the book’s afterlife , is good too. During the Cold War the book was virtually a bible for the Hungarian uprising ; in more recent times its analysis of totalitarianism and power, irrespective of left or right wing contexts, has seen it enjoy a new vogue in Trump’s America. This is why film adaptions of this and animal farm have often missed the point : a CIA sponsored adaption in the sixties ended with Winston and Julia being gunned down defiantly screaming “ down with Big Brother! “ ; the relevance to the Nixon anti communist witch hunts or the way that left and right both want you to love, not just obey , them was missed. This book brings out other aspects of Orwell too which have resonated in popular culture. His technophobia, which foreshadows, for example, Black Mirror, and his concern that objective truth can be eroded by momentary political or cultural census has resonated in a postmodern world. There is interesting stuff too on Orwell’s influences on tv series such as The Prisoner and Blake’s Seven ( not to mention Big Brother!) and David Bowie’s music as well as other touchstones. Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale was written with Orwell at the author’s elbow. It is the wide ness of Orwell’s concerns which the author feels have kept the book relevant despite dystopian fiction’s change of emphasis : it’s felt that things like black Mirror, Hunger Games, Never Let Me Go etc. Are focussed on capitalism sunk into decadence, but Orwell hangs over the way these societies work because as The Prisoner pointed out during the Cold War, left and right can look in a mirror and see that in their extreme forms they both want the same sort of world. In 1984 Thatcher said that Orwell was wrong because the year would be one of peace and liberty, not left wing totalitarianism. She too had missed the point. Some of her popularity is attributed to anti superstate paranoia stemming from Orwell as well as anti communist sentiment. It’s a pity that Maazel’s Opera of the novel doesn’t get a name check here; but as a 70th birthday tribute to the book this shines .

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    Part George Orwell biography, part social history, combined with a thorough, and always fascinating, look at the myriad influences which informed Nineteen Eighty-Four, and George Orwell's progress as a writer and thinker. The second part on the book looks at Nineteen Eighty-Four's enduring appeal and how it has come to mean different things in different eras. This analysis goes right up to the present day with an exploration of Nineteen Eighty-Four in the era of Brexit, Trump, post-truth and fak Part George Orwell biography, part social history, combined with a thorough, and always fascinating, look at the myriad influences which informed Nineteen Eighty-Four, and George Orwell's progress as a writer and thinker. The second part on the book looks at Nineteen Eighty-Four's enduring appeal and how it has come to mean different things in different eras. This analysis goes right up to the present day with an exploration of Nineteen Eighty-Four in the era of Brexit, Trump, post-truth and fake news. The Ministry of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell's 1984 is a triumph. George Orwell would have approved, I feel sure. 5/5

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    The Ministry of Truth The Biography of George Orwell's 1984 by Dorian Lynskey Doubleday Books Doubleday Biographies & Memoirs , Nonfiction (Adult) Pub Date 04 Jun 2019 I am reviewing a copy of The Ministry of Truth through Doubleday and Netgalley: When George Orwell’s book 1984 was published in the United Kingdom on June 8 1949, a critic couldn’t help but wonder how such a timely book could exert the same power over generations to come. Readers of the First edition of 1984 knew of only a fraction of Geor The Ministry of Truth The Biography of George Orwell's 1984 by Dorian Lynskey Doubleday Books Doubleday Biographies & Memoirs , Nonfiction (Adult) Pub Date 04 Jun 2019 I am reviewing a copy of The Ministry of Truth through Doubleday and Netgalley: When George Orwell’s book 1984 was published in the United Kingdom on June 8 1949, a critic couldn’t help but wonder how such a timely book could exert the same power over generations to come. Readers of the First edition of 1984 knew of only a fraction of George Orwell writings we know now, because it was 1984 that would launch him into popularity. We are reminded by the author of Ministry of Truth that 1984 was a book designed to wake you up! George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in India on June.25.1903, His Mother Ida brought him to England the following year was a very intelligent woman who was half French who mixed with Suffragettes and Fabians. His Father Richard Blair was a mid ranking civil servant for the British’s imperial government opium department and didn’t re-enter his son’s life until 1912 and then he appeared as the elderly man who was always saying don’t. In 1933 Orwell wrote and published his first book a memoir called Down and Out in Paris and London. Ministry of Truth reminds us just what power George Orwell’s 1984 has over it’s readers, going into how the story was written even how it would impact both literature and society. I give Ministry of Truth five out of five stars! Happy Reading!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    This book is an excellent source for biographical facts about George Orwell, especially at the time he was writing his most famous novel, and about the book’s influences and influence. The thing that stood out most strongly to me as I read this book and reread 1984 was that the dangers Orwell warns us about could be brought about by a charismatic leader or group on either the far right or the far left—that Fascism and Communism (that is National Socialism and International Socialism) are mirror This book is an excellent source for biographical facts about George Orwell, especially at the time he was writing his most famous novel, and about the book’s influences and influence. The thing that stood out most strongly to me as I read this book and reread 1984 was that the dangers Orwell warns us about could be brought about by a charismatic leader or group on either the far right or the far left—that Fascism and Communism (that is National Socialism and International Socialism) are mirror twins. The hope for the world is, as Lynskey expresses it, that ‘around the world, millions of people in the “reality-based community” continue to push back against the Medium-Sized Lie, to reaffirm that facts matter, to fight for the preservation of honesty and integrity, and to insist on the freedom to say that two and two make four. For them, the book still has much to offer. Because Orwell was more interested in psychology than in systems, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a durable compendium of everything he ever learned about human nature as it relates to politics—every cognitive bias, unexamined prejudice, moral compromise, trick of language and mechanism of power that enables injustice to gain the upper hand—and remains an unbeatable guide to what to watch out for. Orwell was writing for his own time but also, like Winston, “for the future, for the unborn.”’

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mat Davies

    A biography of a novel may not sound like the most immediate grab you by the lapels option so it’s testament to the quality of @Dorianlynskey’s writing that this book is utterly riveting. A biography in two parts: part one deals with the genesis of the novel, Orwell’s influences and his contemporaries and it hurtles along, the prose elegant and thoughtful, the insight telling and elegant. Part Two looks at the influence of the book in the decades following Orwell’s death. McCarthyism, The Cold W A biography of a novel may not sound like the most immediate grab you by the lapels option so it’s testament to the quality of @Dorianlynskey’s writing that this book is utterly riveting. A biography in two parts: part one deals with the genesis of the novel, Orwell’s influences and his contemporaries and it hurtles along, the prose elegant and thoughtful, the insight telling and elegant. Part Two looks at the influence of the book in the decades following Orwell’s death. McCarthyism, The Cold War, the year of 1984 and some consideration of our current tumultuous political times are covered with aplomb. My favourite section in Part Two was the section on the 1970s and a certain David Bowie which, given Lynskey is an accomplished music writer, you’d expect him to cover well but he really excels here; so much so, I’ve headed back to my Bowie records to dig and discover more. The Ministry of Truth is not just a solid and inventive book about a classic piece of literature it reveals itself as a personal triumph for the author whose humanity and personality shines through. This is essential reading for any Orwell fan and even for the mildly curious this is, by any standards, a terrific book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Utsob Roy

    This is a book about a book. Not any random book, but the '1984' by George Orwell. Both of them are phenomenally famous, ambiguous, and misinterpreted. If one loses sight of Orwell's politics (he was a Democratic Socialist), his background, struggles, and disillusionment ('Homage to Catalonia' is what one needs), it is natural to think that it was a pro-capitalist book to undermine socialism. This book deals with this misconception and many others. A chronicle that starts from conceiving the book This is a book about a book. Not any random book, but the '1984' by George Orwell. Both of them are phenomenally famous, ambiguous, and misinterpreted. If one loses sight of Orwell's politics (he was a Democratic Socialist), his background, struggles, and disillusionment ('Homage to Catalonia' is what one needs), it is natural to think that it was a pro-capitalist book to undermine socialism. This book deals with this misconception and many others. A chronicle that starts from conceiving the book to finishing it, and then, the ever-transforming socio-cultural effect it had on his time, and times after that. To make his point, Minsky did his homework well.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    Ministry of Truth is a survey of George Orwell’s life as it relates to his crowning achievement: 1984, the novel. 1984 is a classic of modern literature, about Winston Smith and a totalitarian government where freedom is not only curtailed, but not even thought of. It is full of paradoxical language and phrases that have come to be called “Orwellian”: War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. Big Brother is watching you. He who controls the past controls the future…” (If you haven’ Ministry of Truth is a survey of George Orwell’s life as it relates to his crowning achievement: 1984, the novel. 1984 is a classic of modern literature, about Winston Smith and a totalitarian government where freedom is not only curtailed, but not even thought of. It is full of paradoxical language and phrases that have come to be called “Orwellian”: War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. Big Brother is watching you. He who controls the past controls the future…” (If you haven’t read it, please do. It says so much about the way we think and you will see many of these things in the world today.) It is a novel that is often cited and adopted by those on both ends of the political spectrum, and used someone ironically by the purveyors of Orwellian concepts (“Alternative facts,” anyone? “Truth isn’t truth?” “Just remember what you’re reading or seeing is not the truth.”) Lynskey provides an overview of the path Orwell took, the people he met, and links it to his views that formed the backbone of his books. His time slumming it in Paris and London as a lowly dishwasher for the excellent novel Down and Out in Paris and London and is a great commentary on the class system in those countries. His working for the Indian Imperial Police cemented his views on Imperialism and led to Burmese Days. (Some criticize this and call him a sell-out for the Man but the author concentrates more on how this changed him and I for one believe that he went in thinking one thing and came out thinking something else, and was a better man for it.) The time he spent in the Spanish Civil War formed his views on Fascism and the idealistic yet murky views of the paper-thin difference between many of the competing ideologies, and led to Homage to Catalonia. The author takes exception to the myth that 1984 was a depressing book that was that way because he was sick when he wrote it. The fact that Orwell died shortly thereafter is unfortunate but the book was planned to be a certain way years earlier and was not influenced by his condition. It is an intriguing book that might promise a little more than it delivers. While it is easy to see why people can make comparisons to what is going on the world to the world of 1984, Ministry of Truth only offers one chapter at the end to explore this. But it is good for providing a context for how Orwell’s life prepared him for his last book. I highly recommend it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Susan Paxton

    Dorian Lynskey has, I think, produced one of the most perceptive pieces of Orwell scholarship in some time, and frankly I rather hope that he eventually sits down to the task of writing a complete biography as his view of the man and his work is vividly three-dimensional in a way few of Orwell's biographers have achieved. Lynskey's book is, of course, a biography of Orwell's most famous work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, a book which has never lost its resonance but which is steadfastly reinterpreted an Dorian Lynskey has, I think, produced one of the most perceptive pieces of Orwell scholarship in some time, and frankly I rather hope that he eventually sits down to the task of writing a complete biography as his view of the man and his work is vividly three-dimensional in a way few of Orwell's biographers have achieved. Lynskey's book is, of course, a biography of Orwell's most famous work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, a book which has never lost its resonance but which is steadfastly reinterpreted and claimed by each generation for its own. The author starts with the influence earlier works had on Orwell and with events in Orwell's own life that shaped the novel; he points out that Orwell apparently was not familiar with Edward Bellamy. At least he never mentions Bellamy, but clearly Bellamy as interpreted by others was an effect on him (in a similar way later in the book Lynskey is able to point out Orwell's influence on others, like Terry Gilliam, who had never read Nineteen Eighty-Four). He moves on to the actual writing, and points out that Orwell and his famous book overlapped for less than a year before Orwell died. The second section of the book discusses the posthumous life and reception of the novel, and Lynskey's research and synthesis really shine here to illuminate dark crannies of forgotten influence; not only The Prisoner but Privilege; not just V for Vendetta but Terry Gilliam's Brazil. There is a lot of great interest here, especially for American readers not as familiar with British politics; Britain came perilously close to fascism in the mid-70s and was probably lucky to escape only with the horrific Thatcher years. The modern slide towards fascism has been under way for longer than we pretend to think. Of course it's impossible for the writer to finish without discussing the present and the endless medium-sized lies, as Lynskey calls them, of the current American administration and the soft Stalinism of Putin. Nineteen Eighty Four may not have predicted the future we live in, but it certainly hinted at it and it remains powerful reading. Excellent book, tightly written, topical, and most importantly, true to Orwell.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie (wife of book)

    I don't recall where I heard about this book, but as soon as I heard about it, I had to read it. Luckily, my library had the audio book so I nabbed it! The narrator has a authoritative and deep voice and I think he did a good job of this book. He may have gone a little overboard with some of the accents and pronunciations but overall, it was a good reading. This is a really excellent book to read if you are a big fan of Nineteen-Eighty Four, like I am. You will need to have read Orwell's final no I don't recall where I heard about this book, but as soon as I heard about it, I had to read it. Luckily, my library had the audio book so I nabbed it! The narrator has a authoritative and deep voice and I think he did a good job of this book. He may have gone a little overboard with some of the accents and pronunciations but overall, it was a good reading. This is a really excellent book to read if you are a big fan of Nineteen-Eighty Four, like I am. You will need to have read Orwell's final novel to really appreciate this history - as the author says, it's a cross between literary criticism and Orwell's life story. Lynskey stuck to his promise from the Introduction as did not bash the reader over the head with constant comparisons to present politics, but he manages to convey his message in a much more subtle ways involving quotes and examples. This book could have easily descended into a rant about the state of the modern world, but Lynskey is a skilled enough writer that this is avoided. It's fascinating to learn about Orwell's life and how it influenced his writing. The first section of the book is a breakdown of the author's life in the Spanish Civil War, at the BBC, and during the World Wars. We learn of Orwell's interactions with people like HG Wells and how various writers inadvertently created the tropes we still use to day in Science Fiction and Dystopic Fiction. There are a lot of "isms" in this section (Communism, Marxism, Totalitarianism, Socialism etc) and it gets a little tough to keep track of some of the terms and the many names. I think it was a little easier listening to the audio book as I could just let it was over me and not worry too much about taking it all in! I was concerned this book might read like an academic text but Lynskey has a good balance between heavy academic ideas and interesting stories from Pop Culture. The information about the reception to the book and the world in which it was released was fascinating and I loved the latter half of the book that traced the story of Nineteen-Eighty Four itself through the Cold War, the year of 1984, and into the 21st Century. Lynskey's analysis of the different themes that each generation take from the book was so interesting. This is a great book for anyone with an interest in literary criticism, the history of the 20th century, Orwell himself, or his amazing last novel.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    More so than any other dystopian novel, 1984 has taken on a life of its own. It is very likely you already know of Big Brother, telescreens, and Room 101 control long before you ever read the book, if you even have. But when I read 1984 myself a year or so ago, what struck me most was not these concepts but the book's love and fear for the very idea of truth. There is objective truth out there, but Orwell knew that if we were not careful, governments could undermine truth so thoroughly that it b More so than any other dystopian novel, 1984 has taken on a life of its own. It is very likely you already know of Big Brother, telescreens, and Room 101 control long before you ever read the book, if you even have. But when I read 1984 myself a year or so ago, what struck me most was not these concepts but the book's love and fear for the very idea of truth. There is objective truth out there, but Orwell knew that if we were not careful, governments could undermine truth so thoroughly that it becomes replaced by a manufactured truth of its own making. When Winston, in his job at the Ministry of Truth, helps to eradicate facts that would prove the government's lies, I was chilled to the bone. And I was even more horrified to realize that if I had read 1984 in high school like most people, I would have read it at a time when 1984's warning would have come off as irrelevant to the modern age. I've read a lot of dystopian novels, but very few come even close to 1984 or Animal Farm. I think it's because Orwell understood that what is truly terrifying about fascism and totalitarianism is not the surveillance or the weapons or the twisted utilization of technology, but the simple truth that our understanding of reality or our basic instinct to care for our fellow human beings can be easily and thoroughly manipulated and eradicated if we are not careful. That is the reason why Orwell's warnings are so timeless: big or small, technological or undeveloped, pious or agnostic, that manipulation can happen anywhere, any time. And, if our current age shows anything, it can sneak up on you so quietly you won't realize it's there until it's all around you.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jon Davids

    Where did 1984 come from? What has been it's significance since publication? This books answers both. The early part reviews previous utopias and dystopias, and those who wrote them. Next is Eric Blair's life (George Orwell) and how he was influenced by his predecessors. Both of these sections were good, but a little dry, too academic. The final section looks at the impact of 1984, how it's content and message have been appropriated across the political spectrum, and it's relevance to our curren Where did 1984 come from? What has been it's significance since publication? This books answers both. The early part reviews previous utopias and dystopias, and those who wrote them. Next is Eric Blair's life (George Orwell) and how he was influenced by his predecessors. Both of these sections were good, but a little dry, too academic. The final section looks at the impact of 1984, how it's content and message have been appropriated across the political spectrum, and it's relevance to our current political situation. A very strong finish made this a worthy read!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    ‘It is truly Orwellian that the phrase “fake news” has been turned on its head by Trump and his fellow authoritarians to describe real news that is not to their liking, while flagrant lies became “alternative facts” [...] Trump creates his own reality and measures his power by the number of people who subscribe to it: the cruder the lies, the more power its success demonstrates. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giulani accidentally provided a crude motto for Versionland USA when he snapped at an interviewer, ‘It is truly Orwellian that the phrase “fake news” has been turned on its head by Trump and his fellow authoritarians to describe real news that is not to their liking, while flagrant lies became “alternative facts” [...] Trump creates his own reality and measures his power by the number of people who subscribe to it: the cruder the lies, the more power its success demonstrates. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giulani accidentally provided a crude motto for Versionland USA when he snapped at an interviewer, “Truth isn’t truth!”’

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    I guess that I’m really not all that interested in an in-depth look at 1984 and George Orwell. I think I just enjoy science fiction for its surface stories, not potential political and cultural connections to real life.

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