Our June book of the Month is the Ministry of Truth by Dorian Lynskey. Dorian is the producer of the excellent Remaniacs Podcast and there is a brief interview with the author in podcast 118: Anarchy in the UK EU elections aftermath special. Dorian has not been on his own in noting that in age of Brexit and Trump 1984 has a new relevance, in that it was supposed to be a warning not an instruction manual.
In the book itself it is left to the reader to draw comparisons with the current dysfunctional state of the UK and US.
‘If you have even the slightest interest in Orwell or in the development of our culture, you should not miss this engrossing, enlightening book.’ John Carey, Sunday Times
George Orwell’s last novel has become one of the iconic narratives of the modern world. Its ideas have become part of the language – from ‘Big Brother’ to the ‘Thought Police’, ‘Doublethink’, and ‘Newspeak’ – and seem ever more relevant in the era of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’.
The cultural influence of 1984 can be observed in some of the most notable creations of the past seventy years, from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, from Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta to David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs – and from the launch of Apple Mac to the reality TV landmark, Big Brother.
In this remarkable and original book. Dorian Lynskey investigates the influences that came together in the writing of 1984 from Orwell’s experiences in the Spanish Civil War and war-time London to his book’s roots in utopian and dystopian fiction. He explores the phenomenon that the novel became on publication and the changing ways in which it has been read over the decades since.
2019 marks the seventieth anniversary of the publication of what is arguably Orwell’s masterpiece, while the year 1984 itself is now as distant from us as it was from Orwell on publication day. The Ministry of Truth is a fascinating examination of one of the most significant works of modern English literature. It describes how history can inform fiction and how fiction can influence history.
The Ministry of Truth is the best book I have read in a long time. Fizzing with ideas yet superbly readable, it takes us though Orwell’s life and the development of twentieth-century utopias and dystopias, to the long afterlife of Orwell’s greatest work, read and misread during the Cold War as simple anti-communist propaganda, then in the 1980s as a failed prophecy, before finally and frighteningly showing it as a warning for our own age. When today 1984 is scrubbed from the internet in China, Russia weaponises lies on social media, and in the West a Trump adviser talks of “alternative facts” on his Inauguration Day, Lynskey’s book is both a warning and an exhortation for us all to be stubborn as Orwell was with facts, and like Winston Smith to cling to the belief that 2+2=4.
C. J. Sansom
Fascinating . . . Freshly and powerfully argued . . . If you have even the slightest interest in Orwell or in the development of our culture, you should not miss this engrossing, enlightening book.
John Carey – Sunday Times
Everything you wanted to know about 1984 but were too busy misusing the word -Orwellian- to ask.
There is a Guardian review by D J Taylor available here.