The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's "1984"by Published 04 Jun 2019
|The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's "1984".pdf|
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.
The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's "1984" Reviews
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.
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!
A study of the book Nineteen Eighty-Four largely through a comparison to other political literature of the time - mostly utopian novels, but also contemporary dystopian fiction like Zamyatin's We and Huxley's Brave New World.
While the literary comparisons are interesting, I personally would have like even more detail on Orwell's foundational experiences in the Spanish Civil War and life in wartime London, which would have contributed to the grey dismal world of Airstrip One - press censorship, lousy food, dinginess, the random violence of bombings, etc.
That said, Lynskey's insistence on trying to rescue the book from lazy caricature and his refusal to put Orwell on a pedestal make this an even-handed effort to grapple with the subject.
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.
In January 2017, Sarah Huckabee Sanders 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 Sanders 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