Genre: Arts, History & Current Affairs

The Ministry of Truth

by Dorian Lynskey


THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH is a unique and brilliant biography of one of our most important and enduring stories — NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR by George Orwell.

Everybody knows George Orwell’s NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, even if they haven’t read it. Its influence informs works as diverse as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta and David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs. It inspired the most acclaimed television commercial of all time, a landmark in reality television, rock concept albums and countless fictional dystopias. Every year gives us new angles on the ideas represented in the novel’s key phrases and images: Big Brother, Room 101, The Thought Police, Doublethink, Newspeak, memory hole, 2+2=5, a boot stamping on a human face forever. Whenever we talk about authoritarianism, surveillance, propaganda, revisionism or post-truth, it is Orwell who has set us the broadest context for the conversation. Orwell’s greatest book continues to speak to us, louder than ever in the age of Trump.

But NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR has a context and a story of its own. It was, of course, a specific product of the post-war 1940s. The story of NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR is also the story of Orwell’s life and ideas, particularly between his service in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and his death in 1950. But follow the story backwards and a new angle reveals itself: NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR is not just one of our most influential works of fiction, but one of the most influenced. In THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH, Lynskey interleaves Orwell’s life between 1936 and 1950 with the history that helped create the novel — tendrils that extend back to revolutionary Russia, Edwardian England and fin-de-siècle America.

So, this is the biography of a novel: a story much bigger than Orwell’s alone. THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH is the first book to treat NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR as a ubiquitous cultural touchstone rather than as an academic text. It spans the 20th century, and before and beyond, taking in literature, cinema, pop music, politics and technology. Deftly weaving these disparate strands together, Lynskey forms a remarkably fresh take on Orwell’s classic text as it approaches its 70th anniversary.

“Lynskey does a superb job analyzing the young Orwell's political beliefs, his hatred for fascism, and his ‘vision of common-sense radicalism’… [a] fascinating literary history.” - Kirkus Reviews
"Like all great parables, 1984 is only as timeless as its interpreters can make it relevant. Lynskey manages to place Orwell’s novel within a web of culture, politics and personalities, and thus shows how and why it continues to light up our thinking." - Peter Pomerantsev
"Everything you wanted to know about 1984 but were too busy misusing the word 'Orwellian' to ask." - Caitlin Moran
"THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH is the best book I have read in a long time." - CJ Sansom
“Entertaining. . .intriguing. . .intense.” - Publishers Weekly
"Perhaps the best book of its kind that I've ever read. . . With THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH, Dorian Lynskey has done anyone who loves literature a great service." - Tom Bissell, author of APOSTLE
"Arresting. . .[THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH] joins the dots between the age of fake news and Orwell’s work." - The Economist
“You should not miss this engrossing, enlivening book.” - John Carey, The Sunday Times
“[A] wide-ranging and sharply written new study.” - New York Times Book Review
“[A]n engrossing, many-branched biography of the book and its valiant creator. In agile, syncopated prose, Lynskey briskly elucidates Orwell’s life.” - Booklist starred review
“[A] lively literary history… it contextualizes Orwell’s art in a valuable way, encompassing both his life and his library.” - Newsday
"Lynskey’s account of the reach of 1984 is revelatory.”

- The Atlantic
"A respectful and intelligent 'biography' of a novel." - Los Angeles Times