An authoritative, wide-ranging and incredibly timely history of 1984—its literary sources, its composition by Orwell, its deep and lasting effect on the Cold War, and its vast influence throughout world culture at every level, from high to pop.
1984 isn’t just a novel; it’s a key to understanding the modern world. George Orwell’s final work is a treasure chest of ideas and memes—Big Brother, the Thought Police, Doublethink, Newspeak, 2+2=5 – that gain potency with every year. Particularly in 2016, when the election of Donald Trump made it a bestseller (“Ministry of Alternative Facts,” anyone?). Its influence has morphed endlessly into novels (Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale), films (Terry Gilliam’s Brazil), television shows (Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta), rock albums (David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs), commercials (launch of the Apple Mac), even reality TV (Big Brother).
The Ministry of Truth is the first book that fully examines the epochal and cultural event that is 1984 in all its aspects: its roots in the utopian and dystopian literature that preceded it; the personal experiences in wartime Great Britain that Orwell drew upon as he struggled to finish his masterpiece in his dying days; and the political and cultural phenomenon that the novel ignited at once upon publication and which far from subsiding, has only grown over the decades. It explains how fiction history informs fiction and how fiction explains history.
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.