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Publisher's Summary

"Rich and compelling. . .Lynskey’s account of the reach of 1984 is revelatory.” --George Packer, The Atlantic

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 best seller ("Ministry of Alternative Facts", anyone?). Its influence has morphed endlessly into novels (The Handmaid's Tale), films (Brazil), television shows (V for Vendetta), rock albums (Diamond Dogs), commercials (Apple), 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 on as he struggled to finish his masterpiece in his dying days; and the political and cultural phenomena that the novel ignited at once upon publication and that far from subsiding, have only grown over the decades. It explains how fiction history informs fiction and how fiction explains history.

©2019 Dorian Lynskey (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Perhaps the best book of its kind that I've ever read. The portrait it provides of Orwell is sharp, nuanced, and moving, and its capsule histories of the major and minor planets in orbit around 1984 are surprising and deeply informative. Above all, it's just flat out fun to read. With The Ministry of Truth, Dorian Lynskey has done anyone who loves literature a great service." (Tom Bissell, author of Apostle and co-author of The Disaster Artist)

“Gaslighting, doublespeak, the horror of a crowd of human ‘gramophones...playing the same tune’ at frenzied rallies where mob and demagogue crescendo together in an orgasm of hate: Orwell saw our future and sent us a time capsule to be opened in case of emergency. That moment is now. Briskly written and brilliantly argued, The Ministry of Truth delves deep into the cultural impact - and terrifying relevance - of a book that, 70 years on, still delivers the jolt of a torturer’s electrodes.” (Mark Dery, author of Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey)

"A deeply researched and highly readable intellectual history, providing a wealth of information and anecdotes about Orwell's life and work. Lynskey skillfully weaves together literary and political histories to create a rich tapestry, full of context, color and insight into one of the most important books of the last century - and thus far, this century as well. The Ministry of Truth is an illuminating and entertaining companion to 1984, a novel whose relevance and necessity are more evident than ever, at a time when the very concept of objective reality is under attack.” (Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe)

What listeners say about The Ministry of Truth

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Required Reading

This is an intelligent look at the history of dystopian literature using "1984" as an anchor. It traces the history of such literature with attention to the writers. Part Two presents the effects of " 1984" after the death of George Orwell. It refrains from hysterical interpretations but serves as a warning to not let this happen.

3 people found this helpful

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The best possible book on this topic

George Orwell has always been my favorite author in the English language, so this timely exposition of his biography connected to the writing of 1984 was wonderful. It was appropriate it was narrated by a British-speaking person. The book was interesting on three levels: general biography of Orwell. The circumstances surrounding his writing of the book. Observations over time about the book and it’s impact on modern political thought.

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Really an awesome book

I've always argued since reading 1984 in the 60's in high school that you can't understand politics - and especially American politics today - unless you've read 1984. This book makes that so clear, and is such a fascinating and easy book to listen too - I highly recommend it!

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Great book about a great work

As the book states: Orwell wanted to galvanize not paralyze. The rest depends on you.

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Definitely will listen again!

Dorian Lynskey has written a phenomenal biography of the book 1984 and Orwell's life , work, and the influences that affected his thinking and creation. It is interesting the life the book has had since the publication and Orwell's death and the arguments it continues. This book is certainly one that I will listen to again and revisit some of the other books and authors discussed.

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three treatments

I'm not sure if you can have a biography of a book - and this book is a few things. First, it's a biography of Orwell, second, it's a history of the book 1984, and finally it covers some of the cultural significance of Orwell and 1984. That's what I was looking for, but as evidenced by various reviewers, it may not be what everyone wants or what everyone takes away from it. 1984 gets different readings depending on the reader (Orwell being adopted by the left and right) and I think a strength of this book is that by covering these three aspects of Orwell/1984 you get a better understanding of who and what produced 1984 over 50 years ago and how to relate it to today. Some of it drags a bit (I don't need a decade by decade run-down of the main pieces of art that reference 1984, and while yes Wells et al influenced Orwell, a full history of utopian/dystopian fiction at the turn of the century is a bit much) but you can skip those if you're prepared. I enjoyed it overall. As for the narrator, he was okay, but as someone else noted, some of his voicing is a little uneven. Conspiratorial, as one says in places, but more distracting for me was his reading of accents and genders. One of his strange stock voices for women is a short-of-breath approach, and then he sometimes uses American accents (he's British) for American reviewers of Orwell, and sometimes seems to forget to use the American accent. Fine, just a little inconsistent and distracting. But fine on the whole.

1 person found this helpful

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Strong Analysis of Orwell

This book is definitely worth reading as its analysis of the sources and thinking behind 1984, as well as the book’s influence on and relevance to our world today, is illuminating and thought-provoking. However, the reader’s rendition of the book is less than optimal, for he reads it with an annoying “conspiratorial” voice that quickly becomes tiresome.

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Great book, until....

Very interesting book, well-written and read well. It's not 1984, rather, it is a deep dive into Orwell and his life leading up to the writing of 1984. I was fascinated with the book until the last 20 minutes when the author goes off the rails on a garbage anti-Trump tangent.

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words from MY mouth...

what a disgrace. I downloaded a book about a book's book for the last time.

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Great until the last chapter

The author does a great job with the biographical content about Orwell. The section on the time between Orwell's death and roughly the present is also very good. He made a point of emphasizing Orwell's honesty and attempt to know his own biases. It's too bad the author could not follow the same guidelines when discussing current events.

4 people found this helpful