Biography of Orwell’s 1984

Today’s New York Times reviews what it describes as a biography of George Orwell’s novel 1984This year marks the 70th anniversary of the novel’s publication on  8 June 1949 in London and a week later in New York. The book’s “biography” is entitled The Ministry of Truth and is written by Dorian Lynskey.

According to the NYT review written by Lev Mendes, Lynskey:

…believes that 1984–one of the 20th century’s most examined artifacts–is actually ‘more known about than truly known’ and sets about to reground it in Orwell’s personal and literary development.

The book briefly mentions Waugh’s contacts with Orwell in his final years. In fact, although not mentioned, Waugh had reviewed Orwell’s Critical Essays in a 1946 issue of The Tablet before they had met. That is collected in EAR. Orwell reviewed Waugh’s Scott-King’s Modern Europe in a 1949 issue of the New York Times (collected in Martin Stannard’s Critical Heritage volume) and was at work on a longer essay about Waugh when he died in 1950. Waugh did not review 1984 but wrote his opinion of it at some length in a letter to Orwell dated 17 July 1949 (Letters, p. 302). He visited Orwell on more than one occasion at the Gloucestershire sanitarium where Orwell was recuperating from TB, which wasn’t far from where Waugh lived near Dursley.

Finally, the book again mentions Waugh in connection with the stream of dystopian novels that appeared after 1984 in the period between the Korean and Vietnam Wars. These included Waugh’s 1953 novella Love Among the Ruins which was in some sense his  response to his own criticism of 1984 in his 1949 letter to Orwell. That novella is included in Waugh’s Complete Collected Stories. Others mentioned in the NY Times review include Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano, LP Hartley’s Facial Justice and Ayn Rand’s Anthem.



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