Author Dorian Lynskey believes that every generation finds aspects of George Orwell’s 1984 that resonate with their own political times.
Today we have the normalisation of lies and what the Trump administration has called ‘alternative facts’.
Another major issue anticipated by the book, published in 1949 and now in its 70th anniversary year, is the collapse of privacy.
These are just some of the issues he will look at when he discusses Orwell’s masterpiece at the Wigtown Book Festival, which takes place from 27 September to 6 October.
The novel pictures a society where telescreens are ubiquitous, eavesdropping on everything people say and do, where the past is constantly rewritten to suit the regime, and where the ministries of truth, plenty and love oversee propaganda, rationing and torture.
Lynskey, a journalist and the author of The Ministry of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell’s 1984, says: ‘The most valuable aspect of 1984for many people today is the way it looks at the denial of reality and the undermining of objective truth.
‘Authoritarian populists like Trump, Putin and Bolsonaro use outrageous lies as a key component of their political power.
‘We are also seeing an ever-growing culture of surveillance, whether by the state or by private tech companies. Our words and actions are monitored to a degree unprecedented in a democracy, and largely with our tacit consent.’
One of the most remarkable things about the book is how many of its ideas have become embedded in our language.
Lynskey explained: ‘Concepts like doublethink, Thought Police, Big Brother, Newspeak and Room 101 have become so much part of our culture that you don’t even have to mention Orwell or 1984. People know automatically what they mean.’
The book is, he believes, the foundation stone of modern dystopian fiction. Unlike Aldous Huxley’s earlier Brave New World it was not a playful science fiction fantasy but a satire based on his research into the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin.
It is a genre that has given rise to works such as The Handmaid’s Tale,V for Vendetta, Children of Menand The Hunger Games,finding an audience among book lovers and filmgoers of all ages and backgrounds.
And according to Lynskey it’s not a trend that is likely to vanish in the near future: “There is a deep ambivalence about technology and a loss of faith in political systems. One response is that we turn to dystopian fiction – it is popular because we are scared.”
The Index of Censorship Event: Saturday, 28 September, noon. The panel: Dorian Lynskey, author of The Ministry of Truth, an acclaimed new biography of 1984; award-winning foreign affairs writer David Pratt; and Julia Farrington of Index on Censorship. Chaired by Magnus Linklater.
Dorian Lynskey – The Ministry of Truth: Saturday 28 September, 6pm.
For full details of Wigtown Book Festival go to wigtownbookfestival.com.