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The Secret Life

Andrew O’Hagan

A groundbreaking examination of identity, secrecy, and the relationship between the individual, the state, and technology.

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The slippery online ecosystem is the perfect breeding ground for identities: true, false, and in between. We no longer question the reality of online experiences but the reality of selfhood in the digital age.

In The Secret Life: Three True Stories, Andrew O’Hagan issues three bulletins from the porous border between cyberspace and the ‘real world’. ‘Ghosting’ introduces us to the beguiling and divisive Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whose autobiography the author agrees to ghostwrite with unforeseen—and unforgettable—consequences. ‘The Invention of Ronnie Pinn’ finds the author using the actual identity of a deceased young man to construct an entirely new one in cyberspace, leading him on a journey into the deep web’s darkest realms. And ‘The Satoshi Affair’ chronicles the strange case of Craig Wright, the Australian web developer who may or may not be the mysterious inventor of Bitcoin, and who may or may not be willing, or even able, to reveal the truth.

What does it mean when your very sense of self becomes, to borrow a phrase from the tech world, ‘disrupted’? Perhaps it takes a novelist, an inventor of selves, armed with the tools of a trenchant reporter, to find an answer.

Critic Reviews

For prose, try Andrew O’Hagan’s The Secret Life on the wilder shores and darker characters of the internet. It’s funny, neatly written and deeply thought-provoking.

Andrew Marr, New Statesman's Books of the Year 2017
Critic Reviews

O’Hagan is an immensely engaging writer: wry and witty, and insightful ... despite their technological background, these are ultimately human stories and O’Hagan tells them superbly.

Ian Critchley, Sunday Times
Critic Reviews

Altogether, The Secret Life is nothing less than an affirmation that using words well still matters, even now.

David Sexton, Evening Standard
Critic Reviews

O’Hagan [is] a vivid and meticulous writer ... at the core of this excellent collection we glimpse the unbridgeable difference between the real and the invented.

Andrew Anthony, Observer
Critic Reviews

It is a tribute to O’Hagan’s quiet and effective betrayal of Assange that the reader’s ambivalence towards the Wikileaker does not prevent the reader’s gradual antipathy.

David Aaronovitch, The Times
Critic Reviews

The theme is identity in the digital age and [O’Hagan’s] three subjects are exquisitely fit for purpose … Thrilling.


Andrew O’Hagan was born in Glasgow. He has been nominated for the Booker Prize, was voted one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003, and he won the E. M. Forster Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is Editor-at-Large of the London Review of Books and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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