The Secret Life by Andrew O’Hagan review – Assange and other internet outlaws

Oh, do you write a compelling e-book approximately the internet? Decades after computers started out reordering our lives, it’s a query nonfiction writers are nevertheless suffering with. The speed with which the digital global changes; the difficulty of dramatizing human beings peering at displays and typing; the less than vibrant emotional lives of the key online protagonists – these kinds of can make netbooks seem rather gray and obsolete in comparison with the Technicolor, distracting swirl of the internet itself.

Andrew O’Hagan’s answer is to write down about 3 “outlaws” from “the wild west of the net”: Julian Assange, the founding father of WikiLeaks (proper); Craig Wright, who claims to be the inventor of the web foreign money bitcoin; and Ronald Pinn, and nearly completely forgotten Londoner who died in 1984, whose identification O’Hagan borrows to create a fictitious virtual personality. “My 3 case studies are man or woman, and in many ways, they’re standard of nothing but themselves,” O’Hagan writes with studied modesty in his foreword. But then he can’t face up to adding extra ambitiously: “They would possibly each tell a story approximately the instances we’re residing in.”

 

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In January 2011, at the peak of Assange’s repute as a political disruptor and difficult persona, O’Hagan became requested with the aid of the writer Canongate to ghostwrite a book for him. Sketchily defined as an aggregate of memoir and manifesto, it was sold by using Canongate for £six hundred,000, in addition to with the aid of dozens of foreign publishers. O’Hagan is a hectic author, but he frequents the commission almost right away, for “the joys” of getting the inside tale about Assange, and the “authorly freedom” the concept might include being an undeclared ghostwriter. Later that month, he drove to u . S . A . House in Norfolk where Assange changed into then restrained after being arrested for alleged sexual assaults in Sweden (an investigation that has now been dropped) after which released on bail.

O’Hagan describes the preliminary ranges of his descent into the Assange vortex with an adorable wit and self-belief: “I was given to Ellingham Hall … I’d been instructed there were reporters everywhere and indeed there had been lighting around the fields and once in a while helicopters overhead. I checked out the driveway beneath a full moon. It felt almost comically film … Character and power ready to combust.” Like revolutionaries who’ve seized a mansion, Assange and his younger followers slob across the residence, half victorious and half listless, preserving bizarre hours, operating on various WikiLeaks plots, and ingesting massive dinners “prepared with the aid of the housekeeper”. One night time, O’Hagan notes sharply, Assange “had three helpings of lasagne”, then ate “jam pudding along with his arms”.The Australian PC genius is memorably portrayed as a messianic, brittle figure, railing constantly in opposition to perceived enemies, including his former collaborators at the Guardian. O’Hagan, one among literary journalism’s wonderful charmers, nevertheless reveals things to like about him: “He was amused and suspicious at the identical time, a pleasant aggregate I idea.” But because it becomes clear that Assange has no goal of supporting with their supposedly collaborative ebook assignment in any sustained or closing date-conscious way, and the complete a good deal-hyped organization collapses, even O’Hagan regularly loses his composure. The prose here switches from urbane to irritated and loses its captivating economic system. The narrative arc freezes frustratingly in the wintry Norfolk air.