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The Secret Life

Three True Stories of the Digital Age

Andrew O'Hagan


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ISBN10: 125019279X
ISBN13: 9781250192790

Trade Paperback

240 Pages


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A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year One of Publishers Weekly's Top 10 Book of Essays and Literary CriticismOne of Chicago Reader's Books We Can’t Wait to Read in the Rest of 2017

The Secret Life issues three bulletins from the porous border between cyberspace and IRL.

“Ghosting” introduces us to the beguiling and divisive Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whose autobiography O’Hagan agrees to ghostwrite with unforeseen—and unforgettable—consequences. “The Invention of Ronnie Pinn” finds him using the actual identity of a deceased young man to construct an entirely new one in cyberspace, leading him on a journey deep into the 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, Satoshi Nakamoto—and who may or may not be willing, or even able, to reveal the truth.

These fascinating pieces take us to the weirder fringes of life in a digital world while also casting light on our shared predicaments. What does it mean when your very sense of self becomes, to borrow a term from the tech world, “disrupted”? The Secret Life shows us that it might take a novelist, an inventor of selves, armed with the tools of a trenchant reporter, to find an answer.


Praise for The Secret Life

"The theme is identity in the digital age and [O'Hagan's] three subjects are exquisitely fit for purpose . . . Thrilling."Esquire (UK)"

[O'Hagan] explores 'the wild west of the Internet' with incisive vigor in The Secret Life."—Michael Upchurch, Chicago Tribune

"Fascinating . . . O'Hagan asks probing questions about the meaning and construct of identity in the digital age. Smart and engaging, The Secret Life will change the way you see life on the internet."—Sadie Trombetta, Bustle

"Three fascinating strange-but-true tales of the Internet age. The firstO'Hagan's hilariously frank account of his short-lived career as Julian Assange's ghostwriteris worth the price of admission."—Ash Carter, Esquire

"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

"O'Hagan's prose is always a delight. The cadence of his sentences, the way in which he balances extension and brevity, the unspooling and the reeling in, is a masterclass in the art of prose. This is not just a good book, but a necessary one."—Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

"Three intriguing pieces of journalism about the new threats of a digital age . . . [O'Hagan is] razor-sharp."Kirkus Reviews

"Splendid . . . O'Hagan's grasp of storytelling is prodigious, and the ending of his essay on Pinn is a particularly inspired, even moving, piece of writing. Taken as a whole, this is an unmissable collection of up-to-the-moment insights about life in our digital era."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


On January 5, 2011, at 8:30 p.m., I was messing about at home when the phone buzzed on the sofa. It was a text from Jamie Byng, the publisher of Canongate. “Are you about?” it said. “I have a somewhat left-field...

About the author

Andrew O'Hagan

Andrew O’Hagan is one of Britain’s most exciting and serious contemporary writers. He has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize three times, was voted one of Granta’s 2003 Best of Young British Novelists, and received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the author of Our Fathers, Be Near Me, and The Illuminations, among other books. He lives in London.

Andrew O'Hagan

Official Links

Andrew O'Hagan at the LRB