Book review: The Secret Life, by Andrew O’Hagan
This triptych of non-fiction pieces is united by more than one concern. On the surface, however, it is simply about the way in which technology is reshaping our world. The first is a piece about Julian Assange, whom O’Hagan, one of our finest novelists, was commissioned to work with to produce his autobiography; auto- being slightly redundant in this instance. After wrangles over contracts, the book was published as the “unauthorised” life of Assange, but without O’Hagan’s name on the cover. The second essay involves Ronald Pinn, a name O’Hagan found on a gravestone – the young man was 20 when he died – and then utilised to create a virtual identity. Pinn took on a life of his own, in a manner farcical, fascinating and foul. Finally, we get “The Satoshi Affair”. Again, it is related to a significant project O’Hagan was invited to work on, and which worked out differently to everyone’s expectations: a book about the identity of the founder of bitcoin, the digital currency. Although, in the already post-truth world of the web, bitcoin was the invention of “Satoshi Nakamoto”, as O’Hagan writes, “Satoshi was loved by bitcoin fans for making a beautiful thing and then disappearing. They don’t want Satoshi to be wrong or contradictory, boastful or short-tempered, and they really don’t want him to be a 45-year-old Australian called Craig”.