Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World

by Naomi Klein

Hardcover, 2023


Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2023), 416 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Computer Technology. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML: A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | National Indie Bestseller "I've been raving about Naomi Klein's Doppelganger . . . I can't think of another text that better captures the berserk period we're living through." —Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times "If I had to name a single book that makes sense of these last few dark years, it would be this one." —Katie Roiphe, The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice) "If ever a book was necessary, it's this one." —Bill McKibben "Thoughtful and honest . . . Incisive . . . Klein moves her reader toward the truer grounds of solidarity in these times." —Judith Butler What if you woke up one morning and found you'd acquired another self—a double who was almost you and yet not you at all? What if that double shared many of your preoccupations but, in a twisted, upside-down way, furthered the very causes you'd devoted your life to fighting against? Not long ago, the celebrated activist and public intellectual Naomi Klein had just such an experience—she was confronted with a doppelganger whose views she found abhorrent but whose name and public persona were sufficiently similar to her own that many people got confused about who was who. Destabilized, she lost her bearings, until she began to understand the experience as one manifestation of a strangeness many of us have come to know but struggle to define: AI-generated text is blurring the line between genuine and spurious communication; New Age wellness entrepreneurs turned anti-vaxxers are scrambling familiar political allegiances of left and right; and liberal democracies are teetering on the edge of absurdist authoritarianism, even as the oceans rise. Under such conditions, reality itself seems to have become unmoored. Is there a cure for our moment of collective vertigo? Naomi Klein is one of our most trenchant and influential social critics, an essential analyst of what branding, austerity, and climate profiteering have done to our societies and souls. Here she turns her gaze inward to our psychic landscapes, and outward to the possibilities for building hope amid intersecting economic, medical, and political crises. With the assistance of Sigmund Freud, Jordan Peele, Alfred Hitchcock, and bell hooks, among other accomplices, Klein uses wry humor and a keen sense of the ridiculous to face the strange doubles that haunt us—and that have come to feel as intimate and proximate as a warped reflection in the mirror. Combining comic memoir with chilling reportage and cobweb-clearing analysis, Klein seeks to smash that mirror and chart a path beyond despair. Doppelganger asks: What do we neglect as we polish and perfect our digital reflections? Is it possible to dispose of our doubles and overcome the pathologies of a culture of multiplication? Can we create a politics of collective care and undertake a true reckoning with historical crimes? The result is a revelatory treatment of the way many of us think and feel now—and an intellectual adventure story for our times..… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member willszal
When I first heard about this book and saw the trailer, I thought, “hmm, rather meta.” Although I’ve known of Naomi Klein for the past decade, I hadn’t realized she had a doppelgänger. Once I got into the book, I realized that Klein was referring to Naomi Wolf. Wracking my memory, I
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vaguely recall people talking about one of her books, “Vagina,” but people recommended that I don’t read it because it was too violent, so I never have been exposed to any of her material. I follow Klein on X, but hadn’t realized there was a doppelgänger issue.

Although the book is meta, it is as great as any Klein has ever written. She follows a deep curiosity for Wolf’s turn from feminist to anti-vaxer, and uses the opportunity to simultaneously self reflect.

Klein walks us through the fascinating history and literature surrounding doppelgängers. Many of the themes she explores are familiar to me, but she didn’t cite any of my touch points. If you say the word doppelgänger to me, the first idea that comes to mind is the one outlined in Martin Shaw’s “The Wild Twin,” about the way in which we all have a wild aspect of ourselves that must be honored if we are to be whole. The second source that comes to mind are the sub-personalities outlined in “Wild Mind,” a book by the Jungian depth psychologist, Bill Plotkin. And then the third is David Abram’s “The Spell of the Sensuous,” about the limits of language.

Although Klein doesn’t touch on the sources of myth and semiotic theory that I would, she does still cite some powerful mythic sources. One is the source of her common name: Naomi. In the Jewish myth, Naomi loses her sons, and is left with only her daughter-in-law. She becomes bitter, and therefore renames herself Mara. Although Klein apparently contemplated changing her name (not to Mara), she has yet resisted the magnetism of living myth and still calls herself Naomi.

Sadly, Naomi Klein presciently anticipated the political narratives surrounding current events in Israel/Palestine.

In some ways, the book is about the failure of critical thought as a theory of change, and the success of “action-oriented” movements such as the alt-right. As such, it might be held in higher regard as a memoir (self-reflective), rather than a political book (because if it is, then it is admitting defeat of an approach the book itself utilizes). That said, acknowledgement is a fundamental step in grieving processes, and we need not treat this book as an ending, but rather, as a beginning.
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LibraryThing member akblanchard
As progressive, anti-capitalist author Naomi Klein hastens to point out, she is not the same person as “liberal” right-wing darling Naomi Wolf. Klein’s initial bemusement at the frequent mix-up gives way to repulsion as she analyzes Wolf’s positions on such hot-button topics as vaccination,
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neurodiversity, and right-wing “patriotism”, as well as her alliance with former Trump aide Steve Bannon. Climate change, anti-semitism, and militant Zionism are also among Klein’s concerns. Klein is concerned about how the notion of the “double” in both psychology and politics can lead to oppression and even genocide.

This very readable book is a good introduction to Klein’s life and thought.
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LibraryThing member spinsterrevival
It's actually really difficult to explain what this book is "about" as the author covers so many various topics and questions how this moment (more the US but some Canada too) got to where it is today, and it's all based around the parallel journey from outspoken feminist to
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Bannon-confidante/conspiracy-fiend of her "doppelganger", Naomi Wolf. It was all utterly fascinating and disturbing, and it's definitely going to be a book for the times to understand more of who and what we're dealing with. My odd random takeaway is that apparently Wolf specifically seemed to jump on the conspiracy train right around the time she met her second husband (who is former special forces, runs a security firm, and bought her a gun), so it seems very likely that that's a big factor along with everything else Klein breaks down for us as well.
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LibraryThing member Narshkite
Things were going so well. Klein gave me a smart analysis of post-truth America (and to some extent Canada.) She connected some things and addressed the failure of the Left and Center to honor the real (and justifiable) fears of technology (especially the cooptation and commodification of our
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identities), the unimaginable profits that drug companies made from Covid, and many other things. That failure left a vacuum that people like Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson, hundreds of YouTube, Insta, X, and TikTok influencers, and Klein's doppelganger herself the sad sack lunatic Naomi Wolf, and boy did they seize that opportunity. As recently as yesterday I was singing its praises. And then we got where it was always going -- Capitalism is the real villain, and Zionism, and the Patriarchy. Sigh. My disappointment with this is even greater than it was with the last Matthew Desmond book, Poverty By America.

I don't want to get into a rant here, but I am going to say two things. Capitalism is flawed, it leads to all sorts of bad ends. but it is not "failing us on every front that matters" as Klein says. I teach in a graduate program with a lot of foreign students, many of whom come from countries that are not technically capitalist nations. Many come from countries in Europe that are Socialist or Socialist adjacent. These students are always bright, often brilliant, and generally committed to making the world better and they all want to come here for a reason. Capitalism is not a zero-sum game, the bad things it brings do not obviate the good and great things it brings. The second thing is that Zionism is also flawed, the Palestinian people suffer as a result of certain elements of Zionism, but Zionism can be redefined. Like Capitalism, Zionism has led to things bad and good, but none of those obviate the need for a Jewish homeland. Just because we are paranoid does not mean they're not trying to kill us. The support of BDS from a Jew is sheer self-loathing.

Finally, Klein's choice to bring all of the terrible things happening in post-truth America together as an attack on Capitalism ends up sounding like a nonsensical illogical conspiracy theory. The student surpasses her doppelganger. Well, doesn't surpass her, but she joins her.

The first 60% of this is really good. Then it plummets into a lefty conspiracy theory intended to dent a righty conspiracy theory. A 3.5.
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LibraryThing member john.cooper
Klein is an engaging writer who radiates honesty and emotional openness, so I kept going even though it seemed to be little more than a collection of random thoughts about this weird age we're in where at least half the population (or more) seems to have lost its grip on reality. Starting off with
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the strange way that she, Naomi Klein, was for a period consistently and frustratingly confused with reality-challenged nutcase Naomi Wolf — once a respected feminist and cultural analyst, now a frequent guest on Steve Bannon's podcast and worldview ally of RFK Jr. — is a great hook, but it only goes so far. Fortunately, the last two sections of the book make up for the excessive discursiveness of the first two or three. The chapters on how we all, left and right, tend to see Nazis in our ideological enemies, and on the psychological aspects of modern anti-Semitism are brilliant and make convincing points I've never heard before. If you can stand reading about today's dystopian political scene at all, this is worth your time. I feel wiser for reading it.
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LibraryThing member questbird
Left-wing activist and author Naomi Klein reached a personal and professional crossroads during the COVID-19 pandemic when she became increasingly confused in the (social media) public's consciousness with Naomi Wolf, who had very publicly embraced antivax and conspiracy theories at that time. In
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an effort to 'reclaim' her identity, Klein explores the theme of the Doppelganger or double in fiction, and applies the ideas to the 'mirror world' of conspiracy theorists, QAnon etc. She does this by diving deep, at times obsessively deep, into her doppelganger's world of Steve Bannon podcasts and anti-mask demonstrations. When 'Other Naomi' (who is Jewish like Klein) bandies about such terms as Nazis, genocide, slavery and tyranny, Klein examines this language and her own attitude to Jewishness, colonialism and anti-Semitism. Fortunately she does not lose her way, and she brings a clarity to this mirror-world for those who have lost (or maybe misplaced) friends or family there.

This book is partly a document of the crazy early 2020s with its lockdowns and misinformation, partly an exploration of the social forces which have created this 'mirror world' and partly a continuation of her work to fight the negative forces of global capitalism, albeit from a much more personal, midlife, battle-weary perspective than before. Along the way, Klein realises that our doppelgangers are us to some extent -- the parts of ourselves we don't want anyone to see. She comes to a kind of peaceful acceptance -- or at least understanding -- of the mirror world with all its hate and fear, and she brings the reader along. Ultimately she suggests that we will all need each other, mirror world or not, to face the challenges of this century.
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LibraryThing member ASKelmore
Best for:
People interested in a novel way of looking at the complexities of modern politics.

In a nutshell:
Author Klein explores the different political realities people inhabit in areas as vast as vaccines and middle east policies.

Worth quoting:
We are told that the way things are is the only way
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they can be, because every other model has supposedly already been tried, and all have failed. But these ideas about different ways of being and thinking and living did not all fail; rather, many of them fell, crushed by political violence and racial terror. Being crushed is not the same as failing, because what was crushed can be revived, reimagined anew.

Why I chose it:
I’ve heard a lot of people talking about it, and I had some long travel coming up so decided to get the audio book (especially after I heard it was read by the author).

What it left me feeling:

This is a hard book to review. It was fascinating - really interesting. But hard to review, mostly because I think I need to re-read it next year, and read a physical copy.

Naomi Klein is often confused with Naomi Wolfe. They are both white Jewish women, both have the same first name, and for a time, both known for having liberal (or in Klein’s case, lefitst) politics. Wolfe wrote the Beauty Myth, which I recall reading and recall thinking highly of. Klein has written about disaster capitalism, climate catastrophe, and other critical political and cultural topics. But sometimes over the last few years, Wolfe has taken a hard right turn, delving deep into conspiracies - she’s a regular on Steve Bannon’s podcast. And when she offers a hot take, people mistakenly attribute it Klein, who then feels a need to defend herself.

In this book, Klein uses this as a stepping off point to explore how people ostensibly living in the same world have such vastly different experiences of reality. She uses fictional accounts of the concept of the double or doppelganger to illustrate the sections, which shows I think a really complex level of thinking, but one that I had trouble following in the audio version of the book.

The last chapter of the book focuses on the conflict between Israel and Palestine - obviously written before what is going on there now. But it was interesting to read, to get her thoughts as a Jewish woman and a leftist. I think it’s a chapter a lot of people would benefit from reading right now.

As I said, I’m thinking this would be a good one to read again next year, because I know there’s a lot in here that I didn’t absorb as much as I could have. I really should stick to mysteries and memoirs when it comes to audio books.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Recommend to a Friend
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LibraryThing member TheAmpersand
This could have been a really frivolous book. Anyone who writes an entire book about how they're constantly mistaken for another author/talking head with a similar name and of vaguely similar appearance could easily be accused of making much too much out of very little. Or of unrestrained
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navel-gazing. But "Doppelganger" is a remarkably complete and thoughtful take on the double, ranging from its role in literature, painting, and psychology to, most urgently, contemporary American politics. I'd never read Naomi (Klein) before, and I picked up my copy for just a couple of bucks, but "Doppelganger" goes deeper than I really expected it to.

Throughout the book, Klein impresses upon the reader that she took the time to do the legwork. She listened to countless hours of Steve Bannon's "War Room" podcast. She saw what happened to her husband's resoundingly unsuccessful semi-socialist bid for the Canadian legislature -- which happened at the height of the COVID pandemic -- close up. She dove into Twitter when it was still called Twitter. She comes out with some interesting theories, and while I don't know if they're all-the-way correct, they likely deserve your time and attention. Klein grapples with the essential cult of individuality on both the far left on the right, the attitude that unites macha-drinking health-obssessed yoga moms and gun-toting libertarians. Both of these groups resisted the very idea of vaccine mandates or widespread closures during the pandemic, and the author draws intering connections between the two groups leading back to, yes, the wandervogel proto-Nazi movement that linked the healthy great outdoors with racial purity.

The product of two committed non-institutional socialist teachers, she also posits that capitalism's own bent toward the individual leads people down conspiratorial rabbit holes when things don't work out as they'd planned. Hero stories, one of her sources notes, can easily become villian stories. It's one thing to be empowered by throwing away modern beauty standards in order to live a better life, but if the confines of that life are still dictated by purely capitalist values, there are always going to be a lot of losers wondering why they've been left out and looking for someone to blame.

This is where "Doppelganger" is at its most improbable and, perversely, perhaps, its most inspiring. Klein calls for a world that de-centers the engorged modern self, fed on social media and capitalist values, a world where we could know ourselves and each other without the sort of angst that comes with obsessing about our own identities. This is an emotionally generous vision, and while it might not be practical, Klein's call to rethink our basic, often directly contradictory values may be worth heeding, and is certainly worth reading about. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member ZeljanaMaricFerli
Sadly, my least favorite of all Klein's books. The premise of the book is very interesting. I have myself fallen into the trap of once switching the two Naomis up while I was watching a YT.
But, it barely lasted for 10 mins, as the political views of the N. Wolf are so vastly different than
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But, something about this book just feels like a superficial rant, and I didn't like it. Other than the brief focus on the "other Klein" that was a sort of introduction to the "mirror universe", it was mostly a letdown. The whole mirror universe thing reminded me strongly of the Star Trek Terran Empire episodes which were a much better experience than this book.

I was expecting Klein's studious approach to the relativity of truth in the age of eco chambers and both sides of the political spectrum flirting with conspiracy theory-like material. I found a hot mess of all the hot topics talked about in the public space, esp. on Twitter, and God knows that is a septic tank of the Internet. I mention Twitter cause this book has a similar vibe.
Klein is quick to judge the political opposition but fails to see that she herself falls into the trap of pioneering some ideas that verge on the conspiracy territory, as long as they are politically acceptable to her.
The book is still an easy and somewhat interesting read, esp. because Klein is such a good writer. But, overall it needed better editing and a more general focus. At times it felt as if Klein was a little neurotic and self-obsessed and it kind of turned me off.

2.5 rounded up.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
They say everyone has a double somewhere in the world. Naomi Klein discovered hers just as the Covid-19 pandemic was ramping up. Klein is well-known as a smart, left-leaning social activist and writer. She was dismayed to find that people were confusing her with Naomi Wolf who is also a writer but
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started espousing conspiracy theories starting in 2014. In the early days of the pandemic she was vocally against lockdowns, vaccinations and masking. Frequently, Wolf's statements were attributed to Klein who had no difficulty with following pandemic restrictions and getting vaccinated. This started Klein to do a deep dive into research about the world her doppelganger inhabited. Klein calls Wolf "the Other Naomi" or sometimes just "the Other" throughout the rest of the book. Her thesis is that society has become so deeply fractured along political and ideological lines that it's like there are mirror images. I can't possibly do justice to the book in a short review but it was fascinating to follow Klein's thoughts. Subjects range from Nazis to autism to Israel and Palestine. Although the book was released before the Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent war in the Gaza Strip, Klein was remarkably prescient in discussing the area.

Klein may have gotten a tad obsessed with Wolf. Her husband, Avi Lewis, once found her doing yoga listening to a podcast of an interview with Wolf. On the other hand, know thy enemy is usually sound advice.
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Original publication date





0374610320 / 9780374610326
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