My #2: Anthem by Ayn Rand!
As some of you may know, I'm a massive Ayn Rand fan, something which comes as a surprise to many. She is one of those authors who has been enormously politicised and unjustly criticised by everyone who hasn't bothered to read her books. I fell in love with The Fountainhead during my first year at University and have been working my way through her work since. I'm saving Atlas Shrugged for later but Anthem was the one that really got me this year!
Anthem has long been hailed as one of Ayn Rand's classic novels, and a clear predecessor to her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
In Anthem, Rand examines a frightening future in which individuals have no name, no independence, and no values. Equality 7-2521 lives in the dark ages of the future where all decisions are made by committee, all people live in collectives, and all traces of individualism have been wiped out. Despite such a restrictive environment, the spark of individual thought and freedom still burns in him - a passion which he has been taught to call sinful.
In a purely egalitarian world, Equality 7-2521 dares to stand apart from the herd- to think and choose for himself, to discover electricity, and to love the woman of his choice. Now he has been marked for death for committing the ultimate sin.From my review:
Part of this novel's genius is Rand's dedication to its ideas in her writing. A novel which is so submerged in a philosophy has to portray that very philosophy on every level and in her narration Rand made sure to emphasize the collective nature of Equality 7-2521's society. He refers to himself and his as 'we' and 'our' and to others as 'them' and 'their'. It is an almost off-putting experience since the reader finds himself desperately searching for the narrator's actual identity. Who is he as an independent person, what makes him special? As such, the reader becomes part of Equality 7-2521's experience and growth. Rand draws you in and you can't help but confront yourself with some of her main ideas when reading any of her novels.
The reason why I love reading Ayn Rand's books so much is because they make me question my own thoughts about society and about the self. On the one hand I believe that we should all work together, that the (socially) stronger should help the (socially) weaker etc. On the other hand I am always tempted to agree with Rand that a lot of the world's evil lies in collectivism, the drowning of the self in the larger community. To be alone, in Anthem, is morally wrong and as a consequence the people gladly accept the councils' rules. If the novel seems far-fetched, only think of all the times you have been told not to sit around at home alone but to go out with your friends, to be social, to join in with activities. The journey from the 'we' to the 'I' in Anthem is beautiful and towards the end the prose almost becomes a soaring song of praise towards the ego which the reader cannot help but be swept up in.If you're intrigued, check out the rest of my review and then get your Rand on!
Do you know of or like Ayn Rand? And does an author's reputation affect how and if you read their books?