Sunday, May 15, 2011

Anthem by Ayn Rand

"Know what you want in life and go after it. I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals, and I loathe humanity, for its failure to live up to these possibilities..."
This was my 1st Ayn Rand book, which happens to be the 2nd she wrote.  I loved it!  It is definitely a thinking person's book.  Rand has a subdued but powerful voice, one of poignancy and directness.  One can feel the passion in her prose.  She affects the reader by engrossing us in story but more so in her character development.  Her intention in this book (and really in all her books) is one of individualism.  The fight against propaganda and collectivism.  Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905 and witnessed atrocities none of us could fathom.  But it is about individualism and Objectivism that she is impassioned about most. "Ayn Rand named her philosophy 'Objectivism'.  Objectivism is an integrated system of thought that defines the abstract principles by which a man must think and act if he is to live the life proper to man".
Anthem emboldens that philosophy.  Rand's original title was Ego; "I used the word in its exact, literal meaning.  I did not mean a symbol of the self--but specifically and actually Man's Self".  From the Introduction of Anthem: One correspondent at the time warned Miss Rand that there are people for whom the word "ego" is 'too strong--even immoral'.  She replied: "Why, of course there are.  Against whom do you suppose the book was wirtten?"
My synopsis: Anthem is set in a unknown future and in it there is no "I" or "me" only "We".  Characters have no names, but numbers and refer to themselves in plural form "We were not meant for any other work", instead of "I was not meant for any other work".  Our hero, Equality 7-2521, struggles with his identity as a collective whole after discovering a long forgotten passage to a forbidden tunnel.  This leads to a series of events that ultimately lead him to become an outcast, a traitor, a dissident.  Along the way he falls in love (which is also forbidden-all love, all relationships are non-existent except love for the 'whole') with Liberty 5-3000 who also questions the collectivism.  After Equality 7-2521 is condemned for breaking the rules, he flees into the forbidden forest and shortly after Liberty 5-3000 follows and finds him.  They go off to discover their new world and happen upon an abandoned house which has many books and they discover the old ways of the world, the individual.  They discover people had names and so they rename themselves, he Prometheus and she Gaea, respectively.  Gaea becomes pregnant and Prometheus begins plans to strengthen their new world and to rescue friends they left behind.  But this isn't a rescue story save the rescue of ones self.  This is a short but powerful novel and I highly recommend it.  My review does not do it justice at all, for that I apologize, but believe me when I say it is a well written, supremely character driven & thought provoking work of literary art.

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