In the continuing series of Riot.Jane’s favorite books . . . In no particular order, this is the fourth:
First published in 1937, Anthem is a dystopian novella set in an unspecified future Dark Age during which technological advance is strictly controlled (when allowed) and the concept of the individual has disappeared, with even personalized forenames and the word “I” having left the common language.
A common theme of Rand’s prodigious work is a clear opinion of societal values. She strongly prefers the individualistic (i.e. capitalistic) values of achievement and ambition while just as strongly disdaining the community (i.e. socialistic) values of loyalty and equality. I tend to disagree with her on these priorities because I believe that equality is is morally superior to ambition, and I believe that a strong social fabric enables achievement. I dislike much of her work because of my disagreement with most of her core philosophy.
In Anthem, though, Rand has wrapped her concepts in a good enough post-apocalyptic story that I can lay aside my disagreement with her foundational concepts and enjoy it. That’s why it’s one of my Five Faves.
The book opens with the male protagonist Equality 7-2521 and moves forward into his daily life and that of his co-workers International 4-8818 and Union 5-3992. The story progresses through the male protagonist hiding from his own society to engage in forbidden intellectual activities, then spotting the female protagonist Liberty 5-3000, and falling in love with her after several meetings. Eventually the male protagonist escapes his society and, after meeting up with the female protagonist on the outside, they learn the forbidden truth that has been eliminated from their Dark Age society.
Overall, Anthem a good read for those of us with the tendency towards post-apocalyptic dystopian culture exploration.