Book: Anthem

Author: Ayn Rand

Publisher: Dover Publications, republished in  2014

ISBN-13: 978-0486492773

ISBN-10: 048649277X

Related website: (publisher)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: 16 and up

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Rand, Ayn.  Anthem (originally published in 1946 by Pamphleteers Inc., Los Angeles, CA; republished in 2014 by Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, NY).  In some futuristic, dystopian type of collectivist culture in which the use of the word “I” is a capital offense, a 21 year old young man known as Equality 7-2521 is cursed with a desire to learn more.  He wants to be assigned to the Home of the Scholars, but instead is sent to the Home of the Street Sweepers.  He soon discovers a hidden and long forgotten tunnel where he secretly begins to spend a lot of time alone, something forbidden, and experiment with many of the objects found there.  Also, while on the job, he meets a woman, Liberty 5-3000, whom he calls the Golden One, even though another forbidden thing is for men to take notice of women.  While in his tunnel, Equality 7-2521 actually makes a new invention, but when he tries to show it to the Council of Scholars, he is jailed.  He manages to escape, but where will he go?  What will happen to him?  And will he ever see the Golden One again?

I probably would never have had any desire to read this book, which was originally written in 1937 but apparently not published, at least in the United States, until 1946 and anticipates the themes which Rand explored in her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, except that when our son Jeremy was at Florida College, this was the book chosen for all students to read as part of their community conversation, or whatever they call it.  I’m just glad that the college didn’t have such clap-trap when I was there.  Based on the description, I was predisposed not to like Anthem, but I found that I did like it.  Along with George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and even Lois Lowry’s The Giver, it shows the repulsiveness and the danger of a planned authoritarian or totalitarian society.  There is a short discussion about the “Time of Mating,” but nothing vulgar or salacious.  The term “damned” occurs a few times but only in its proper usage rather than as a curse word.  It is especially interesting to see how the protagonist goes from “we” to “I.”

Author Ayn Rand has an appeal to conservatives because of her libertarian, laissez-faire views, but she opposed anything that she regarded as mysticism or supernaturalism, including all forms of religion.   “Man has rights which neither god nor king nor any other men can take away from him.”  This would be true concerning the pagan gods of superstition, but for the Bible believer it is not true of God.  However, one does not need to agree with all the implications of her extreme individualism to appreciate her opposition to the kind of collectivism advocated by Communists, Socialists, and Fascists.  “But I still wonder how it was possible, in those graceless years of transition, that men did not whither they were going, and went on, in blindness and cowardice, to their fate.  I wonder, for it is hard for me to conceive how men who knew the word ‘I,’ could give it up and not know what they lost.”  I wonder too, but it seems as if 21st century America is headed in that direction.

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