Anthem by Ayn Rand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Synopsis: The book first starts out as a dystopian socialist type of society where everyone refers to themselves as “We” (no concept of individualism). This, along with the main protagonist’s journey, mirrors that of Winston’s in Orwell’s 1984. Eventually, the main protagonist runs away from this society and discovers individualism. While the first part of the book scrutinizes the evils of runaway socialism and communism, the second part, the climax, exalts the virtues of selfishness. It’s like saying “The cure of Marx is Nietzsche.”
The book, while interesting from a psychological and philosophical point of view, nevertheless ends up as a diatribe, an ode to selfishness where the lesson taught is beat over the reader’s head; I at this point had to take a break from reading. While reading the conclusions I couldn’t help but think “this is wrong in SO many ways.” But I’ll give the book and author the benefit of the doubt: it was written during a time when the consequences of pure selfishness on a grand scale were as yet unfamiliar and unfathomable to the author. On a micro scale, the power of individualism is a great thing, and that which she exalts should be taken to heart by anyone: no one reading this should walk away without having learned something about the importance of individuality even when it runs counter to society. But this will to power, this rugged individualism shouldn’t be the basis of a societal system. In that sense I hope anyone reading this can see past her myopic fear of socialism and see the true danger: extremism and universal applications of a simplistic idea.
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