Anthem

ISBN: 0452281253
ISBN 13: 9780452281257
By: Ayn Rand

Check Price Now

Genres

Classics Currently Reading Dystopia Dystopian Favorites Fiction Literature Philosophy Sci Fi Science Fiction

About this book

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. In a world where the great "we" reign supreme, he has rediscovered the lost and holy word--"I."

Reader's Thoughts

Conrad

Definitely the only book by Ayn Rand I will ever need to read, unless I happen to be reincarnated as an asshole. When people start modeling their book covers after Mussolini-era Italian architecture, worry.

Zora

The real tragedy of this book is that the billions of copies that have been printed could have been more appropriately used to build homes for people in third world countries. This book could not be more self indulgent if it came with a bottle of Absynthe and a membership to MENSA. Not only is it impossibly boring to read, the characters are so one dimensional that they put V.C. Andrews to shame. Do yourself a favor: set this on fire and use the fourteen hours that it burns to read Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series instead. You won't regret it.

Michelle Cavalier

I know it is one of her lesser works, but I feel it gave me a full impression of her: self-absorbed, capitalistic, pedantic, overbearing, ignorant, etc. The story has been told before and by better writers.

Eli

Although the story started out as with an interesting, though far-fetched, view of the future, it pretty quickly ate itself. Plot holes and unbelievable characters disintegrated into a long rant on the evils of cooperation. I couldn't finish it.

BirdBrian

How did I miss reviewing this book earlier? I must have been suppressing it.Do you want to know who Ayn Rand is like? She’s like Rainman. Did you ever see that movie, with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman? Rainman (Hoffman) is an autistic savant, whom his brother Charlie (Cruise) wants to use to count cards in Las Vegas. And Rainman would be ideally suited to that too, if he could understand Charlie’s plan enough to cooperate effectively. But being an autistic savant, Rainman doesn’t really get it. He’s constantly distracted by completely irrelevant things, resulting in so much calamity that his brother is forced to abandon the scheme.I’m pretty up front about my Libertarian beliefs, the nuances of which I won’t bore you with here- but suffice it to say that I spend a fair amount of time freaking out about the coercive power of the State. Along comes Ayn Rand, spinning yarns about independent-minded souls asserting themselves against oppressive bureaucracies, and I get all weak-kneed like a schoolgirl. Ayn can go on a five page tear like it was nothing, ranting about how the bulk of human suffering thoughout history has been at the hands of the State, and how the greatest innovations and improvements have come from individuals. I love that. That’s her savant superpower, and when it’s out in full display, you can find me behind her, pumping my fist in the air, yelling “Yeah! Give ‘em hell, Ayn!” Those are the times when I feel like she and I on the same team, and I’ve got a real affection for her. But then… Ayn isn’t content to just talk about the right to be left alone, or how planned economies are unavoidably coercive. She’s got this philosophy she invented. “Objectivism”. It’s kind of a ridiculously glamorized plutocratic Übermensch worship, hopped up on high-powered social Darwinism and good old-fashioned selfishness. Too often Ayn’s books digress into a platform to hawk these pet philosophies, and I’m like “Shut up already with the Objectivism”. She’ll go off on some weird solliloquey attacking charities as a tool of the weak to exploit the strong, or some such nonsense, and I’ll get to wondering who exactly this is that I’ve fallen in with. And it isn't just that I’m not comfortable with her. I resent having to spend my energy explaining to other people why I like some of her stuff, but then resignedly agreeing that a lot of what she writes is a load of crap. I feel like Ayn and I showed up together at a rally to protest the PATRIOT ACT, and we were really getting into it at first, yelling at the top of our lungs, voicing our discontent… but then after a few minutes, I realize I can’t hear her voice anymore, and when I look around, I spot her on the other side of the field, away from the rally. She’s foaming at the mouth, babbling incomprehensibly, with a glassy stare in her eyes. She’s perched up on a bulldozer next to Rush Limbaugh, and they’re getting ready to plow an orphanage into the ground. I run over, screaming “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!?!! THIS ISN’T WHAT WE CAME HERE FOR!!!”, but the bulldozer is way too loud, and she and Rush have already broken through one of the outer walls of the structure. The roof is caving in, and terrified orphans are pouring out of the back and sides of the building, running for their lives, screaming and crying. Limbaugh, cigar hanging out the corner of his mouth, is snickering and snorting to himself. Ayn’s eyes have rolled up into the back of her head, and her body is shuddering. Befuddled, wounded and shocked by what I’ve witnessed, I slowly walk back to the rally. The friends I came with –the ones I’ve been talking up Ayn to- have stopped taking part in the protest. They’re glaring at me silently, with uncomprehending expressions on their face, trying to decide whether I’m friend or foe…whether Ms Rand and I are birds of a feather, or if I’m basically a good guy who was duped.So that’s the story of me and Ayn. It’s bittersweet, and I try to make the most of the sweet. I read Anthem in high school. Even then, the dramatic, overstylized narrative struck me as juvenile, but I was okay with it, because Ayn was telling me things about authority that I wanted to hear. I don’t want to get into the book too much. It’s a dopey story about a feudalistic world far in the future, ruled by shadowy Elders who suppress technology, and keep the peasants ignorant of their past. A lone figure discovers an old lightbulb, and discerns its principles (yeah, right). Envisioning all the benefits this new discovery will mean to mankind, he hurries off to tell the Elders. Of course they’ve known about its existence all along. They destroy the bulb, and send the peasant back to his field with a warning not to tell anybody what he saw... It's "Bill Nye The Science Guy meets the Grand Inquisitor." Read this book if you must, but if you’re on the fence about it, I suggest you listen to Rush’s (the rock group’s, not the demagogue’s) 1976 classic album “2112”. It’s the same basic story as Anthem, if you substitute the lightbulb with an electric guitar, but it’s a lot more fun. Neil Peart was still new to the band back then, and they were “finding their sound”. Geddy’s vocals- while not for everybody, make for great effect, and Alex’s guitar work is badass- as usual. The album is long and the book is short, but I think you still come out ahead if your pick 2112.“We have assumed control!”(I just wanted to throw that in)Want to read a book by Ayn Rand that's actually pretty good? [Check this out]

Jill

Ayn Rand was the most overrated writer (I can't even call her a philosopher) of the 20th century, and a great gaping asshole to boot. This book is yet another to support those facts.

Martin

I read this short book in one night after a friend lent it as a curiosity. He is reading Ayn Rand's novels and thought I'd find "Anthem" intellectually stimulating, as it is one of the super-famous Rand's first works and lays the foundation for her later writings on her philosophy of Objectivism. For a brief explanation of Objectivism by Rand herself, check out this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ukJiBZ8_4kI had never read a word Rand wrote (and didn't know much about her, either) until plowing through "Anthem." I expected Rand's atheism, embrace of reason, and exaltation of individualism over collectivism would make her appealing to me. But, as we say, the devil is in the details. Philosophies in the abstract make for good debates and make us feel good about believing in some enlightened principles, but philosophies don't always go down so smoothly when they have to be applied to the real world or -- even worse -- applied to ourselves. Rand, who called programs like Social Security "evil," collected Social Security benefits. Digression over. Now to "Anthem."As a novel, "Anthem" is mediocre. It is set in a nondescript, future world where individualism has been eliminated from every aspect of society as well as from the collective memory of the population. In its place, people live in a collectivist society where all men work for the whole. An individual refers to himself as "we." If someone utters the word "I," he has his tongue cut out and is burned at the stake. No one has a real name; instead they have names like Equality 7-2521, to use the moniker of Rand's protagonist. Children are herded into schools where they are taught a bland curriculum. At age 15 the students go before a council that decides which job each person will have for the rest of their life; Equality 7-2521 is sent off to be a street sweeper. All workers get up at the exact same time every day to the ring of a bell, work all day for the supposed benefit of all no matter how mundane their "profession," and then are marched into their nightly entertainment that amounts to nothing more than indoctrination in collectivist ideology. There are no mirrors, preventing people from seeing themselves as individual beings; they only exist as part of a whole. Society is ruled by collectivist councils, i.e. World Council and Council of Scholars, where the few make incontrovertible judgments that affect the masses. The Councils have ruled since the Great Rebirth. No one can really remember what life was like before.If all this sounds like an allegorical broadside against the Soviet Union and Stalinism, you are correct. However, Rand said that she did not write "Anthem" to repudiate her homeland's tragic descent into totalitarianism, although she did despise communism. Written in 1937 (Stalin's era), "Anthem" is an attack on all collective thinking. It is an exaltation of the self and the ego.So Equality 7-2521 does the forbidden: he thinks independently. He manages to discover electricity. When he presents his discovery to a council, Equality 7-2521 is horrified that they reject his work solely because it does not conform. It was a product of his individual thinking, thus forbidden. He worked on it alone, thus a crime. And his discovery will ruin the central plan to produce so many candles, simultaneously ruining the "careers" of all the candle makers. Equality 7-2521 escapes and eventually finds hidden deep in a forbidden forest a home that predates the Great Rebirth. In the home he finds books that were written before society sank into collectivist hell. And for the first time Equality 7-2521 sees the word "I." "Anthem" ends as Equality 7-2521 discovers the beauty of the self. This takes about 100 pages to accomplish so you can see why I read this in one night.In her preface, Ayn Rand says the "greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting..."She continues: "Those who want slavery should have the grace to name it by its proper name. They must face... the full, exact meaning of collectivism, of its logical implications, and... the ultimate consequences to which these principles will lead." In Rand's view, the horror of Communism is one end.But one wonders whether Rand seriously considered whether her own vision of an absolute meritocracy, a world without charity or altruism, a world where ANY government action is condemned as a step toward slavery and totalitarianism, would also lead to destructive results.Moreover, my fear of becoming a victim of collectivism on par with Rand's ominous vision is tempered by what my eyes have shown me in "individualist" America, the greed-driven, to-hell-with-the-consequences financial practices that brought the economy to near collapse -- if not for the aggressive intervention of the government, which Rand's disciples refer to as "socialism."Should we be free to destroy ourselves?

Jonathan

Of all the dystopian novels I have read, this one felt like one of the least inspired. The characters are one-dimensional, the story lacks context altogether, and is entirely made to support Rand's liberal philosophies. Sure, it's really short--so is Animal Farm, but that is a story with depth. Ironically, they both claim to be about Soviet Russia--or at least the author's experience with such. I hope I can claim that my reasoning for disliking this book has more to do with its content, and less to do with the Ayn Rand's complete and utter ignorance.

Leonard

Anthem is a parable more than a novel and its purpose is to praise individualism. Equality 7-2521 is the new Prometheus, bring "fire" to humanity that is under the bondage of collectivism and anti-intellectualism. Though the plot is formulaic and at times the pages read like propaganda, the last two chapters are poetic and indeed an anthem to individualism, and perhaps to elitism. After reading ten chapters of "we," "us," and "they," it is refreshing to see the word "I." As Prometheus has discovered fire, so Equality 7-2521 "I" and he, like his predecessor, will bring it to mankind. When I was reading Anthem, I kept thinking of Yevgeny Zamyatin's novel We. In both books, "we" and collectivism and the totalitarian state dominate the story and the alphanumeric names stand out. But whereas Yevgeny Zamyatin analyzed the evils of Scientific Taylorism, Rand praised individualism as mankind's salvation. Given Rand's experiences with Leninism and Stalinism, we can understand her enmity toward collectivism and anti-intellectualism. For her, only an individual's thoughts, talents and all the qualities of excellence that rise above the mass's mediocrity can defeat the evils that seek to destroy civilization. And so, Equality 7-2521 surpasses his brothers and sisters and will lead them out of bondage. Ayn Rand Whether we agree with Rand's philosophy or not, Anthem gives us a taste of the ideas she would expand upon in later novels.

sologdin

Part I of a multi-part review series.Standard libertarian dishonesty that seeks to conflate egalitarian doctrine generically with various unpleasant practices. For instance, the state holds back technological development--primitivism--wishing to punish narrator for the comically unlikely invention of an electrical light. State also keeps knowledge of the past secret, of "the towers which rose to the sky, in those Unemntionable Times, and of the wagons which moved without horses, and of the lights which burned without flame." Narrator's invention is also rejected because it will "bring ruin to the Department of Candles," which is less a primitivist position than a cartel's protectionism, hardly a progressive idea. There can be egalitarian primitivism, sure--though hardly anyone advocates that. More than likely this is intended to be a slur on egalitarian progressivism, i.e., socialism. Likewise, in the assertion "we are nothing," we see the self-abnegation common to fascist doctrine, which libertarians are pleased to associate with egalitarianism, even though fascism seeks to undo even those limited forms of egalitarianism that libertarians will recognize, usually. (Not Rand, however, for in this text the state has a "free and general vote of all men"--so perhaps the indictment of egalitarianism is total, and Rand joins with Dostoevsky, Conrad, and other anti-democratic rightwing writers--though of course Dostoevsky and Conrad are good writers, and worth reading, despite the bad politics.) In the same vein, the prohibition on speaking to persons in other trades is old syndicalist/corporativist doctrine of generating controls on civil society within employment groups, and managing the struggle of capital and labor through industry mediation, preventing thereby class-based unions of workers and limiting them to their own shops and factories, at the mercy of the employer. Similarly, egalitarianism is equated herein with religious mysticism, such as in "the will of our brothers, which is holy." This is one of the most douchey (douchiest?) criticisms of socialism, and I'm surprised that there are people who still make it. Rand takes it so far as to have public burnings of heretics, as though this were 15th century England and heresy were punished by writ de heretico comburendo. We also see sexual pairings decided by a council of eugenics, which is an odd thing to associate with progressive egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is toward the end of novella conflated with "serfdom," which is Hayekian enough, I suppose--though this is manifestly idiotic, the merger in imagination of feudalism and socialism. (It may not be socialism, though: we see that narrator admits to possession of "stolen" items--so there is definitely some sort of property ideology here. If this were intended to be a critique of socialism, though, then the dystopia is not very effective in eradicating property ideology--I'll just go ahead and regard that as a writerly default of misconception or inartful execution or both.)The text also demonstrates a severe lack of understanding regarding the content of egalitarian doctrine, attributing to egalitarianism undesirable policies that have no intrinsic relation to egalitarianism, such as statutes or customs or aesthetic standards that forbid or censure writing, height, having distinct tastes, having an independent will, having friends, having sex, creating works of art, doing any job other than what is assigned, speaking of historical events, leaving the city, and so on. It's one long strawperson, and it is so pervasive that not even someone as ludicrously uninformed as this author could have got it so wrong without trying--so perhaps it's best to assume a lack of good faith, considering the magnitude of the errors.In other words, there is no form of barbarism or silliness that Rand does not associate with egalitarian politics, including the moronic assertion that with egalitarianism, humanity "fell lower than his savage beginning."As though that weren't bad enough, text is just plain bad as a writing. Narrator states that "it is a sin to give men other names which distinguish them from other men," but yet everyone encountered has a name that distinguishes. Sure, there's a generic term and a number, but that produces a distinction. It appears, accordingly, that author didn't really think this through very far. Same, the hasty assertion that "never have men said this to women," when narrator refers to his amorous interest as "our dearest one." Another dumb moment: "A street Sweeper walking in upon the World Council of Scholars! It is not to be believed! It is against all the rules and all the laws!" Certainly not all the laws, on that one very specific point, which is presumably sufficiently rare that it is not to be believed when it does in fact occur?Biggest writerly & conceptual default however is in what author must have considered the climax, when narrator sheds "we" as his first person singular pronoun and begins using "I." This feeds into the puerile doctrine that "we" is tyranny. It's all juvenile hyperindividualist Stirner stuff, and I can see why teenagers like this sort of thing. The problem with the shift from "we" to "I" is that narrator always had the conceptual scheme for "I," an individualism from the first page, literally--but lacks only the word, substituting in another signifier for the first person singular grammatical function, which he always already possessed. The entire story is about narrator's individualist deviations. And he's not alone. The other characters involved each have their own deviations from the alleged rules (which are not very well enforced--he walks out of prison, and leaves a trail that amorous interest follows to find him, but there is no pursuit by law enforcement.) So, it's all one big red herring, really, and the facts represented by the narrative do not bear out narrator's dogmatic posturings.Overall, terrible, poorly conceived & executed writing, filled with dishonest criticisms of left politics, substituting in childish ideas that should embarrass rather than embolden the rightwing. One of the worst books ever written.Recommended nevertheless for those who owe nothing to their brothers, persons who want to live where there is no odor of men, and teabaggers who want to be flattered.

Mads

I never quite figured out why my highschool lit teacher made this required reading. It's something I've always wondered about. Anthem struck me as too much "anti-communist." Somewhat propaganda material for the anti-communist forces. I've always been skeptical of rabid anti-communism. In the novella, the characters have serial numbers instead of names, isn't that what's happening in the capitalist system as well, with our identity cards and employee numbers?

Kate

ayn rand is the most ridiculous author i have ever read. i hate her. and her philosophies. she takes hyperbole to a hyperbolic extreme in this book. i hate how she makes the main characters these perfect beings whose only flaw is that society won't accept their superiority. i wonder how ayn rand would have thought if she had been unattractive, unsuccessful and poor. absolute rubbish.

Danny Salinger

** spoiler alert ** Alright. If, for some reason, the values of individuality or independence are completely alien to you, you should read this book. Everyone else is better off skipping it. It has nothing else to offer and it's got a good chance of convincing that you're smarter or more enlightened than you actually are. Granted, I was a bit biased against Ayn Rand while reading this. But before reading this I had that sort of play-aversion that you carry around because it's fun to make fun of famous dead people. After reading this my contempt for her has become deep and far-reaching.The setting is simplistic and nonsensical. Unlike other dystopias such as 1984 or Brave New World, it's not portrait of a functioning oppressive society or a sad commentary on human nature as much as it is a vague, untenable strawman. Other dystopias are written with an awareness or sensitivity towards the human condition. 1984 dealt with our willingness to circumvent logic for a comfortable, patriotic lie. Brave New World dealt with our willingness to completely ignore issues and problems as long as we're entertained. Anthem on the other hand, deals with our willingness to sacrifice logic, comfort, entertainment, and freedom for the good of our neighbors. Oh wait... that doesn't make sense. In fact it flies in the face of the oldest, and most confounding problem in the social sciences, The Tragedy of the Commons. Biology and psychology have also found that self-sacrifice without compensation is an exceedingly rare phenomenon, and that animals (including humans) are ,as a general rule, selfish. Even the Soviet Union, a major influence behind this book, was only maintained by the general acceptance of the communist ideal for a short time before it was replaced with the KGB and the threat of the gulags. Considering how easy it was for Equality to escape from confinement, I'm comfortable saying that critical element was absent. This might be more excusable if it was meant to be a highly stylized hyperbole like The Giver, but Rand says herself in the introduction that this is not only the inevitable sum of collectivism, but what all socialists and collectivists secretly WANT.All this leads me to believe that a person who could seriously believe, much less write, this would have to be someone who saw their self-interest as unique, and imagined the majority of humanity a swathe of ambitionless drones. That, or a reader who's mouth salivates at the word "individuality" and who, when it comes to the affairs of the world, automatically equates cynicism to realism because it makes them look clever and critical.The writing's painfully overwrought as well. You have to understand this book is listed as half-read because despite my several attempts I can't finish it. I either get tired of self-indulgent prose and put it down or I start reading it out loud and I can't take it seriously (a friend and I did this to pass the time while waiting for a bus once.) The character thinks in short, declarative sentences that seem to rely on the reader seeing his struggle as novel and impactful. If you don't do this automatically there's nothing really there to MAKE you. The struggle in question, is a one-dimensional tug of war between We and I without the complexity or variability seen in actual human thought.Even the treatment of individuality once it's "achieved" is trite. After you figure out the "I" and the "ego" you're pretty much scott-free. You don't have any uncertainty about what you want to do or who you want to be, and you don't have to worry about things like self-deception, insecurity or over-confidence to mess with you. Congratulations, you are one of an elite few! Rand's portrayal of selfishness and independence as some miracle cure is sophomoric and overly simplistic, and it gets hammered into you from the beginning. It's not even as if calls to challenge, question, and break social oppression or embrace your individuality are hard to find, even in Rand's time, and a lot of these calls don't have to resort to strawmen or heady promises of perfection. Read Ender's Game, The Giver, My Side of the Mountain or any other young adult novel. Even song lyrics (Tilly and the Wall, Say Anything, Incubus) treat the topic of self-definition and social constraints with more intelligence. This book might have been revolutionary for its time, but we've moved on as a culture. We've gotten over the novelty of selfishness being a virtue and social control being a bad thing, and we've managed to produce far more intelligent treatments of the subject.

Edward Park

Witless, styleless, and self-righteous. "1984" and "A Brave New World" are far more effective books. Although I can't say I agree that individualism is more important than collectivism, especially when people come together as a whole to do things positive in this world.

Matt

Quick read with a lasting impression. Released over a decade before George Orwell's '1984', this is Rand's objection to the idea of Socialist unity and embraces the idea of the human ego and individualism. Rand herself described this story as a poem, allowing the story to flow. She is able to enforce her philosophy of 'objectivism' without the challenge of a long winded novel (Atlas Shrugged, anyone?)Although her writing in 'Anthem' is more transparent then her norm, the book still captivates and makes it's point.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *