ISBN: 0452281253
ISBN 13: 9780452281257
By: Ayn Rand

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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


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.

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.


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.


First off, let me say this: SHAME ON YOU AMAZON! You have prohibited a great cover of this novel from showing here on goodreads. The cover I speak of looks like this: five ghostly apparitions stand forlornly, one is reaching toward a light that looks as if it is an exploding star; they all have chains on their wrists; the far right figure, the only woman, is tenderly reaching for the hand of the man trying to grasp the light; a pitch black background acts as a backdrop. It is the perfect cover for this novel. It tells so much without revealing anything (that is unless you have read the novel). So I say again: SHAME ON YOU AMAZON. Okay, now on to the book. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand is a novel set in a far-off post apocalyptic future, in a world where technology has been relegated into the land of myth and fancy. People of this world are no longer given birth names; they are given a name according to the cohort they were born into. It is a world where the individual is less than the collective. This is the story of Equality 7-2521. In the beginning, they (he) are destined to be great thinkers. No other cohort in history has thought the way they (he) do(es). But this is not to be. Equality 7-2521 is given the job of Street Sweeper by the Council of Vocations. It is this council that determines what is essential for the collective at the moment. Equality 7-2521 does a grand job of keeping the streets clean. It is not until they (he) comes across Liberty 5-3000, renamed the Golden One, that Equality 7-2521 begins to think outside of the proverbial collective box. Later, when Equality 7-2521 discovers a secret cave (which in reality is an abandoned subway tunnel) does the meaning of individuality actually begin to take root in their (his) head. While stealing away to this “secret place” Equality 7-2521 begins to experiment with copper wires, eventually making an apparatus that conducts electricity. Equality 7-2521 is overwhelmed by this discovery, and wants to share it with the World Council of Scholars. But before they (he) can do that, it is discovered that they (he) is not in at curfew. Equality 7-2521 is taken away to the Palace of Corrective Detention where they (he) are beaten and tortured and interrogated. Equality 7-2521 never talks, not so much as a whisper. When they (he) decide to escape, the morning of the meeting for the World Council of Scholars, they (he) bring the electrical apparatus. When shown the device, the members of the World Council of Scholars shirk back from it in fear. When Equality 7-2521 offers to give the council this gift, they scoff at him and berate them (him) for thinking not of the brotherhood but of only them(self). Equality 7-2521 refuses to be detained again and runs off into the Uncharted Forest with the device, there they (he) wander aimlessly, and await the moment a beast tears them to shreds. But it is not a beast that confronts them (him); it is the Golden One that finds them (him). Together, Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One go on a journey further into the Uncharted Forrest. When they happen to come across an old cabin, they investigate the relics left behind from the Unimaginable Times, mainly books. It is at this moment that Equality 7-2521 goes from them to him. It is at this time that he begins to understand that “I” can be more powerful than “we”. With this new knowledge, Equality 7-2521 renames himself, Prometheus. It is also at this time that he gives the Golden One a new name, Gaea. It is at this time that first-person narration takes over. (The rest of the novel you will have to read for yourself.)For this reader, the premise of this novel is intriguing. The setup and the style in which it is written allows for a fast paced story, packed with delicious nuggets of thought. And, to boot, Rand wrote this as a writing exercise while she was outlining ATLAS SHRUGGED. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Rand was a big sloppy bowl of crazy. But what she has written in ANTHEM is a testament of what people should do to keep their governments in check. Basically, Rand tells the reader to remember this: governments work for the people, not the other way around. Alongside Yevgeny Zamyatin’s WE, ANTHEM is considered a classic within post apocalyptic literature. I’ve never read WE, but I will be certain to read it sooner than later. Is ANTHEM a good book? Sure. Is it a book worth reading eighty plus years after it was published? Yep. Does it have all the answers? Not even close. This is a book of ideas. Plot and characterization and setting are shadily written. Perhaps that is the genius of this brief 120 page novel. Perhaps Rand wanted the reader to fill in the gaps with their own struggles against their own government. Regardless, this is a quick read that any reader of science fiction, or any person interested in the struggle between individualism and collectivism should read. If anything, it should make you think.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Nick Black

EGO yeah shoot me. Garbage, and not the good kind of garbage one roots through for treasures before it's taken away.


First: Some questions that went through my head while reading this.1. If we lived in a collective society, how would we experience or ignore certain events that come to pass that would feel abnormal or alien to us?2. Would the mind automatically wonder of things forbidden? or would this happen to only a few? (like the main character and what he thinks is his curse). 3. Is this society possible? could it ever exist? Are we already living in a society where this is happening (in certain ways)?To be someone without an identity, a mindless herd. I put myself in the shoes of the main character and threw myself into this word as best I could... and I found it to be terrifying to think of. Thinking of it, I realize that out society has many similarities to the world and characters within the story. Going day to day, doing the same thing, without original thought or identity is something that happens all the time. But the question is... how much does original thought and identity really matter? If looked at on a whole, our existence matter very little once our time has ended. We believe it's important to have our own voice and ideas but in the end it plays a part only DURING our existence in the here and now. If you put religion or spiritual beliefs into the equation then the view will change but without those things there is hardly a reason for doing anything or experiencing anything.I do not like feeling this way about life and tend to avoid if fairly successfully. This book brought those questions and thoughts through my mind again. It is just another way of looking at our existence and trying to make meaning of it. This is not to say it is the truth behind our humanity and the meaning of life.... nothing. It should be tread lightly lest you take it's subject matter too closely to your heart and mind.The books world is a nightmare. It is the type of society that I have nightmares about. Having no free will, no identity. Where is the reason for life? Everything is a machine, no reason for anything. It touches on many topics that I fear from my own thoughts. It was hard to read only because it brought those fears around again. On the other hand, I put myself into the world and felt the excitement of discovery, of seeing familiar things in a new light. Of appreciating what we have in the world around us and not wanting more then what is usual. All these things I have been reminded of through this book. I highly recommend it but caution those who will take those subjects and brood on them... I know it can be done and it's not easy to handle. Stay away, if you are one of those few.


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.


** spoiler alert ** Apparently, this inspired the Rush album 2112. That's according to Wikipedia, which is never wrong. Spoilers follow!It's pretty much about a guy who figures out how to make batteries without any previous knowledge of electricity, then he hooks some old lightbulb to it, which is pretty awesome because, speaking for myself, I probably would have licked the contacts and electrocuted myself. Despite this amazing technological leap, in his village they have just discovered the candle, so he gets banished, possibly to save them the expense of converting from candle manufacturing to lightbulb manufacturing, but more likely because they're a bunch of oppressive dicks, but in spite of that, things go remarkably well for our hero. For one thing, he lives in the woods with a beautiful woman, finds a giant house with a lot of books on the shelves, thinks a lot about the individual spirit, and finally he makes an adorable list of the folks he wants to join him in his new awesome lightbulb loving utopia, the same way that a preteen girl might make the list of invitees to her dream slumber party. It's a good book to read if you are bored on a rainy afternoon.I don't know if that would make a good album, but I don't know if Rush would make a good album, either. Rimshot!


A truly interesting read, Ayn Rand's book holds a captivating narrative. But as I watched the character swerve from the absolute collective to an absolute, egocentric conclusion, I ended up pitying the hero and his hapless companion for stumbling upon the wrong conclusion upon which they would base the rest of their existence. And what happened to "The Golden One" (his much less assertive true love)? All I could see was that for all the hero's self realization, his mate was merely a follower and a worshiper of his fantastic, glowing sacred "I". I am sorry to say Ayn Rand started with a great idea of individualism and ended in the trainwreck of selfish isolation.


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.


Possibly the most pretentious writing I've ever experienced.

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.


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.


Congrats, Aynnie! You've received my first single star rating! I read this in high school when I was reading a lot of dystopian future literature and thought it was by far the worst of the lot. Granted, if I'd read it when I was younger I might have liked it more, but saying that the even younger, less mature, more pretentious version of my teenage self would have liked something is hardly a glowing endorsement.As such I've steered /way/ clear of her door-stoppers. I don't think you really need to come up with some faux cerebral excuse to justify selfishness; if you're going to be self-centered your actions are ultimately justified by your own selfish inner drives, not your intellect. At best Rand was a shrewd self-marketed Cold War personality. At worst she's cynical, petty, pedantic, and most unforgivable of all, _boring_.


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.

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