As a curious reader of philosophy, I had wanted to read some of Ayn Rand’s work for a long time but never really got around to it until I finally got the chance while on a bullet train to Beijing from Shanghai. I had heard about how heavy and intricate her writing was, and so I decided to start with 'Anthem' which is one of her shorter pieces. The idea was that I could ease myself into the style of her writing and then I could tackle some of the heftier stuff later on.
To give a very brief summary - The book presents a vision of a dull future where society’s need to connect with one another has destroyed the realm of free thought or innovative action. Outstanding people don’t strive to create and improve because that would go against the status quo.
I don't intend for this to be a book review, so I just want to highlight one particular aspect.
The most striking part for me however, was Rand’s use of the word ‘we’. She uses it exclusively throughout the entire book (even when describing a single person) until the very end of the story – where the main character rediscovers the word ‘I’. At the risk of quoting a passage out of context - here is one passage which I found fascinating:
"As I stand here at the door of glory, I look behind me for the last time. I look upon the history of men, which I have learned from the books, and I wonder. It was a long story, and the spirit which moved it was the spirit of man's freedom. But what is freedom? Freedom from what? There is nothing to take a man's freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. That and nothing else."
Fascinating. And profoundly true.
If you have never read a philosophical book before – this is a decent place to start as the narrative isn’t too heavy which means it is easier to digest and also it is quite short. And to make sure you don't have any other excuses, it is also available for free right here.
I encourage you to give it a go and share your thoughts. There is so much meaning hidden behind every paragraph – so many topics that we could unravel.