Anthem, Paperback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Equality 7-2521 is a man apart. Since the Great Rebirth it has been a crime in his world to think or act as an individual.

Even love is forbidden. Yet, since his childhood in the Home of the Infants, Equality 7-2521 has felt that he is different.

When he is sent by the Council of Vocations to work as a road sweeper, he stumbles upon a link to the old world that gives him the spur to break free.

First published in England in 1938, Ayn Rand's short dystopian novel crystalises the ideas of individualism and competition that would make her name.




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I found this slim novel fascinating. It is a tour-de-force against collectivism in all its forms, and from all ends of the political and religious spectrum, placing one man at the centre of his own life and teaching him to value himself. Yet, from a modern perspective, particularly looking back over the capitalist me-first 1980s, I see shadows, pitfalls and darkness in Equality 7-2521's enlightenment. His enthusiasm for the discovery of "I" is all-consuming and it is difficult to see how it would be possible for everyone to live at this extreme without generating huge amounts of conflict. It is also intriguing that in describing his vision of his new world and the people who will share it with him, he does not seem to contemplate the possibility that each of these individuals in whom he intends to generate this same sense of self-discovery and self-importance (in the non-perjorative sense) may disagree with his vision of how man shall live. The role of the Golden One also intrigued me as, even in their enlightenment, she seems subservient - Equality 7-2521 names her, rather than allowing her to discover for herself the ideas he has encountered and name herself. This surprised me, given the author is a woman. Of course, to explore the implications of a world inhabited by individualists would be a whole other novel and from that perspective, such a discussion would detract from the central message of Rand's novel, diluting the message and creating too much ambiguity. If the purpose is to expose the dystopian end-results of the increasing trend for collectivist thinking in the 1930s (both fascist and communist), an in-depth and thoughtful exploration of whether it is possible for all people to live at the extreme opposite end of individualism is not the way to do it, and to illustrate her point and create a powerful novel, Rand had to occupy the extremes. I am certainly keen now to explore Rand's other works to see how these ideas continued and developed.The parallels between this and other dystopian novels by Rand's contemporaries are of course inescapable and yet she brings a fresh voice to the discussions, choosing to characterise the collectivists as having retreated from the advances of industrialised life rather than creating an even more modern and stylised future filled with technology and science.Her prose is engaging and absorbing. The use of language is clever and yet, like all good writing, much of the workings are hidden, creating the intended effect in the reader but leaving them to unpick later how she did it. The use of grammar captured perfectly the dehumanising power of collectivism and the idea that you can be both within a group and utterly alone at the same time. The novel is well-paced and tightly written - every sentence advancing the story or the ideas within it. "Anthem" is a thoroughly absorbing and entertaining way to spend an afternoon and yet will leave you thinking for many years.

Review by

An interesting critique of socialism; probably best not to try and base a neo-conservative agenda on it though.

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