BOOK REVIEW | Anthem by Ayn Rand

BOOK REVIEW | Anthem (1938) by Ayn Rand
Review by Mark David Major

(Book blurb begins) Hailed by The New York Times as “a compelling dystopian look at paranoia from one of the most unique and perceptive writers of our time,” Anthem offers a cautionary tale. The story unfolds within a society in which all traces of individualism have been eliminated from every aspect of life — use of the word “I” is a capital offense. The hero, a rebel who discovers that man’s greatest moral duty is the pursuit of his own happiness, embodies the values the author embraced in her personal philosophy of objectivism: reason, ethics, volition, and individualism. Anthem anticipates the themes Ayn Rand explored in her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Publisher’s Weekly acclaimed it as “a diamond in the rough, often dwarfed by the superstar company it keeps with the author’s more popular work, but every bit as gripping, daring, and powerful.” (Book blurb ends)

Anthem by Ayn Rand is great. This novella should be required reading for everybody along with Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm as well as The Diary of Anne Frank. It very much operates as a predecessor and companion piece to Orwell’s most famous novels. In fact, Orwell may have read Anthem while writing 1984. Some people might find the religious allegory in the closing pages somewhat over-the-top. However, Rand is making an important point – and an ironic one, given her anti-religious views – which is best illustrated by Matthew 22:36-40 (King James Version of the New Testament). “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” The most important part of this great commandant is not the implied collectivism of “love thy neighbour” as most commonly cited by others (religious or otherwise). Quite the opposite, Jesus makes six references to the ‘self’ or ego in these great commandants. Man was made in the image of God, therefore God must be equally aware of the self or ego. Understanding this helps to transform the religious allegory at the end of Rand’ Anthem into exceptonally powerful writing for readers receptive to Rand’s message. Mark’s Grade:

by Ayn Rand

Paperback, English, 96 pages
Originally published in 1938 (Dover Thrift Editions, 2014)
ISBN-10: 048649277X
ISBN-13: 978-0486492773

You can purchase Anthem by Ayn Rand on Amazon here.

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