Review: Anthem, by Ayn Rand

3 of 5 stars

“Anthem”, originally titled “Ego”, is the story of Equality 7-2521, a humble but curious member of a primitive dystopian society in which individuals only exist to serve the group, to the extent that no one has a unique name, and personal pronouns have long been removed from society’s vocabulary. It’s a short novelette that I would classify as a fable, although Rand wasn’t trying to be didactic. The reader can’t help look for comparisons and harbingers in today’s society. Fair warning: whether you find any might depend on your political leanings.

I’m a fan of Ayn Rand’s books, if not her personal philosophy, Objectivism. Although I agree with some of Objectivism’s tenets, it’s full of too many absolutes and extremes for me. Regardless, Rand knows how to spin a good yarn with a simple, direct style. I absolutely loved Atlas Shrugged, and I expected to feel the same about Anthem, but found myself slightly detached.

Maybe the reason for my struggle is the difficulty I have in identifying with a society that doesn’t include personal pronouns as part of the lexicon– and that’s where some historical context comes in handy. If I try to picture Rand’s life, growing up in Soviet Russia, the impetus for the development of her personal philosophy becomes much clearer. Most of her works stood as a warning against collectivist structures like communism and socialism. Was her philosophy merely a reaction to her upbringing and her early career in the United State’s infamous Red Decade, or did she intend her works to foretell the dire consequences that would follow if society moved in a collectivist direction? In today’s political climate, it’s easy to see both possibilities.

Anthem, 75th Anniversary Edition

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