Written with all the power and conviction that made The Fountainhead a classic of American letters, Ayn Rand’s Anthem is a hymn to man’s independent spirit and to the highest word in the human language – “Ego.” First written in 1937, Anthem was published in England, but was refused in publication in America, for reason which the reader might discover by reading it for himself. In 1946, it appeared as a pamphlet, issued by Pamphleteers, Inc., of Los Angeles. This is its first American publication in regular book form.
Anthem tells the story of a man who rediscovers the individualism and his own “I” – in a world of absolute collectivization, a world where sightless, joyless, selfless men exist for the sake of serving the State; where their work, their food and their mating are prescribed to them by order of the Collective’s rulers in the name of society’s welfare – a world which has lost all the achievements of science and civilization, when it lost their root, the independent mind, and has reverted to primitive savagery – a world where language contains no singular pronouns, where the “We” has replaced the “I,” and where men are put to death for the crime of discovering and speaking the “unspeakable word.”
The story tells of one man who rebelled, of his struggle and his victory. Assigned to the life work of street sweeper by the rulers who resented his brilliant, questioning, unsubmissive mind – he becomes a scientist, secretly, risking his life for the sake of his quest for knowledge.In the midst of collective stagnation, where men toil at manual labor by the light of candles – he discovers electricity. In the midst of eugenic planning and State-controlled Palaces of Mating – he discovers a personal love and a woman of his own choice. In the midst of brutal morality which proclaims that man is only a sacrificial animal to the needs of others – he discovers that man’s greatest moral duty is the pursuit of his own happiness. He endures danger, denunciation, imprisonment, torture – but he breaks the chains of the Collective, he escapes with the woman he loves, to start a new life in an uncharted wilderness, and he reaches the day when he is able to predict that “my home will become the capital of a world where each man will be free to exist for his own sake.”
Anthem presents not merely a frightening projection of existing trends, but, more importantly, a positive answer to those trends and a weapon against them, a key to the world’s moral crisis and to a new morality of individualism – a morality which, if accepted today, will save us from a future such as the one presented in this story.
|Author: Ayn Rand|