What is this book?
January 9, 2004 7:16 PM   Subscribe

My niece just called and asked about a book. Her description didn't strike any chords, so I thought I'd try the denizens of AskMe.

The theme is a future where noone has a name, only a number. Noone thinks in terms of individuality, and terms like "I" and "me" are not used. The protagonist of the book meets someone who is not bound by those strictures and learns to think like an individual. The last line of the book is something along the lines of "I am" or "I am (somename)".

Ring a bell with anyone?
posted by joaquim to Media & Arts (22 answers total)
 
Anthem, by Ayn Rand.

But I don't know if your niece will really be the better for the knowledge.
posted by orange swan at 7:18 PM on January 9, 2004


Definitely "Anthem". And I believe that your niece WILL be better off for the knowledge.
posted by davidmsc at 7:37 PM on January 9, 2004


Isn't it We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin? Either way, it's better than Anthem, which is basically plagiarism.
posted by rocketman at 7:46 PM on January 9, 2004


I'll chime in with Anthem as well, although I don't know what We is, so I won't knock it out. Oddly, I was discussing Anthem with an old acquantance earlier tonight, but not in a very good light.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:51 PM on January 9, 2004


I was gonna call Zamyatin.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:18 PM on January 9, 2004


Just curious, do you know why she is interested in it?

The reason I ask is, lately at work, several people have been looking for Ayn Rand books- and these people have no clue who Ayn Rand is. It turns out there's some sort of scholarship they're trying to win by writing an easy about Rand's ideas.

Consistency-wise, Ayn Rand fans should have to find her books on their own.
posted by drezdn at 9:25 PM on January 9, 2004


It sounds like Zamyatin's We to me, too, but I can't remember the last line to know for sure. Even if it's not the right book, I'd recommend it to her. It's a good read.
posted by litlnemo at 9:29 PM on January 9, 2004


Ayn Rand is a pernicious fungus that infects certain minds and - while teaching them all to say "I" - somehow orchestrates to have them all, in lockstep, chanting the exact same "I" which then becomes a "We".........

China, perhaps, and Japan - definitely - need Ayn Rand. Americans need something else - I'm not sure what.
posted by troutfishing at 9:32 PM on January 9, 2004


"We" has people named with numbers only, while "Anthem" has names like Liberty5735. "We" is much better, by the way. The thing with dancing, mmm.
posted by rhyax at 10:19 PM on January 9, 2004


Ayn Rand fans should have to find her books on their own.

Beautiful.

I'd also recommend We over Anthem -- But in either case, she should be watching Logan's Run.

"Report, Logan 5."
posted by j.edwards at 10:51 PM on January 9, 2004


Americans need something else - I'm not sure what.

Perhaps some Miller (I was thinking Henry but Arthur's an O.K. sort), perhaps a little Faulkner, maybe a dash of Vonnegut, and a smidge of Heller (the author of Catch-22, not the noun that so adequately describes the American president "elect"--they could do with a few less of those hellers, in fact).
posted by The God Complex at 11:18 PM on January 9, 2004


Oh hell no. Americans need a high-test blend of James Ellroy, Jack Womack and Mark Leyner with a Gayatri Spivak chaser.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:23 PM on January 9, 2004


Everyone should read Catch-22.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 12:19 AM on January 10, 2004


I read Catch-22 when I was too young to understand it. I need to go back and re-read it. I know it's a good book, but I missed it the first time through.

That's what happens when you read something good for high school.
posted by ajpresto at 5:42 AM on January 10, 2004


Consistency-wise, Ayn Rand fans should have to find her books on their own.

No, they should probably be writing the books entirely on their own, having learned their written language without the benefit of public education, just having absorbed it from the air.

I fear I am off-topic.
posted by anildash at 6:53 AM on January 10, 2004


My Penguin 20th Century Classics copy of We ends with this para:

But on Fortieth Avenue, which runs crosstown, they've managed to build a temporary wall of high-voltage waves. And I hope we'll win. More - I'm certain we'll win. Because reason has to win

Afraid I can't help with the ending of Anthem. Don't know why, but Ayn Rand seems to be less well known in the UK than US and I've never read her.
posted by calico at 8:35 AM on January 10, 2004


My Inter-Language Literary Associates 1967 edition of My (We) ends:

No na poperechnom, 40-m, prospekte, udalos' skonstruirovat' vremennuyu stenu iz vysokovol'tnykh voln. I ya nadeyus'—my pobedim. Bol'she: ya uveren—my pobedim. Potomu chto razum dolzhen pobedit'.

Which says pretty much the same as calico's quote, which I think captured very nicely the rhythm of the final sentence: potomushto RAzum DOLzhen pobeDIT'.

I'm delighted to see so many people here have read We; I thought it was pretty much forgotten.

Oh yeah, and Ayn Rand is a blight upon the earth.
posted by languagehat at 8:54 AM on January 10, 2004


About the scholarship: it's sponsored by the Ayn Rand Institute, of course, and IIRC asks people to submit essays on the ideas in Anthem (middle school), Fountainhead (high), or Atlas Shrugged (college).
posted by casarkos at 9:55 AM on January 10, 2004


When I was in college, a friend bet me $100 that I couldn't read Anthem while driving between Dallas and Austin, without stopping, in three and a half hours. I got some funny looks from other drivers and probably needlessly endangered countless lives, but the important things is that I won the bet. Don't remember anything about the book, other than how nervewracking it was to read it while driving.
posted by vraxoin at 11:05 AM on January 10, 2004


It sounds like Zamyatin's We to me, too, but I can't remember the last line to know for sure. Even if it's not the right book, I'd recommend it to her. It's a good read.

Agreed, although it's got to be 25 years since I last read it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:24 PM on January 10, 2004


Thanks for everyone's help. I'll pass the info along. She read the book in high school and was trying to recall it for some reason.
posted by joaquim at 6:41 PM on January 10, 2004


Where did she go to school that she read We? That's pretty neat. Unless she had to read Anthem, which isn't neat at all.

the end of Anthem:

"For the coming of that day I shall fight. I and my sons, and my chosen friends. For the freedom of man, for his rights, for his life, for his honor. And here over the portals of my fort I shall cut in the stone the word which is to be my beacon, and my banner. The word which will not die, should we all perish in the battle, the word which can never die on this earth for it is the heart of it, and the meaning, and the glory. The sacred word: Ego."

I like languagehat's analysis of that.
posted by rhyax at 12:44 PM on January 11, 2004


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