Anthem by Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand introduces her philosophy of Objectivism, with its central idea of the supremacy of the individual over the collective, in this short novella.
In a future Dark Ages, we meet Equality 7-2521, a humble street sweeper, who has forbidden thoughts relating to himself and his ambition to become a scholar. Such thoughts are blasphemy in a society where a man has no independence and must submit to the great “We”.
Our protagonist discovers artefacts from the “Unmentionable Times”, before the Dark Ages, and proceeds to rediscover electricity. His discovery is not welcomed, however, and he flees from the city along with his lover (individual love is also forbidden).
The couple stumble upon a house from the Unmentionable Times stocked with books, from which Equality 7-2521 learns the forbidden word, “I”. He vows to teach individualism to mankind in order to usher in a better future.
There were no surprises in this story for anyone familiar with the author’s philosophy, but I found it an enjoyable page-turner none the less. Worth reading just for the quasi-biblical prose style and the effort the author must have put in trying not to use the word “I” throughout the story.