Wednesday 30 January 2013

Bradbury, Ray "Fahrenheit 451"

Bradbury, Ray "Fahrenheit 451" - 1953

I always joke that this story really should be called Celsius 232 because in most of the modern world we measure temperatures in Celsius. But it was written in the States, so I guess we all have to convert. At least this title.

I'm quite a fan of dystopian novels, I always think the stories portrayed in these books are more likely to happen than those in the utopian ones. And you can usually see when the book was written by the topic the author chooses to evaluate. "1984" was written shortly after World War II, and the totalitarian idea was still very fresh. "Brave New World" was written shortly before World War II and you can see the ideas of the Nazis taking form in this novel.

"Fahrenheit 451" was written in the fifties, in the United States, at the height of the McCarthy era, when the fear of the communists during the Cold War was leading to almost witch-huntlike attacks on citizens.

So, it is not surprizing, that the society in this novel wants to banish books, wants to banish knowledge, so they can influence people the way they would like them to. I think, as in all dystopian novels, the future looks partly like the author described it. Especially if we look at what Ray Bradbury said at the end of his novel in "Afterword": "There remains only to mention a prediction that my Fire Chief, Beatty, made in 1953, halfway through my book. It had to do with books being burned without matches or fire. Because you don't have to burn books, do you, if the world starts to fill up with non-readers, non-learners, non-knowers?" Something to think about:

I don't think I have to mention that I really liked the book.

From the back cover:

"The hauntingly prophetic classic novel set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned by a special task force of firemen.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic novel of a post-literate future, ‘
Fahrenheit 451’ stands alongside Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.

Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which over fifty years from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock."

I have read "The Martian Chronicles" in the meantime and have enjoyed that at least just as much as this one.

Ray Bradbury received a special Pulitzer Prize citation in 2007 for "his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy."
We discussed this book in our international online book club in December 2020. 

This is one of the comments from a member:
"I enjoyed reading Fahrenheit 451. How comforting to read an affirmation of observations and positive values in defiance of the dystopian world of the novel and also in contrast to the dystopia of certain lived realities in North America today. This book is why I read. Yet I read it long ago when I was young and was grossed out by the overt sexism. Ha!"

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