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After all, it's just a book ...
am 5. Juli 2013
There seems to be no indifference about "Atlas shrugged": even those who disagree with its *ideology* apparently finished the 1000+ pages! Credit should be given to the author's skill just for that (the reviewer hardly ever managed to make his way through a similar volume). And my determination was not only fostered by the wikipedia-quote that the book was the 2nd most significant for young americans (behind - well - the bible).
There is no need to go into detail when it comes to plot and protagonists (wikipedia provides enough information about these) - but some remarks cannnot be withheld:
re: the characters. The "good guys" are: well-shaped, smart, motivated, creative (a bit one-dimensional, I'd reckon) - all kinds of "Übermensch" - in fact, it seems that the author has read too much of Nietzsche. Very inventive, indeed: the antagonist Robin Hood who robs the poor and gives the rich.
re: the embedded love-stories - remarkably progressive, yes, revolutionary (and not only for the era it was written in)! A female makes her way through: love with feel-no-guilt-sex-before-marriage, then: adultery (and *teaching* a nerd how-to), including publicly admitting it ... finally finds the-love-she-had-always-been-looking-for (though not rich, yet - but, who cares, SHE already is). Plus: all 3 competitors still manage to be in good terms!
re: the plot (the pillars of society are on strike) - could be summarized in 5% of the pages needed (including an abstract of the philosophy/ideology); on the other hand: it contains many brilliant descriptions of the consequences of ignorance, mismanagement, demotivation, incompetence - which should ring a bell with everyone who has ever been confronted with (a mix of) these. The last 200 pages are the weakest: some estimated 90% redundancy in Galt's speech; then: too much of *action* (and I couldn't get over the suspicion that the author lost motivation towards the end, or was it just too much pressure from the editor?).
re: the *ideology* - it is not overly subtle, and probably doesn't need to be. The credo of the *geniuses*, that they do not want to live at the cost of anybody nor should anybody live at theirs, is definitely a goal one should strive for (at least for the first part). My advice: It is more rewarding to read the book as a kind-of-kafkaesque science fiction. To depict altruism as a mislead interpretation of some ridiculous post-Aristotle-philosophers is inventive at best. And readers who fancy all this, should be ready to live in a world where:
- to be either a genius or subordinate to a genius (otherwise you are a looter!). Well understood: the genius doesn't give a damn about those who don't make this choice - be they: sick, handicapped, too old, too young ... .
- the homo oeconomicus is everywhere (even in private relationships). In a way: the author seemed to have her own doubts - she kind-of-excluded *true love* from it (dumped an aristocrat and a steel tycoon for a (comparativly) modest super-brain
What Laissez-Faire Capitalism could mean (especially when it starts from scratch after a system collapsed - as described in the book) can be observed in several eastern European states since 1990. For (western-)European readers who had (and still have) to carry the consequences of privatization of e.g. their national railway systems, it appears ludicrous to read about the consequences of the contrary. Then: in "Atlas shrugged" protagonists drive on roads which are presumably not owned by private corporations - raising the unanswered question, who would construct these roads on whose behalf, if there was not such deadly thing like an income tax. Also, as far as art is concerned: those who reckon, that private beats public (re: quality, creativity etc) should have a close look at the media landscape in e.g. Italy or Germany before and after *liberalization*. On the other hand: the author cannot be blamed for this, as she couldn't know - but knew well the consequences of collectivism in the Soviet Union (a country, which, unlike tsarist Russia, allowed her - as a female - to go to University).
I do not want to speculate about the toxic potential of the book. Could be anything between healthy and unhealthy egoism, motivation to do one's own stuff, or some radicalism (kind of Una-Bomber or McVeigh).
Personal conclusion: very interesting read, food for thought and gives some idea about why-americans-are-so-obsessed about anything which is not a private business.
The rating is not easy: 5 stars for Rand's ability to keep me reading till the end - without boring me (ok, apart from Galt's Radio speech - but that's just 5% of the book). 4 stars for the progressive love story (deducted 1 star for the sometimes kitschy description of feelings). 2 stars for the ideology as a whole; good 3 stars for the characters (the *bad guys* are described much better than the *good guys*). Overall: 3 - and do not want to take sides (neither the fans' nor their opponents).