Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book of Choince: Fahrenheit 451

Sometime in the future, the possesion of books will be a crime. If you own any, firemen will come to your house and burn the book, your house and maybe you as well. All this is done to protect people from the many different opinions contained in the books - it's far more comfortable just to watch the wall (kind of mega flatscreen TV) or listen to the program on the radio or drive around the country.
Montag, a fireman, has begun to question all that and has even started to read books, but he is already suspected to be no longer a part of the system.

I first read Fahrenheit 451 as a teenager and even then, it spoke to my soul. Books are my passion and the thought of a future without them, without the things they stand for, is frightening. I take comfort in the ending of the book, although it's not a happy one, but there is the promise that civilisation will rebuild itself.

The language is full of vivid images, reading the book is very much like watching a movie for me. There's a strong mood of suspense and oppression as long as Montag is in the city - it's not a place I would want to live and there's always the feeling that someone is watching, taking notes and registering even the slightest sign of idependent thought.

It's sometimes said that the book is a criticism of censorship by the state, but I think it's made very clear that the people readily accepted all the mindnumbing things there were presented with and the majority were just not interested in their personal freedom all that much, as long as their favourite TV show was still on time. And soon, they didn't even remember or never knew what they had lost. There is a hint of 1984 when it is explained that houses were always fireproof and firemen always burned book.

When the TV screens were installed in the trains of the Hamburg subway, I thought immediately of Fahrenheit 451. So far, they are without sound and many people ignore them in favour of a book or in favour of talking with their friends. But many watch as if they have been hypnotised (the same news snippets and advertisements over and over again) and I'm sure if they would show Germany's Next Topmodel or any of that crap, even more people would sit and stare.

The 50th anniversary edition I bought has a very interesting interview with Bradbury and it contains the following quote that should be imprinted on the brains of all politicians who ever thought about cutting the budget of any library:
Reading is at the center of our lives. The library is our brain. Without the library, you have no civilization.

Oh, and Fahrenheit 451 has one of the best first sentences ever. It was a pleasure to burn

6th book for the Science Fiction Challenge

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