3.5/5 Stars, Knowledge vs Ignorance ‘El Clásico’
“The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They’re Caesar’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.'” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
It is an exercise in futility to ‘judge’ or ‘review’ a piece of classic literature. It is much more satisfying to just discuss it. The idea that forms the corner stone of this novel is a nightmare for any bibliophile, “reading of Books is a capital offence”, your books along with your house, with you possibly still in it, will be soaked in kerosene and burned to ashes if you are caught. Just imagine that! A future where that might be the law.
The dystopian world of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ is a profound comment on a great many things, on censorship, free thinking, equality, misuse of technology, pressure of conformity, importance of empathy & of creativity, war, peace, corruption of ideologies, FREEDOM!…. and perhaps many many more. Neil Gaiman in the introduction to the book states that :-
“If someone tells you what a story is about, they are probably right, if they tell you that that is all the story is about, they are probably wrong,”
And I concur, each of us would take an extra lesson from this book, based on us, our experience, our environment and our biases, along with the common ones that are explicitly stated in the book. That’s what classics do don’t they? make you think, sort out confusing thoughts in your head, agree, disagree, like, hate, but they provoke your brain cells to churn out those extra moments pondering, precisely the thing Ray Bradbury preaches about reading I imagine.
Precisely the thing that happens to Guy Montag ‘The fireman’ in the book, the very guy who’s job is to destroy books and fight against all they represent, turns to love and adore them & the ideas and ability they stand for, and is plunged into self doubt by reflecting on his actions and the state of the world for the first time in his life, all because of a chance encounter with a Girl ‘Clarisse’ who walks for pleasure in a world where no one does, who smells the flowers in a world where no one does, who stares at the moon, enjoys an actual conversation, delights in ideas, Cares! in a world WHERE NO ONE DOES.
Each character is a lesson in itself, ( Montag, Mildred, Clarrise, Captain Beatty, Faber ) each lesson an important edict to be passed on to the next generation with a warning tag “Beware!”. Will we ever Get them all I wonder? Even if we do, will that be enough? It would be a start anyhow, a start is important, very important.
The writing is marvelous though not easy, the story though linear not plain, this book despite being only 180 or so pages ( My version has 249, 70 pages worth of commentaries and essays on its genesis, which add extremely interesting tit-bits to the whole book) packs a lot of punch and demands a lot of your attention, you can’t skim through this, can’t miss the subtle hints, perhaps on rereading it you would find something new altogether. So, it is one of those mind boggling books, that in the first read might almost defeat you, you can sense the brilliance yet you can’t shake off the bafflement. As ‘Beatty’ quotes ‘Alexander Pope’ in the book : –
“A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”
So drink deep, even if you have to drink again and again from this book, because the sobriety that it promises in the end is worth all the drunken stupor and hangover that you could possibly have to endure.