Atlas Shrugged, in summary

Having already written about Atlas Shrugged I appear to have found myself at the end of it without much more to say.

At a hefty 1100 odd pages, I finished not with a sense of satisfaction but with a feeling of relief.

The central premise is interesting, as is – at least conceptually, Rand’s notion of Objectivism, especially in the modern political context in which it is now being applied. I say conceptually because the more you are exposed to it via the long, unfocussed and undisciplined speeches of the novel’s protagonists (John Galt, one of the Randian superheroes in the novel, speaks for 60 pages without interruption toward the novels climax – culture rag The Atlantic notes that this is roughly double the length of the Communist Manifesto)  – I became to feel that it was somewhat repugnant, at least from a moral and ethical stand point.

The primary problem is that the book is clearly the vehicle for her philosophy. This is not something i’m adverse to per se – Animal Farm, which I read for the first time last year uses a similar device – but, at least Orwell had the good sense to keep to it lean – the problem is that Rand constantly smacks the reader over the head with tortured analogy again and again. And Again. For 1000 pages.

It’s a shame – the much shorter The Fountainhead, which Rand wrote before Atlas Shrugged is a much better novel – written precisely, if not elegantly, with a strong central premise and characters that drive it forward with gusto and efficiency.

So, not the best way to start 2014’s reading perhaps, but it was a start nonetheless.


Postscript The Atlantic has a brilliant ‘Atlas Shrugged’ book club, a series of blog posts that look at the ideas behind the book with significantly greater clarity than I could ever hope to achieve – if you’re interested in the ideas behind the novel you can find it here

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