As the title suggests I am going to focus on a rather controversial issue: totalitarianism. I am from Bulgaria, once under USSR communist influence, but now a democratic country (at least that’s what we believe). I have never lived in communism ( if we don’t count those 5 months since I was born and before communism in Bulgaria ended but I don’t really have any valuable memories from that time) but my parents and grandparents have. And all I hear is: “Oh, it was safer, people were equal, there was no poverty and unhappiness”. To what extent that was true and to what extent were they under powerful propaganda I cannot say and I am not inclined to judge either.
Now on the books. Two novels, which I desperately recommend, have focused on what will happen if totalitarianism not only spread but developped. George Orwell’s 1984 presents a utopian world, where The Party controls not only people’s lifes, but their thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Big Brother’s voice (like in the reality show) sounds in every home, sees everything, and tells people what to do and how to behave. Winston’s job is to change history by changing the newspaper’s articles depending on the Party’s political moves at that time. However, he meets a girl, and together, they try to reveal the roots behind the Party’s power over people.
In Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Montag lives in a society where books are illegal (IMAGINE THAT!). His job is to burn all books, except those that serve the Party’s propaganda. 451 refers to the degrees, at which paper burns. Similarly to Winston, a woman changes his perspective and provokes him to search for answers beneath the ordered totalitarian world.
Both novels are masterpieces, although I personally prefer 1984. It focuses more on the totalitarian regime and its ways to control people, to ensure their subordination, and to prevent acts of disobedience. I have read the novel twice and it always sends shivers through my body. What if we ever reach that state? Can you imagine being told what to think, how to feel, where to go, and how to act…
I can’t wait to read Ayn Rand’s essays on the subjects. She had to fleet the USSR and she expresses a rather firm opinion (that’s Ayn Rand after all, she always has a firm opinion!) on totalitarianism and capitalism. I am sure here works would be worth reading.
On a final note, if you have never lived in a communist country, if you have lived and you don’t remember, or even if you have spend most of your live under totalitarian regime, these two novels are worth reading. Depending on your moral codex they will astonish you, provoke you, amaze you, or angry you, but one thing is sure – they will not leave you disappointed or indifferent.