Monday, January 21, 2013

Fahrenheit 451 [1953]

Fahrenheit 451, his second published book, shot American writer Ray Bradbuy to fame, and continues to remain as his single most reckoned work. Set in an unspecified but distant future, the dystopian novella chronicled a time when reading books has been outlawed by the state, and firemen are employed to put houses containing books to fire; interestingly, the title of the book refers to the temperature which, allegedly, is the burning point for paper. The story’s principal protagonist is a middle-aged man called Guy Montag. He works as a fireman, and is married to a woman who is perennially addicted to television. He’s lost the ability to question either his life or his surroundings and, as it seems, is destined to lead an utterly inconsequential life in a vacuous world. However, his world comes crashing down when he meets an irreverent young girl who is completely at odds with the society she lives in. He starts thinking and questioning, and even reading – activities that are considered both dangerous and hostile by the authoritarian state he resides in. Bradbury touched upon a number of themes in this seminal book – most importantly, state-sponsored censorship as a political weapon. Written in response to McCarthy Witch-Hunts, he painted a bleak picture of a dull, grey, wan world where the citizens are expected to comply with the state’s diktats – willingly or otherwise. The book can also be seen as a reaction to television boom and the fear that technology would, before long, imprison our minds instead of freeing us. The influence of Orwell’s 1984 is unmistakable, though, like any good work of literature, he used his source as a point of departure, thus stamping his indelible signature in the process. The novella is brief in length, and Bradbury’s easy, fluent style made it appear even briefer; but the ideas espoused by it, and the relevance of its protagonist’s existential crisis, continue to resonate even today, more than ever before.

Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Drama/Political Drama/Dystopian Novel/Existentialist Drama
Language: English
Country: US

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

V for Vendetta [1982-1989]

Even though Watchmen remains a more seminal work in graphic literature, very few books, graphic or otherwise, have managed to become such pop culture icons as V for Vendetta. The Guy Fawkes mask that the titular V wears, in fact, has become a symbol of protest against political oppression by an overbearing state. The George Orwell classic 1984 was both a source of inspiration and point of departure for this comic book series that was adapted into a well-made film in 2006. A joint effort of Alan Moore and illustrator David Lloyd, the story is set in a not-so-distant dystopian future in England where, after a devastating nuclear war, the country has come under fascist rule. Adam Susan, known as The Leader, rules the country with an iron fist from his secluded room filled with monitors, using the various wings of his ruthless secret police, ingeniously named as Eye, Ear, Nose, Mouth and Finger. The story’s delectably amoral and perpetually masked anti-hero, known simply as V, believes that freedoms of thought, expression and choice supersede over everything else, and so he begins a violent guerrilla battle against the state machinery and the Party. During his pursuit he develops friendship with a young orphaned girl called Evey Hammond who eventually becomes his muse, so to speak. As much as it was a commentary against absolute powers of the state – purportedly written as a response to the Thatcher government, it was also a take on two mutually incompatible political forces, viz. totalitarianism vis-à-vis anarchism. But, most importantly, it was a reinforcement of the tremendous power and imperishability of “idea”. The solid brush strokes, heavy usage of shadows and grotesque realism in the illustrations superbly portrayed the story’s murky setting, bleak outlook and brooding tone. The overtly convoluted plot that regularly jumped across timelines and characters, and some hazy character developments, however, were tad detrimental to its storytelling.

Author: Alan Moore & David Lloyd
Genre: Graphic Novel/Political Thriller/Dystopian Novel
Language: English
Country: UK