Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.
The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.
Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock.

Comment: I bought this book last year but of course it's something I had had my eye on for a long time and this month I finally picked it. I can only assume all devoted readers have certainly heard of it if not familiar with the plot itself. I was curious how I would read this story about firemen burning books instead of saving them...

In this (not that long) story we meet Guy Montag, a fireman who lives in a society/world where people are practically slaves to technology and are taught to not think for themselves. As a result, books have became forbidden, they are burned, and the fireman work as executioner's here, instead of saving and protecting people/things.
Guy has always accepted the reality until one day. He ends up saving a book, being curious about it and he goes on a journey to understand why he is changing but that can't be done without others noticing. Guy will try to understand what is it about books that can be so scaring but will he save himself first?

I must say I feel conflicted: I liked the general idea of this book and the potential scenarios one would imagine about what it means to burn books (thus, knowledge) but the way the story was presented was very confusing. 
I see many readers have enjoyed this dystopian story about such a different society that makes people act and not think. I also liked some elements and the notion it could be so easy to let go of our ability to think and to wonder. Books certainly help and to imagine a world where we burn them because they would cause harm is incomprehensible.

This is literary fiction so of course part of the story is certainly purposely metaphorical and open to interpretations, especially the way Guy thinks and deals with the things surrounding him.
From a literary POV, I can totally appreciate the beauty of the words, the notions presented and even with a certain character explains why people shouldn't be allowed to think for themselves, to use books to have knowledge to think differently, those words are well done, are a huge message well written, even if anathema to any book lover.

My problem is that, trying to keep things so evocative and almost philosophical, the characters, their movements and the plot itself are lost and for long moments I'm just confused about what we ae supposed to be aware of. What is actually happening to Guy's wife? What is Guy doing when he mentions some details about his actions? It's quite fun to have sentences to let us make our own minds but that can also distract the reader from real actions the characters perform and some things were way too complicated to decipher.
I'd say that the image the author gives us is great but I need more detailed characters and substance to fully sympathize with what happens with the characters. I must say I finished the book being able to simply put the story aside but I can keep up a certain distance from the book's message without problem.

For many, the book is actually about being numb. People who care nothing about real life but are 100% focused on TV and fictional stuff just don't let themselves care about what should matter the most. 
This book was written in 1953 but one doesn't need to go far to see today's society has totally migrated to the basics of what we have in this book: people becoming numb about important matters because they are surrounded by TV that has no substance and things that don't require much thinking.

I found this book close to being very good but I feel a more solid view of the characters, even their lack of initiative and self awareness would have made the story easier to analyze. Some readers say this might get into the non-fiction category one day, since it's barely there when it comes to the character's lives and it's more about the generic concepts. Sincerely, I just think it can be quite boring if ones can't focus on what's on the page. So, this ended up being in the "middle" of the enjoyment, for me.
Grade: 6/10

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