In 1950, when Fahrenheit 451 first appeared as “The Fireman” in the magazine Galaxy Science Fiction, television was fast becoming a ubiquitous feature of the American home. The big three commercial television networks (NBC, ABC, CBS) had just connected their cables coast to coast. Soap operas, talk shows, sitcoms and game shows were piped into nearly every household all day long. A country of postwar housewives did their ironing to As the World Turns, while their hubbies worked the white-collar jobs of the burgeoning middle class. The freeway network of Southern California, where Ray Bradbury lived, had commenced construction. And the Korean War, launched that year, was one in a series of wars of which most Americans were only dimly aware. Such was the present that Ray Bradbury logically extended into the “insane world” of this classic dystopia.
Archive for February, 2012
Vladimir Nabokov’s 1947 novel Bend Sinister doesn’t focus on class war, a projected future or the awakening of an individual under authoritarian rule. It follows an exceptional man’s loss of all that makes his life worth living. Though the book’s protagonist, Adam Krug, is finally crushed by the stupidity and brutality of a police state, the narrative concentrates on his psychic condition, with little attention given to class or politics beyond a farcical sketch of the political ideology and rise to power of the dictator Paduk. If there is any dystopian element here, it’s the ultimate destruction of the hero, a profoundly intelligent, conscientious and cultivated man, under the barbarous and pseudo-efficient regime that seizes his nation.