I’m currently re-reading Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451. It tells the story of Guy Montag – a ‘Fireman’ whose job is to burn books, in a world where all books are forbidden.
The story began as a novella, written in 1951. It was then developed into a book in 1954. Bradbury describes a future where reading no longer happens, where people sit in their ‘parlour’ surrounded by interactive TV programmes which replace real relationships. Billboards are 200 feet long so that speeding drivers can make sense of them. In a prescient description of the iPod society, he describes people oblivious of their surroundings, drugged by the music and propaganda delivered to miniature speakers plugged into their ears.
Bradbury wrote it primarily as a blast against the TV, but it’s clear that he was also dwelling on images of the Nazis burning books. Having said that, the book is not strictly about censorship – or, at least, it’s about self-censorship. The villains in Fahrenheit 451 are the people who let it happen, who stopped reading because it was too inconvenient or difficult or uncomfortable.
And, it’s not just the iPod. Bradbury’s world is coming true in other ways, as in this article from today’s Guardian which wonders where the time for reading has gone.
I would post more, but I’m off to finish my book.