Thursday, 7 June 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, who has died aged 91, is probably best known for his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, about a future totalitarian American state in which the fire brigade is responsible for burning books.

The book burning has echoes of Nazi Germany, but also of 1950's America where the McCarthyite anti-communist witch-hunt saw libraries ban books such as Robin Hood for being "socialistic". The novel is also a critique of the consumer society then emerging in which advertising, TV and sport are used to distract the masses from thinking - plus ├ža change. The ending in which a nuclear war wipes out the totalitarian state and leaves behind a group of survivors with the last remaining books living in the wilderness but intending to return to the devastated cities and create civilisation anew clearly reflects the millenarianism produced by the Cold War world.

Bradbury was also fan of libraries - he typed Fahrenheit 451 in one. As he said in this 2009 interview with the New York Times:

"Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years."

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