All over the country, teenagers are committing suicide, leaving a note that says “A11” which does not make sense to the adults. While America sinks into chaos with violence ruling the streets, a group superrich enjoys their peaceful life. Some individuals still believe in the constitution, thinks that with the established structures, they can do something to turn the situation around, to make a change. Among them is Margot Burr-Nadir who is about to be appointed to the Supreme Court. She has strong convictions and is well-meaning but the disappearance of her daughter Story also occupies her mind. While some still hope for a future, it much rather seems as if the last day of mankind has arrived.
I was so looking forward to Noah Hawley’s next novel and “Anthem” sounded like a luring effigy of the world we are heading to. Now, in March 2022, I had to start the novel three times until I could finish it. Neither the author nor the book is to blame, reality which has overtaken Hawley’s imagination at a tearing pace is. This was simply not a good moment for me to read a dystopia in which single persons accept the destruction of countries, of lives, to reach their personal goals.
“Anthem” portrays the USA in a state not much different from reality, just a step further. I liked Hawley’s thoughts and direct addresses to the reader in the story, especially that moment where he ponders about how you can write a satirical text while reality is the best satire (referring to people complaining about how masks limit their personal liberty). Well, that was yesterday, if we thought that after two years of pandemic nothing could shock us anymore – surprise, surprise.
Stories of the deep state, a global conspiracy of the rich and the powerful, people living within and yet outside society captured in their own frame of belief built on bits and pieces gathered here and there – there is nothing unthinkable anymore. We have seen all of that wondering where it might lead ultimately – and how the next generation might react to it. The aspect of collective suicide since there is no hope, no future anymore is persuading: what has this world to offer them? News, fake news, alternating news – what can you believe? Bombings, attacks, wars, violence – when is your turn to be hit? There is a small group of teenagers, courageously following their ideals, showing empathy and thus bringing some hope to the plot. Unfortunately, I cannot imagine this happening right now.
There is so much in the novel to ponder about. Noah Hawley without a doubt greatly developed aspects of the present into his dystopian future, showing how closely he observes the world he lives in and touching sensitive issues which should lead us to react before it is too late. Unfortunately, the novel did not come at the right moment for me to really enjoy it.