About forty-two years ago I was sitting in my bare abode serving the socialist government which ruled my native country at that time, in a remote and desolate place without the amenities which we take for granted today.
I did not even have the luxury of having a newspaper to read then, but I had with me a smuggled copy of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and my recreation was to read and reread the book. It had many pages but then I had all the time in the world.
I was on assignment by the government to administer to the health of the people in that region of some tens of thousands of people who had never seen a doctor in their lives. There were shortages of everything including basic necessities like clean water and a sanitation system.
Although I was very busy tending to the needs of the people during daytime the long nights were difficult and extremely lonely. I was single, the single 25 W bulb was dim and I did not even have a radio to listen to the single government-run shortwave station which broadcast just ten hours daily in three separate installments. The program was heavy on propaganda and little on entertainment. Therefore I was missing very little except for ordinary news and events other than what the government or the singular socialist party did for the day.
However, Ayn Rand’s novel kept me entertained in a twisted sort of way. I began to see the country in her novel as the socialist nation that I was living in and under a regime that I was living under. The same corruption, inefficiencies and destructiveness of the system felt very proximate. It was actually about a dystopic America. But up to that point I had my own impressions of a vibrant America with a functioning capitalist system.
I thought that Rand had written the book in a sarcastic way since I knew that she fled the Soviet Union in 1926 and came to America, where she quickly became a fan of American freedom, American democracy, and American capitalism, all of which greatly contrasted to the experiences she’d had in the oppressive Soviet Union. Rand’s personal philosophy developed around these American ideas, in opposition to the type of life she saw in the Soviet Union.
Though she was living in America and created her story based on America she was actually inferring to a system from which she had come from, the Soviet socialist state. I could not help but enjoy the story because I could relate to the theme.I vicariously saw myself being in her shoes in my small fantasy world.
I started to dream about America and it was all a fantasy still in my mind. I said that such things will not and cannot happen in America.
A year later I came to America and lived my dream for the nearly four decades. About three years ago I woke up suddenly; my dream had disappeared and a nightmare has begun and I found myself in the land of Ayn Rand’s novel almost bordering on Kafka’s world.
That’s Kafkaesque. You struggle against history and history destroys you– a bizarre surreal trap set by an invisible enemy.