Never in my life, I have felt an urge to rate a book stronger than what I felt while reading ‘The Fountainhead.’ And that too when it was the second time I was reading this book. Ten years after I first stumbled upon this when I was doing graduation.
And to my surprise, the first feeling that I got as I rated this book 5/5 was of disappointment. For the five stars were not enough for a book like this. It deserves much more. Much more than just five stars.
A good book is a combination of many things. A good plot, and a good story. Choice selection of settings and characters. Lines serene like waves crashing on the beach. Paragraphs beautiful like the rising and falling silhouettes of hills against the evening sky. A good book puts all these together. Draws you into it. Slowly. Gradually. Before it completely pulls you out of your real life and takes you into a new world altogether.
This is my definition of a good book.
But ‘The Fountainhead’ is not just a good book. It is all this and much more.
It is a mirror that puts your life in its pages. Your whole life in front of you. You read about Howard Roark. An individualist who is the hero of this novel. His passion for creating, his passion for his work. And you remember that you have such passion (if you’re lucky.) Or had it once but no more. Or you feel it inside you once in a while before the weight of practicality douses it out.
You read about Peter Keating, the antihero of this novel. A conformist. How he gives up on his dreams, his true passion to follow a beaten path. To do what others were doing. To do what others think that is right. You read all this and realize that how much of your life you have devoted to others’ ideas. Devoted to what others deem what is right. The college you went. The subjects you ended up taking. The friends you made. The girl you dated. The profession you chose for yourselves. All this and more was it you who chose them or they were the product of others’ thought, others’ beliefs?
You read about E Toohey, the ultimate villain of the novel. How he is a man who does nothing. Creates nothing. He just feeds on the other people’s insecurities, their doubts. The madness of the masses is his tool that he uses to celebrate the ‘ordinary,’ the ‘average’ in order to destroy the real talent. You read about him and realize how many times you see it around yourself. The ‘Salman Khan’ and the ‘Chetan Bhagat’ raking in millions while the real talent lurking somewhere in the shadows.
You read ‘The Fountainhead’ and you feel all this.
You love the passion that is Howard Roark because he is the ultimate hero you have always wanted to become. One who lives with an integrity as high as the highest of the mountains.
You hate the conformist Peter Keating because you feel a part of him within you. Alive and sucking out the creative energy from within you.
You hate Toohey for all the hatred he is spitting out, garbed in the intellectual words. But realizing, at some point in time, you have at least supported someone like him, someone who derives energy from the madness of the crowd.
This book… This book jolts you out of the inertia that you have imposed upon yourself. Makes you come out of the deep slumber who had been all your life. Makes you think.