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Is Ken Follett a closet Objectivist?

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Gabo
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I know Follett is (or was) a supporter of the Labour Party, but the parallels I've found between his novels The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End and Objectivism are striking. It's almost as if he had purposefully intended to dramatize Objectivist philosophy among a Middle Ages setting.

The values and motivations of the heroes are typical of Randian heroes: they are courageous in the face of adversity, productive, brilliant, independent thinkers who rely on their reason and experience in the face of stagnant mysticism and useless (and often life-threatening, as in the case of the monk's "medicine" in WWE) traditions and customs.

On the other hand, in both books, the villains are the ultimate portrayals of Attila and the Witch Doctor.

World Without End also makes a strong case for a laissez-faire economy.

It's also curious that in both books, one of the main heroes is a red-haired architect like Roark. On top of that, the last scene of World Without End is practically identical to the last scene of The Fountainhead.

Taking this into account, it would be strange for Follett never to have read Rand, don't you think?

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I did some research, and the guy studied Philosophy at UCL.

http://www.ken-follett.com/biography/student.html

His opinions on studying Philosophy:

"There is a remote connection between philosophy and fiction. When you study philosophy you deal with questions like: 'Here we are sitting at a table, but is the table real?' Now that's a daft question because of course the table is real. When you study philosophy however, you need to take that sort of thing seriously and you have to have an off-the-wall imagination. It's the same with fiction which is all about imagining situations that are different from the real world."

Bearing in mind this wasn't written when he was at Uni, this is written now, with him having a whole life-time to look back on. With a whole choice of things to say about Philosophy, I'd say he certainly isn't explicitly Objectivist in his approach to Philosophy. Also...

At this time, Ken was not attracted by the formal politics of the British Labour movement. Like his fellow protesters, he saw it as far too right-wing.

Seriously, to be opposed to the Socialists because they're too right-wing takes some doing.

I felt it was time to settle down and besides, we had failed to create a world-wide revolution. It was time to think about more modest political aims. The Labour Party has basically been where my politics have been ever since.

Why don't you question him about if he's read Ayn Rand on his site?

http://www.ken-follett.com/contact/index.php

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I will, thank you for the link and for your information.

Clearly it would not be the first time that a socialist has written fiction that is completely consistent with Objectivist values (such as Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan")

Nevertheless, Follett really needs to check his explicit philosophy. The case for the free market in World Without End is very strong.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 9 months later...
  • 7 months later...
I love Follett. I think, though, his wife is involved in labor politics.

I highly recommend "The Hammer of Eden" it is a good portrayal of the evil philosophy behind environmentalism.

A while ago I finally sent the email asking him about the parallels I saw between WWE and The Fountainhead. I supposedly got an answer from the man himself... in which he said he was glad about the fact that I liked his book but totally dodged my question! I don´t know what´s the purpose of having that "send Ken Follett a message" feature is if in the end one is just going to get a bot.

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Nevertheless, Follett really needs to check his explicit philosophy. The case for the free market in World Without End is very strong.

I am not familiar with the man or the books, but I would note that even Marx saw the value of capitalism...as step on the road from feudalism to communism.

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  • 2 months later...

I enjoyed his spy thriller "Hornet Flight" very much and this is the only one I've read of Follet. I can't say that this story was somehow high and complex literature concept, but I really appreciate the way he creates heroes - their postures are proud, they're bright, irrepressible and have courageous approach to life. What I found the most appealing in the book, was main female character - young ballerina and companion of the protagonist - Karen Duchwitz. I love both sensuality and prudence in her acts. There aren't many admirable teenage girls in literature, so then it's a precious exception.

On the other hand, his statement on connection between literature and philosophy seems simply superfictial to me. It looks like he drew a thick line between rules of reality and rules of fiction. Still, I have no grounds to say he leans his work on impossibilities, because characters in "Hornet..." were not only properly motivated - they were also successful in achieving their aims.

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I've only read 2 of Follet's novels - The Third Twin and Code to Zero.

Both were pretty gripping stuff.

The Third Twin was my favourite of the two, I guess because unlike Code to Zero, which had the political backdrop of the Cold War and the Space Race, the Third Twin dealt more with themes about nature vs nurture.

It wasn't explored that thoroughly, but the plot and mystery was riveting all the way to the end.

He's a great writer.

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  • 2 months later...

Ken Follet's "Pillars Of The Earth" has been made into a 8 part mini-series airing on STARZ and premiers July 23 10p ET/PT. Set your DVR's.

Anthem2112

After seeing this mini-series, I've started reading some of his books. I'm looking forward to the upcoming The Fall of Giants focused on the WWI era.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Never heard of him, but thanks for the tip. It's always hard to find fiction with a good theme :)

Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are very loosely related, with Pillars being the "first" book. They each stand on their own, but Pillars will give you history behind some of WWE. He has many other books i have not read yet, quite a few centered around the WWII era. Although I saw the Pillars mini-series, I intend to read the book just the same. Be forewarned though, both Pillars and World are 1000+ page reads. Fall of Giants is just under that. He likes long books. :)

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Zsorenson,

I think Fall of Giants may be more revealing in terms of his modern ideas of "how things should be". With PoTE and WWE, we are dealing with a different time and a different context of knowledge so while the characters of that time period demonstrate heroic qualities when faced with the politics of that time period, I'm wondering who will be the heroes of this more modern style of politics and government. I can see already that one of the lead characters is a Capitalist and so far he is not being portrayed in a very favorable light, but I'm way too early in the book to know where that is headed.

However, if we assume certain limitations of knowledge in the context of the time period of the other two books, I found the heroic characters to be quite Objectivist friendly.

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  • 10 months later...

Follet has written some very interesting stuff. I've read the man from st. petersburg and a lot of the characters are quite peculiar in a good way and fascinating. The protagonist was a lot like Raskolnikov in crime and punishment though, except he didn't feel any guilt in what he was doing. The protagonist's girlfriend, Lydia reminded me so much of myself. Somewhat fiery, loyal, and likes "forbidden fruit."

I like thriller novels about unlikely situations, that's why I like Follett's writing, but I'm sorry he's just a commie. He is not an individualist. He looks like a commie, you can see it in his facial expression.

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  • 10 months later...

I just began googling about Ken Follett to see whether he's an outspoken libertarian. I've read Pillars of the Earth and now I'm reading World Without End. The lessez-faire message cannot be mistaken. To my great surprise, I found out that he's a supporter of the Labour party. There is nothing at all supporting a left-wing view in his writings. Merchants and entrepeneurs are exhalted, as are property rights. Taxes are seen as theft and authority and bureaucratic are disdained. Of course, it is perfectly in line with a lefist vision to be against royal autority and taxation. But the exaltation of free market capitalism is unmistakeable. I suspect that he might be a libertarian without knowing it.

Sorry, I know I didn't bring anything new to the discuttion, but I had to vent myself.

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Quite by coincidence I happened to be reading Fall of Giants when this renewed thread popped up. So far (less than a quarter through) it's noisily anti-capitalist agitprop, not nearly so entertaining as Pillars of the Earth, World Without End or Night Over Water. It's keeping me reading, though.

A fondness for good storytelling (which entails sharply-opposed characters, surprising plots and big conflicts) is not sufficient to make somebody an Objectivist. Skillful writers have always used these elements.

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