It’s rare, but it happens every now and then, that a movie becomes so extremely popular that it becomes absolute. It becomes the origin and it becomes the conclusion. Fight Club is one such movie. David Fincher gave us one of the generation’s most relevant cinematic experiences, and a story each and every one of us could relate to, even if we would be loath to accept that. But the movie was not the origin. As with a lot of excellent movies, a book is where it all began.
The source of this tale of anti-consumerism and anti-capitalism, employing Reductio Ad Absurdum with no discretion whatsoever was Chuck Palahnuik. As a self-proclaimed reader, I am ashamed to say that I found this out quite late in my reading career and finally picked up the book even later.However, better late than never, as they say. In this case, I could not have been more pleased.
In the case of Fight Club, picking the book up was a blessing. If ever there was a roller coaster in literature, this book is it. As a reader, you are the narrator, you are Tyler Durden, you are Marla, you are the Mischief Committee, you are Project Mayhem and you are Fight Club. But let’s go back a little. The book is too deep and too relevant to the generations today to skip pages. It means too much to too many people to simply gloss over the many, many layers that populate this piece of literature.
Fight Club is the story of how one disgruntled, middle class employee working and wasting his life in a corporate job that does not care about him (in other words, 99% of the working population today) arrives at the conclusion that civilization must be destroyed in order to build it up again. If the story had stopped here, it would have been a book of philosophy, quickly forgotten under the tomes already written. After all, destruction with a motive of creation is no new theme, and practically every other supervillain uses it to justify his nefarious plans. The next part of the book, where the plan of anarchy gets executed is what sets the book apart. The first part of revelation is what we can all relate to. The generation that uses money and material to become numb to the void that we feel daily, and the people who are afraid to face their reality because they know the futility of that reality all too well is the exact generation the narrator encompasses within himself and every member of Fight Club. We are, thank god, simply too afraid and have too much to lose to do anything about it. We would rather maintain the status quo rather than disturb the inertia we find ourselves suffering from.
The book explores what happens when the mental and emotional cost of doing nothing exceeds the physical cost of burning it all down and hoping to rebuild it all over again in our own image. The book shows us the people Ayn Rand very comfortably ignored while waxing poetic about Objectivism, and throws light on the utter mundaneness and meaninglessness of it all.
Fight Club is the Nihilist Manifesto, just as we had Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Rand’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.
While the book is very fast-paced and often confusing (it keeps going back and forth in the timeline, adding to the drama), it becomes impossible for the reader to not introspect into it deeper than the sheer mystery and adventure that the Narrator embarks upon with Tyler Durden. Yes, you can read the words and enjoy the suspense. You can relax and enjoy the thrill of the story. It’s a great story. But then you would be losing a chance to really think. The hope of the book is that the reader is forced to relate to it, and it’s then that the book becomes all about the reader.
Maybe that’s the beauty of Fight Club, now that I am jotting down my thoughts. Maybe the piece of art is that somewhere in the first 20 pages, the book stops becoming about the Narrator. It ceases to be a story. It becomes the reader’s life. You suddenly find yourself looking back at your own life and your own future, and you find it eerily similar to that of the Narrator in the book. Suddenly, the Narrator is you and you are the one pissed about life without even realizing it. Out of nowhere, that expensive watch you just bought and the fancy new place you went to for drinks the other night become indicative of a numbness you never knew you had. Once you know it, however, it becomes impossible to ignore and question.
Fight Club is ultimately about the human tendency to feel protected and safe, even if numb, and the price our soul pays for that security. It is about the human nature to crave a sense of adventure and rebellion and the effort society puts into stifling it. The book is about the human instinct to feel special and unique, and the terrifying realization that we have all truly been made into only clones of one another by a world which values efficiency over human flaws. A million clones living the same life with the same means of enjoyment and the same ideas of a future.
Fight Club is a book which explores, a couple of layers within the words, the tendency of human beings to look up to a messiah and hope for deliverance, to create a God and his religion, who will take the responsibility for all their actions and blindly follow the way shown. The human craving to escape is what is encompassed here. The burning need to destroy. The human inevitability of death. And ultimately, the human need to be reborn. Fight Club is our life. Singular.
In that sense, Fight Club is perhaps the scariest book I have ever come across, because what can be scarier than your life laid bare in front of you in its most naked form.This is a book that must be read by the world today, not in order to burn it all down, but perhaps to realize that no one is alone in this struggle.
Review by: Aniruddha Rege