|The Reader of Novels by Antoine Wiertz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I was initially tempted to choose Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader, which gives a delightful picture of our own Queen as a reader. But it's a while since I read that one.
So, for this theme, I'll again select the most recent example I can recall. In this case I'll go for the eponymous The Reader in The Reader of Acheron, by Walter Rhein. This character is a mystery figure loathed by those in authority and more or less worshipped by others. The Reader lives in a world where books are banned and reading is a crime punishable by death.
So far our own culture has largely avoided such excess. But there are various sects in existence that would evoke such a rule if they had the power. The recently evolved Islamic State is such a threat - the only reading allowed by these extremists is the Qur'an, and, one suspects, a modified and censored version at that. As those of us who've witnessed and learned from history know, such censorship never results in lasting authoritarianism, since human beings are thirsty for knowledge by nature. The imposition of such restrictions is generally guided by a combination of fear and ignorance coupled with a desire to reduce the intellectual standards of everyone to the lowest possible in order to impose control. The leaders of such cultures invariably fall foul of their natural greed and hunger for power and fall as a result. Unfortunately many ordinary people suffer horribly along the way. Such is the nature of politics and the cult of leadership, however.