An Enemy of the People


“An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen
(First publication: 1882 / This edition: Heinemann Educational Books 1967)
Taken with a bench at a coffee shop in Hong Kong. I love how the designs on the bench was just so appropriate for this book—all “political” and “revolution”.

What does it matter if a community that lives on deceit is ruined? (p.87)

Now I’m not really into buying second-hand books—not against it, just prefer getting new ones. There’s this whole “thing” with me about it, but we don’t need to go into that. Anyway, in May this year, I was looking up upcoming events in Bangkok online and saw that there was going to be a book sale at the Neilson Hays Library that weekend. I had never been there so decided to make a day of it with my mom. The Neilson Hays Library has been opened since 1922, but there’s this whole history to it—the founding, the building, the mission, etc.

Anyway, so my mom and I ventured there on that Saturday morning. The book sale was smaller than I expected, and I really thought I probably wouldn’t find anything there. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular though, but the first “observing” lap around the twenty-something tables covered with books, I mostly saw outdated travel guides, pregnancy guide books from the ’90s, old bibles, and etc. After a few more thorough laps, I ended up picking five books in total including a Turgenev, a Calvino, and this one by Henrik Ibsen. I’d never read anything by him before but I’ve been trying to find “The Wild Duck” for a while now, so I thought “An Enemy of the People” would do for now. It was 30 baht. So worth it. I took it on my trip to Hong Kong and read it there.

Now, onto the book itself…It is a play about political drama. It is about two brothers—a well-known respectable doctor and a mayor—that come into conflict about the town’s bath. From a certain discovery, one believes it best to close down the bath while the other believes doing so will cause more problems. It becomes an issue of whose belief is politically correct—and what “politically correct” actually means. It inspects morality and ethics in politics.

I’m not usually into reading political books (except for a few like “1984” or “Animal Farm”) so I feel pretty indifferent about this book. The characters are all amusing, but I didn’t find the story that captivating. If anything, I’m probably more excited about my finding it (and the price I got it for) and where I took the photo than the story itself. I’m glad I read it though, and I’m interested in reading more works by him. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. 🙂


Here are my favorite lines from the book:

What does it matter if a community that lives on deceit is ruined? I say it ought to be razed to the ground! All men who live by lies should be exterminated—like vermin! At this rate you’ll contaminate the whole country—with the result that the whole country’ll deserve to be ruined! And, if that ever happens, I shall say from the bottom of my heart—’Let the country fall! Let the people perish!’. (p.86-87)


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