Ayn Rand (1905-1982) - original name Alice (in some sources Alissa) Rosenbaum
Russian-born American writer, whose works combined science fiction with philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism, social Darwinism, and Nietzschean individualism familiar from the books of Mickey Spillane. Rand became a highly visible advocate for the inviolate supremacy of individual rights with her novels THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1943) and ATLAS SHRUGGED (1957). "The genius must have his freedom and his independence," she once wrote. Rand rejected Communism and fascism and fiercy defended a system in which economics have to fit man, not the other way round.
"Great men can't be ruled." (from the Fountainhead)
Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg as the daughter of Fronz Rosenbaum, a chemist, and his wife Anna. She witnessed the Russian Revolution and the social upheaval, during which his father found work only in a Soviet store. At the age of 21 Rand graduated from the University of Petrograd in history with highest honors. After the family's shop was confiscated, they went to Odessa. In 1926 Rand moved to the United States, and took her surname from the typewriter she used, a Remington-Rand.
Rand started to study English, working as a junior screenwriter and movie extra for Hollywood between the years 1926 and 1932. Starting as a filing clerk, she became an office head in wardrobe department. Rand wrote screenplays for Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. One of her scenarios, 'The Skyscraper', based on a story by Dudley Murphy, told about an architect, named Howard Kane, who breaks through all obstacles on his mission to build a skyscraper.
In 1934-35 in New York Rand was a free-lance script reader for RKO Pictures, then for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. While in Hollywood she met Frank O'Connor, an actor, whom she married. Rand's first novel, WE THE LIVING appeared in 1936, but her breakthrough work was courtroom play NIGHT OF THE JANUARY 16th (1934), where the audience was asked to determine the verdict. While collecting material for The Fountainhed Rand worked without pay as a typist for Eli Jacques Kahn, and architect in New York City. With Hal Wallis Productions Rand had a special contract which committed her to work only six months of each year. During the other six months she pursued her own writing.
In Hollywood Rand worked until 1949, when she became a full-time writer and lecturer. When HUAC (the House Committee on Un-American Activities) started in 1947 its investigation on the film industry, it put on a host of friendly witnessess, whose testimony it knew in advance. Among its witnesses were Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, and Gary Cooper. In the early 1950s Rand moved to New York. She was a visiting lecturer at Yale Univeristy, New Haven, Connecticut (1960), Princeton University, New Jersey (1960), Columbia University, New York (1960, 1962), University of Wisconsin (1961), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (1961), Harvard University, Cambridge (1962), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (1962).
"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." (from The Fountainhead)
Rand's best-selling novel The Fountainhead was adapted into screen in 1949. The romantic tale of an idealistic architect, Howard Roar, kwho clashes with the compromises of society, gained a huge popularity. Many critics consider that the central character was modelled after Frank Lloyd Wright, whom Rand tried unsuccessfully interview.
In 1950 Rand met a college student named Natham Blumenthal, who became a member her discussion group, 'The Class of '43' that met to critique Rand's works in progress. In 1954 Rand and Blumenthal (then known as Nathaniel Branden) declared that they had fallen in love. Rand's next novel, Atlas Shrugged, was dedicated jointly to O'Connor and Branden. Rand expected that the philosophy of the book would make a great impact on the public discussion but was disappointed in the reception. In National Review Whittaker Chambers stated that one could hear the echo of the gas chamber in Rand's books. Depressed and unjustly interpreted, Rand's affair with Branden cooled. However, Branden established an institute to advocate her ideas. Soon its branches had spread all over the U.S.
The enormous work, 1 168 pages long, portrayed what Rand considered to be the inevitable result of the unselfish concern for the welfare of others - socialism or anarchy. The book is mentioned in many American reader surveys as one of the most influential novels of the 20th century. In the story the US government becomes increasingly socialist and violates individual rights and human reason in protecting the public good. John Galt, Ayn Rand's mouthpiece, and his Objectivist colleagues retreat to the mountains. Galt claims, that it is irrational to sacrifice the self for the good of society. As civilization crumbles they are prepared to return only when they will be able to rebuilt along the lines of Objectivist philosophy. Galt's Gulch, a capitalist utopia, is born to promote free enterprise without government controls.
In the 1950s Rand's Objectivist philosophy was especially popular among college students, who were attracted by her instructions to heed one's self-interest, and to maxime the superman potential without social conscience. Rand published her manifestoes in The Objectivist Newsletter in the early 1960s and became a permanent guest on television talk shows. In the 1974 she ceased publishing the Newsletter, but after the collapse of the Soviet Communism her essays gained a new audience in Moscow. Rand died on March 6, 1982. Her books have been sold over 20 million copies in the Unites States, where they have never been out of print. Among her early devotees and members of 'The Class of '43' was Alan Greenspan, a noted economist and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
"Rand was passionately patriotic about her adopted country. There are many things about America, though, that she never understood, and the pervasiveness of religion in this country was certainly one of them. She imagined America as she imagined capitalism, and her success is evidence of the fact that her own fantasies coincided with those of others - and probably that her own simplicities met the need of others for one simple, all-embracing explanation of everything. This makes for a movement, but it doesn't make for good philosophy or viable politics." (Peter L. Berger, in The New York Times, July 6, 1986)
Ayn Rand called her philosophy "Objectivism" because it is based on the premise that reality is an objective absolute. One must perceive and understand reality to survive. One's highest value should be one's ability to reason. This also manifested in the way Rand viewed her own life, not through feelings but through her interest in ideas and her thinking: "I do not regard any particular day of my childhood as especially memorable. What I regard as significant are certain trends and intellectual developments in my childhood, but not single days or events" (from a letter to Gene Shalit, in Letters of Ayn Rand, 1995). In the novella ANTHEM (1937) Rand studied a future society where the collective mind have suppressed individual thoughts. WE THE LIVING reflected Rand's deep antipathy of communist ideology. The story follows the struggle of a young Russian girl, Kira Argounova, who wants to live her own life in a society where "man must live for the state."
WE THE LIVING, 1933 - film adaptation in 1942 (Italy), a revised and abridged version of the Italian film in 1988
NIGHT OF THE JANUARY 16TH / WOMEN ON TRIAL / PENTHOUSE LEGEND, 1934 (play, film 1941)
THE UNCONQUERED, 1940 (adaptation of We the Living, prod. on Broadway)
THE FOUNTAINHEAD, 1943 - film 1949, dir. by King Vidor, starring Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey, Kent Smith, Robert Douglas
YOU CAME ALONG, 1945 (screenplay, with Robert Smith)
LOVE LETTERS, 1945 (screenplay)
TEXTBOOK OF AMERICANISM, 1946
THE FOUNTAINHEAD, 1949 (screenplay)
ATLAS SHRUGGERED, 1957
NOTES ON THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN FREE ENTERPRISE, 1959
FOR THE NEW INTELLECTUAL, 1961
THE OBJECTIVIST ETHICS, 1961
FAITH AND FORCE, 1961
CONSERVATISM, 1962 (lecture)
AMERICA'S PERSECUTED MINORITY, 1962
THE FASCIST 'NEW FRONTIER', 1963
THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS, 1965
CAPITALISM: THE UNKNOWN IDEAL, 1966
INTRODUCTION TO OBJECTIVIST EPISTEMOLOGY, 1967
THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO: A PHILOSPHY OF LITERATURE, 1970
PHILOSOPHY: WHO NEEDS IT?, 1982
THE NEW LEFT, 1982
THE EARLY AYN RAND, 1984
THE VOICE ON REASON: ESSAYS IN OBJECTIVIST THOUGHT, 1989
THE AYN RAND COLUMN, 1991
LETTERS OF AYN RAND, 1995 (edited by Michael S. Berliner)
JOURNALS OF AYN RAND, 1997 (edited by David Harriman)