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Ayn Rand (February 2, 1905 – March 6, 1982), American author born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her original name was Alisa Rosenbaum, she was a bookish child who loved stories and started writing her own when still quite young.
At the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Rosenbaum family fled to Crimea, a Russian state. This experience was at the heart of this author’s scorn held for Collectivism, the system of ownership and control of production by the government. Alisa Rosenbaum returned to Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg) after the Revolution to attend college, where she studied history, politics, and law.
In 1926, she left Russia for the United States, ostensibly to visit relatives, and vowed to stay. Soon after, she changed her name to Ayn Rand. “Ayn” was after a Finnish writer.
Making her way to Hollywood she worked various jobs before she finally became a screenwriter. She married a bit-part actor, Frank O’Connor, when her visa ran out in 1929.
We the Living and The Fountainhead
In 1936 Rand published her first novel, We the Living, which told of her life in in the Soviet Union. The Fountainhead took her seven years to write, and after multiple rejections, was published in 1943. It became a huge best-seller, with millions of copies in print around the globe in a short time. Critics weren’t kind to the tome of 700 pages plus, but readers — and Hollywood — felt otherwise. In 1949 a film version came out; Rand wrote the screenplay that was faithful to the book.
See also: Philosophical Quotes by Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged and Objectivism
Ayn Rand is well known for having developed Objectivism, a philosophy that embraces laissez-faire capitalism and the pursuit of rational self-interest, to put it in a nutshell. Atlas Shrugged (1957) weaves aspects of that philosophy into its ponderous fictional plot. The contemporary political movement, Libertarianism, has roots in Objectivism.
Atlas Shrugged is a philosophical novel that examines multitude of complex issues. Rand, never one for modesty, claimed that it was the most important book ever written. Critics felt otherwise. But as with her other books, readers disagreed and it went on to sell millions of copies around the world. In spite of the fact that many critics at the time considered it, as one wrote,”a stupid and dangerous book,” it later made lists of the most influential books of the twentieth century.
You might also like: Atlas Shrugged (1957) — Two Snarky Reviews
The Penguin Companion to American Literature encapsulates Rand’s work as follows:
“She is important for the powerful influence her ‘objectivist’ philosophy has had in the America of the 1950s and 1960s, particularly though not only among college students. Her views, for which she has strongly proselytized, are a variant on the superman theory: she urges the rational recognition of self-interest, the limitation of emotional and altruistic judgements, and the uses of enlightened selfishness.
Her position has strong conservative overtones. Her novels, which are polemical, usually show heroes in industry or town planning standing out against the common herd.”
Rand’s novels and non-fiction work have remained classics despite (or because of) the controversial views they espouse, and many are still in print and continue to sell. She and her philosophies inspired modern-day Libertarianism, and she’s a heroine to various right-wing political groups. Ayn Rand died in 1982 at the age of 77.
More about Ayn Rand on this site
- The Fountainhead
- Atlas Shrugged
- The Romantic Manifesto
- We the Living
- The Virtue of Selfishness
Autobiographies and Biographies
- Letters of Ayn Rand
- The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden
- Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns
- Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne Conover Heller
Ayn Rand: How is This Still a Thing (Last week tonight with John Oliver)
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