Ayn Rand

ayn rand

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.

 

Becoming American — from Alisa Rosenbaum to Ayn Rand

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 always 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, and kept it faithful to the book.

. . . . . . . . . . 

Ayn Rand

Philosophical Quotes by Ayn Rand
. . . . . . . . . . 

Atlas Shrugged and Objectivism

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.

The novel takes place in a hypothetical version of the United States where private businesses are suffering due to harsh regulations and laws. Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon, tycoons and lovers, struggle to fight against looters who are aiming to profit from their productivity.

In their battle to protect their business, they discover that a strange man named John Galt is attempting to persuade other business owners to leave their companies as a strike against the looters. Towards the end of the novel, the strikers use Galt’s philosophy of reason and individualism to create a new capitalist society.

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.

. . . . . . . . .

Contemporary criticism

Though Rand still has, and likely will also have, devotees in the political right, contemporary critics have downplayed her importance by marginalizing the kind of thought she promulgated. One recent example is this New Yorker article, The Persistent Ghost of Ayn Rand, the Forebear of Zombie Neoliberalism. In this piece, which references one of the most recent books on Rand’s legacy, Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed, Masha Gessen writes: 

“Rand’s novels promised to liberate the reader from everything that he had been taught was right and good. She invited her readers to rejoice in cruelty. Her heroes were superior beings certain of their superiority. They claimed their right to triumph by destroying those who were not as smart, creative, productive, ambitious, physically perfect, selfish, and ruthless as they were. Duggan calls the mood of the books ‘optimistic cruelty.’

They are mean, and they have a happy ending—that is, the superior beings are happy in the end. The novels reverse morality. In them, there is no duty to God or one’s fellow-man, only to self. Sex is plentiful, free of consequence, and rough. Money and other good things come to those who take them …”

. . . . . . . . . . 

Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged (1957) — Two Snarky Reviews
. . . . . . . . . . 

The Legacy of Ayn Rand

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.

. . . . . . . . . . 

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand page on Amazon


More about Ayn Rand

On this site

Major Works – Novels

Major Works – Nonfiction

  • For the New Intellectual  (1961)
  • The Virtue of Selfishness  (1964)
  • Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal  (1966)
  • The Romantic Manifesto  (1969)
  • The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution  (1971)
  • Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology  (1979 )
  • Philosophy: Who Needs It  (1982)

Biographies and letters

  • Letters of Ayn Rand , edited by Michael S. Berliner (1997)
  • My Years with Ayn Rand: The Truth Behind the Myths by Nathaniel Branden (1999)
  • Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns (2009)
  • Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne Conover Heller (2009)
  • The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden (updated edition, 2013)
  • Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed  by Lisa Duggan (2019)

More Information and sources

. . . . . . . . .

 Ayn Rand: How is This Still a Thing (Last week tonight with John Oliver)

. . . . . . . . . . 

*This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through, Literary Ladies Guide receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to The Literary Ladies Guide weekly newsletter

Celebrating women’s voices
with inspiration for readers and writers

  • Find your next great read
  • Get writing advice from authors you love
  • Enjoy fascinating facts and quotes
  • Discover women’s literary history

... and lots more (look for a bonus in your welcome letter!)
Email address
Secure and Spam free...