American novelist, playwright, nonfiction writer, and philosopher Ayn Rand was a controversial figure through most of her career. Her novels, which most people were aware of, were compelling. Her nonfiction was less well known. Born Alisa Rosenbum in 1905 in Petrograd, Russia, she graduated from Petrograd State University, published her first essay, and changed her name to Ayn Rand. She came to the US in 1926 to visit relatives and never left.
Rand moved to Hollywood to become a screenwriter and supported her writing by working at various positions in the film industry. In 1931, she became a US citizen. In 1936, her first novel was published. In 1943, she hit it big with her worldwide bestselling novel, The Fountainhead, for which she also wrote the screenplay for the movie starring Gary cooper. In 1957, she published Atlas Shrugged, her best known book and an international best seller.
I loved her books, beginning with We The Living and Anthem. I read Atlas Shrugged more than once, which was quite a feat, considering its length. For some reason, I saw the movie, The Fountainhead, before I read the book; and as always, I liked the book better.
Atlas Shrugged was considered Ayn Rand’s masterpiece. The plot involves a dystopian United States in which the most creative industrialists, scientists, and artists go on strike and build an independent, free-economy retreat in the mountains. The first sentence in the book is “Who is John Galt?” John Galt is the novel’s hero and leader of the strike, which involves removing the people who contribute the most to the country’s wealth and achievement.
Despite many negative reviews, Atlas Shrugged became an international bestseller, but it also marked a turning point in Rand’s life. This was her last work of fiction and the end of her career as a novelist. Although she described herself to Mike Wallace as “the most creative thinker alive,” when she finished writing Atlas Shrugged, she became severely depressed.
Critics received Rand’s fiction with mixed reviews, and academia generally ignored or rejected her philosophy, though academic interest has increased in recent decades. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in higher-education settings.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rand developed and promoted her Objectivist philosophy—that reason is absolute and one should always face facts, no matter where they lead—through her nonfiction and talks to students. She spoke at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Harvard, and MIT; received an honorary doctorate from Lewis & Clark College; and gave lectures at which she often took contentious stands on political and social issues, including abortion rights, the Vietnam War, the military draft, and the Israeli-Arab Yom Kippur War of 1973.
Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism postulated that facts are facts, and no amount of passionate wishing, desperate longing, or hopeful pleading can alter the facts. Nor will ignoring or evading the facts erase them. In Rand’s view, reality is not to be rewritten or escaped, but faced. Objectivism is cited by some contemporary politicians and prominent citizens as a major influence on their thinking. Rand died in New York City in 1982.
Books by Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & AAyn Rand Letter 1971-1976
Ayn Rand Reader
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
In Defense Of Capitalism
Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology
Letters of Ayn Rand
Philosophy: Who Needs it
Russian Writings on Hollywood
The Art Of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers
The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers
The Ayn Rand Column: Written for the Los Angeles Times
The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z
The Ayn Rand Sampler
The Early Ayn Rand: A Selection from Her Unpublished Fiction
The End of the Road
The Husband I Bought
The Journals of Ayn Rand
The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution
The Night of January 16th
The Objectivist: 1962-1966
The Objectivist: 1966-1971
The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution
The Romantic Manifesto
The Objectivist Ethics
The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism
The Voice of Reason: Essays on Objectivist Thought
We the Living
Why Businessmen Need Philosophy