Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his presumptive Vice President, and that has brought the writer and Objectivist philosopher, Ayn Rand to the stage, because Ryan is a devotee of Any Rand’s work. But, do you know who she is and what she stands for? If we could have tea…she would prefer coffee.. with her, what would we talk about? Wait.. she was a heavy smoker. What cafe could we meet her at? Well, anyway, let’s talk a little about her background first.
The author of THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1943) and ATLAS SHRUGGED (1957) was born Alissa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg in 1905 to a bourgeois Jewish family. She was the eldest of three daughters and was twelve at the time of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Her father’s pharmacy was confiscated by the Bolsheviks and the family fled to the Crimea. While in high school Alissa became an atheist and found that she valued reason as the most important human attribute.
After the Revolution, universities were opened to women, including Jews, so Alissa Rosenbaum enrolled at Petrograd State University where she majored in history. She was introduced to the writings of Aristotle, who became her greatest influence. She discovered the literature of Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Edmond Rostand and Friedrich Schiller, all of whom became her perennial favorites. She graduated in 1924 and then studied for a year at the State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad. While there she wrote her first published work…an essay about the actress Pola Negri.
By this time she had adopted Ayn Rand as her writer’s name. Her nome de plume.
In 1925, Rand was granted a visa to visit American relatives in Chicago, where she lived for a few months before going to Hollywood.
A chance meeting with Cecil B. DeMille led to a job as an extra and to subsequent work as a junior screenwriter. While working on THE KING OF KINGS she met Frank O’Connor, an actor, and they married in 1929. Rand became an American citizen in 1931. She took various jobs in the 1930s to support her writing.
During the 1940s Rand became politically active. She and her husband volunteered for Republican Presidential Candidate, Wendell Wilkie. This brought her into contact with others sympathetic to free-market capitalism.
In 1943 THE FOUNTAINHEAD was published. A romantic philosophical novel..it centers on an uncompromising young architect named Howard Roark and his struggle against those who place others above self. During the time she was finishing the novel she was prescribed Benzedrine for fatigue and remained addicted to the drug for more than thirty years. THE FOUNTAINHEAD became a worldwide success bringing Rand fame and fortune. In 1943 she sold the film rights to Warner Brothers and left New York City for Hollywood to write the screenplay.
While working in Hollywood, Rand extended her involvement with free market and anticommunist activism. In 1947, during the Second Red Scare, Rand testified as a “friendly witness” before the US House un-American Activities Committee, although she felt the hearings were futile.
The film version of THE FOUNTAINHEAD was released in 1949, but Rand “disliked the movie from beginning to end”.
To be continued