Ayn Rand

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Ayn Rand was born in Russia on February 2, 1905 as Alissa Rosenbaum. She came to America in 1926 at the age of 21. She published her first novel, We The Living in 1936. The Fountainhead was published in 1943, and her magum opus, Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957. Her novels were based on her conception of the heroic man -- whom she described in Atlas Shrugged as "a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason his only absolute."

After writing her major novels, Ayn Rand wrote and lectured on her original philosophy, which she named Objectivism, to represent her objective view of reality and a rational and heroic view of man.

Ayn_Rand.jpg Ayn Rand
US postage stamp honoring Rand (1999)

Biography

Ayn Rand was born to Jewish parents in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She studied philosophy and history at the University of Petrograd. In late 1925 she was granted a visa to visit with American relatives. She arrived in the U.S. in February 1926, at the age of 21. After a brief stay with them in Chicago, she resolved never to return to the USSR and set out for Los Angeles to become a screenwriter. She then changed her name to Ayn Rand, partly to avoid Soviet retaliation against her family for her anti-socialist views.

Initially, Rand struggled in Hollywood and took odd jobs to pay her basic expenses. While working as a Hollywood extra on Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings she bumped into (on purpose) an aspiring young actor, Frank O'Connor, and married him in 1929.

Her first literary success came with the sale of her screenplay Red Pawn in 1932 to Universal Studios. Rand subsequently wrote the play, The Night of January 16th in 1934 and published two novels, We The Living [1] (1936), and Anthem [2] (1938). Anthem, despite its appearance as a short story, is actually considered by many to be an epic prose poem. We The Living was made into a film six years later, in 1942, by the Italian government under Benito Mussolini, although without Rand's knowledge.

Rand's first major success came with the best-selling novel The Fountainhead [3] (1943). The manuscript for this book was difficult to get into print. It was initially taken from publisher to publisher, collecting rejection slips as it went, before it was picked up by the Bobbs-Merrill Company publishing house. The book was so successful that the royalties and movie rights made Rand famous and financially secure.

Rand's political views were resolutely pro-individual rights, pro-capitalist and anti-statist. Her writings praised the heroic American values of independence and individuality. Her fiction writings often told stories of educated, successful Americans who found their lives unfairly burdened with the hassles of taxation, bureaucracy and other forms of heavy-handed government interference. Rand also had a strong dislike for organized religion and compulsory charity, both of which she believed helped foster a culture of guilt in successful people.

Rand published the book described as her "magnum opus", Atlas Shrugged [4] in 1957. This book, as well as The Fountainhead also became a best seller. According to a joint survey [5] conducted in 1991 by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged is recognized as the "second most influential book for Americans today", after The Bible by numerous authors. It is also named as one of the "25 books that have most shaped readers lives" in a 1995–1996 list developed with the theme "Shape Your Future—READ!" Atlas Shrugged is most often seen as Rand's most complete statement of Objectivist philosophy in any of her works of fiction. Along with Branden, Rand launched the Objectivist movement to promote her philosophy, which she termed Objectivism.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rand developed and promoted her Objectivist philosophy through both her fiction [6] and non-fiction [7] works.

Rand's philosophical alliances were few. She acknowledged an intellectual debt to Aristotle and occasionally remarked with approval on specific philosophical positions of e.g. Baruch Spinoza and Thomas Aquinas; she seems also to have respected American rationalist Brand Blanshard. However, she regarded most philosophers (throughout history, not only her contemporaries) as at least incompetent and at most positively evil, singling out Immanuel Kant as the most influential of the latter sort.

Rand broke with both Nathaniel Branden and his wife Barbara Branden in 1968. Ayn Rand described the break to be the result of her finding out about behavior incompatible with the tenets of her Objectivist philosophy.

Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982 and was interred in the Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.

Legacy

In 1985, Leonard Peikoff [8], Ayn Rand's designated legal and intellectual heir, established the Ayn Rand Institute

Works

Fiction

Posthumous Material

Non-Fiction

Posthumous Material

Additional external links

Biography Pages

Atlas Shrugged

The 1991 Library of Congress and Book of the Month Club Joint Survey

Ayn Rand's Fiction

Ayn Rand's Non-Fiction

The Ayn Rand Institute, Center for the Advancement of Objectivism

References (external links as numbered above)

  1. Wikipedia Article