Ayn (pronounced “ein” or “eye-in”) Rand is the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged (and a few more works of fiction and philosophy), most favorite books ever, for millions of readers. I recently read a biography of hers, by Anne C. Heller.
I was new to Rand, have never read any of her works. But heard a lot though, mostly from devout fans of the aforementioned two books.
But, millions love to hate her too, that’s the irony of Ayn Rand. Why? The answer is Objectivism, the branch of philosophy she developed. It’s extremely individualistic: a man should pursue his individual interests, no matter what; one should not care about others, do not bother about philanthropy, and so on. Those who are powerful and better than others can, will, and should dominate the others. Morality and ethics was strictly woven around personal choices. She is pretty infamous for calling the Native Americans “savages” and justified violence against them. Her works are said to be filled with this propaganda. The Individualist Manifesto, the thirty-three-page essay presents her moral philosophy.
On the personal front, it came as a shock to her loyal fans when they learned that she had physical relationship with one of her students, twenty-five years younger to her, with the permission of their spouses.Her reasoning was that “[W]e have a right to do something” (p.256). This is where people realize that she meant every single work she said about individual pursuits and preferences.
A lot of people criticize her philosophy and find it hypocritical. For instance, she is not a fan of people helping others but she couldn’t have arrived in the US without the help of her relatives in Russia and in the US.
The book is more than 500 pages long, but the length is not a torture at all. It gives a rich account of her works and personal life, with the right kind of mix. It has a lot of direct quotes: from interviews, conversations, and speeches.