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Rand, Ayn

RAND, AYN

RAND, AYN (Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum ; 1905–1982), writer and philosopher. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, she displayed a strong interest in literature and films from an early age. Her mother taught her French and subscribed to a magazine featuring stories for boys, where Rand found her first childhood hero, an Indian army officer in a Kipling-style story. She expressed a passionate enthusiasm for the Romantic Movement and fell deeply in love with the novels of Victor Hugo at the age of 13. She studied philosophy and history at the University of Petrograd. In her diary she expressed intensely anti-Soviet ideas. She loved the philosophical ideas of Nietzsche, and embraced his exaltation of the heroic and independent individual who embraced egoism and rejected altruism in Thus Spake Zarathustra. She eventually became critical of Nietzsche, believing his philosophy emphasized emotion over reason. She considered Aristotle her greatest influence by far.

She entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in 1924 to study screenwriting. The following year, she was granted a visa to visit American relatives and in 1926, after a brief stay in Chicago, she resolved never to return to the Soviet Union. She set out for Hollywood to become a screenwriter, changing her name to Ayn (rhymes with pine) Rand, a variant spelling of the name of a Finnish writer. While working as an extra in Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings, she met an aspiring actor, Frank O'Conner. They married in 1929. Rand became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1931. The following year she achieved literary success with the sale of her fist screenplay, Red Pawn, to Universal Studios. In 1934 she wrote the play The Night of January 16th; it was highly successful. She then published two novels, We the Living (1936) and Anthem (1938).

Her first major professional success came with the best-selling novel The Fountainhead (1943), which she wrote over a period of seven years. The theme of The Fountainhead is "individualism and collectivism in man's soul." The hero is Rand's ideal, a noble soul, an architect who is firmly and serenely devoted to his own ideals and believes that no man should copy the style of another. The other characters demand that he renounce his values, but the hero maintains his integrity.

Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957), her most extensive statement of her Objectivist philosophy in any of her fiction, became an international bestseller. In the appendix, she asserted: "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." Along with Nathaniel Branden, a young philosophy student, his wife, Barbara, Alan *Greenspan, the future head of the Federal Reserve System, and others, members of The Collective, she launched the Objectivist movement to promote her philosophy of individual ability and laissez-faire capitalism. After several years, Rand and Branden's relationship blossomed into an intense romance, despite the fact that both were married. Eventually, the affair led to the Brandens' divorce.

Rand's political views were radically pro-capitalist, antistatist, and anti-Communist. She had a strong dislike for mysticism, religion, and compulsory charity, all of which she believed helped foster a crippling culture of resentment towards individual human happiness and success. Although she became a cult figure in libertarian circles, her view of selfishness as a virtue and altruism as a vice was a reversal of the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic. In 1985, Leonard Peikoff, a surviving member of The Collective and Rand's designated heir, established the Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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