Sunday, 29 May 2011

Heard of Ayn Rand?

I hadn't, so it came as a surprise when she was brought to my attention recently on a TV programme All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. Born in Russia in 1905, Rand moved to America in the 1920s to carve out a career as a screen writer. Over the years she became known for her philosophical views and for Objectivism, a school of thought which encompasses economics and politics and espouses the individual over collectivism.

Rand is herself a fascinating character. Check out the many interviews on Youtube and you'll instantly see how arresting she was, with dynamic intelligence burning in her huge dark eyes and eloquence tripping off her tongue in a Russian burr. Here she is giving Mike Wallace a run for his money:

Whatever you make of her theories she was clearly no one's fool and lived her life in pursuit of a way of life she clearly felt passionate about.

Curious to know more I downloaded the free ebook of Anthem, available on Gutenberg, a dystopian novella which predates Orwell's 1984 by more than ten years yet is strangely reminiscent. It tells of a post-apocalyptic world where the individual is subsumed into the State and no longer has any control over their life. It is nightmarish and disturbing yet utterly compelling.

Her writing is marvellous, from the little I've seen. I've now ordered her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. It astonishes me that I had never heard of this woman and yet everywhere I look I find the mention of her name polarises opinions. On one message board someone referred to her "disturbing legacy" and vowed never to read any of her books. How anyone can decry something they haven't even read escapes me. One wonders what these people are so afraid of, if her ideas were so off base? No doubt I'll find out.

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