February 2 marks the 95th birthday of the late novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand, author of the classic novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand was born in Russia in 1905. She came to America at the age of twenty-one and published her first novel, We The Living, in 1936. The Fountainhead was published in 1943 and brought Ayn Rand international fame. With the publication of Atlas Shrugged in 1957, Ayn Rand’s position in history — both as novelist and philosopher — was established.
Ayn Rand began writing The Fountainhead in 1935. In the character of the architect Howard Roark, she presented for the first time the kind of hero whose depiction was the chief goal of her writing: the ideal man, man as “he could be and ought to be.” The Fountainhead was rejected by twelve publishers but finally accepted by Bobbs-Merrill. When published in 1943, it made history by becoming a best seller through word-of-mouth two years later, and gained for its author lasting recognition as the champion of individualism.
Working part time as a screenwriter for producer Hal Wallis, she began her major novel, Atlas Shrugged, in 1946. In 1951, she moved back to New York City and devoted herself full time to the completion of Atlas Shrugged.
Published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged was her greatest achievement and last work of fiction. In this novel, she dramatized her unique philosophy in an intellectual mystery story that integrated ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics, and sex. Although she considered herself primarily a fiction writer, she realized that in order to create heroic fictional characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles which make such individuals possible. She needed to formulate “a philosophy for living on earth.”
Thereafter, Ayn Rand wrote and lectured on her philosophy — Objectivism. She published and edited her own periodicals from 1962 to 1976, her essays providing much of the material for nine books on Objectivism and its application to the culture. Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982, in her New York City apartment.
Yet, her ideas live. Her masterwork Atlas Shrugged (1957), a philosophical mystery story “not about the murder of a man’s body, but about the murder — and rebirth — of man’s spirit,” was named, in a 1991 Book of the Month Club and Library of Congress survey, the second most influential book in Americans’ lives after the Bible.
Nearly 29 years after her death, all of Ayn Rand’s fiction and non-fiction books remain in print, selling more than 400,000 copies per year. And the U.S. based Ayn Rand Institute carries on the application of her timeless philosophy to the concrete events that face us today.