Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand Picture

Ayn Rand, a renowned Russian author, screenwriter and playwright, widely famous for his popular novels, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. She worked as a Hollywood screenwriter, accredited for the success of her 1932 screenplay “Red Pawn”, Rand was also a philosopher who expressed her views of politics and economical aspects, advocating individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism. Rand’s theories dealt with ethical egoism, where she rejected the ideas of collectivism, fascism, communism, socialism, in short, the concept of a welfare state.  She introduced the philosophical discipline of Objectivism, which she describes as the idea of man being his own heroic aspiration along “…with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”.

Ayn Rand was born as Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, on February 2, 1905, to parents Zinovy Zakharovich Rosenbaum and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She belonged to a capitalist family, and was the eldest of three sisters. Her family was Jewish, although, liberal in their religious practices. Twelve year old Ayn was a conscious observer of the Russian Revolution of 1917, which had unfavorable political implications for her family. The success of Lenin’s Bolshevik Party led to the confiscation of Ayn’s father’s pharmacy, and her family was soon left with no choice but to seek refuge in Crimea. Ayn attended high school in Crimea, and at the age of 16, she returned to Saint Petersburg.

Ayn was accepted at the Petrograd State University, where she studied at the department of social pedagogy, and pursued a degree in history. She began educating herself in the works of Plato and Aristotle, which laid the basis of his philosophical thoughts on state and politics. During her stay at the university, Rand educated herself in French, German and Russian, and soon, began devouring the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Edmond Rostand, and Friedrich Schiller, who became her particular favorites.

When she was nearing the completion of her graduation, Rand, along with other fellow bourgeois students, was suspended from the University. However, after some protestations, they were allowed to complete their graduation, Rand received her degree in 1924. She then enrolled herself at the State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad, where she studied for a year.

In 1925, Ayn decided to travel to America to visit some relatives, however, upon falling in love with the country, she decided to stay in the states and pursue a career as a screenwriter in Hollywood. She moved to Hollywood, California, and took up several odd jobs to make her daily bread and butter. In 1927, famous director Cicel B. DeMille cast Rand as an extra artist on his film ‘The King of Kings’. In 1929, Rand married young actor Frank O’Connor, and in 1931, she became an American citizen.

Ayn Rand’s fame as a screenwriter spread with the sale of her much coveted screenplay “Red Pawn”, which was sold to Universal Studios in 1932. Rand followed this up a delightful courtroom drama “Night of January 16th, her first screenplay to be produced in Hollywood in 1934, and staged on Broadway in 1935, with a house full and praising reviews. In 1936, Rand published her first semi-autobiographical novel, “We the Living”. In 1938, Rand published a novel, titled “Anthem”. In 1941, Paramount Pictures decided to make a movie on “Night of January 16th”.

During the 1940s, Ayn Rand became actively involved in the fervor of political activism, and joined her husband as a full time volunteer for 1940 Presidential campaign of Republican Wendell Willkie. Rand began making public speeches, and her speeches began garnering support for her belief in free-market capitalism. Her political involvement led to her frequentation of the eminent social circles of philosophers, writers, and journalists such as Henry Hazlitt, economist Ludwig von Mises and libertarian writer Isabel Paterson among others. In 1943, Rand garnered immense praise and acclaim upon the phenomenal success of her philosophic and romantic novel, “The Fountainhead”. The novel became an international bestseller and firmly established Rand as a prominent writer. In 1943, she returned to Hollywood to write the screenplay for “The Fountainhead” for the Warner Brothers.

Later, she was hired by movie producer Hal Walils who appointed her a screenwriter and script-doctor on several projects including “Love Letters” and “You Came Along” among others. Along with her career in Hollywood, Rand actively engaged in promoting free market capitalism and anti-Communist sentiments. She became a member of an anti-communist group, “Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals”, Rand composed several articles for the group. She also joined the anti-Communist American Writers Association.

In 1957, Rand published “Atlas Shrugged”, a novel which according to her, explores “the role of the mind in man’s existence—and, as a corollary, the demonstration of a new moral philosophy: the morality of rational self-interest”. The book serves to introduce Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, and is widely read and critically acclaimed. Rand was a devout believer in philosophical realism and atheism, and rejected all notions of mysticism, supernaturalism and any form of deity or religion. In 1979, she published “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology”.

Her health began to decline and, Ayn Rand passed away of heart failure on March 6, 1982, in New York City.

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