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Ayn Rand Playboy Interview

From the introduction:



That any novel should set off such a chain reaction is unusual; that “Atlas Shrugged” has done so is astonishing. For the book, a panoramic novel about what happens when the “men of the mind” go on strike, is 1168 pages long. It is filled with lengthy, sometimes complex philosophical passages; and it is brimming with as many explosively unpopular ideas as Ayn Rand herself. Despite this success, the literary establishment considers her an outsider. Almost to a man, critics have either ignored or denounced the book. She is an exile among philosophers, too, although “Atlas” is as much a work of philosophy as it is a novel. Liberals glower at the very mention of her name; but conservatives, too, swallow hard when she begins to speak. For Ayn Rand, whether anyone likes it or not, is sui generis indubitably, irrevocably, intransigently individual.

She detests the drift of modern American society: She doesn’t like its politics, its economics, its attitudes toward sex, women, business, art or religion. In short, she declares, with unblinking immodesty, “I am challenging the cultural tradition of two-and-a-half-thousand years.” She means it.

A dark-haired woman with penetrating brown eyes and a computer-quick mind, Ayn (rhymes with mine) Rand was born to the family of a small businessman in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she lived through the Soviet Revolution. She attended the University of Leningrad, loathing communism and its philosophy. In 1926 she managed to leave the U.S.S.R., stayed for a few months with distant relatives in Chicago, then moved on to Hollywood. She had always wanted to be a writer. Since her command of English was somewhat less than adequate for writing fiction, she found a job preparing outlines for silent movies, as she went about mastering her new language. Between bouts of unemployment, she worked as a movie extra, waitress, newspaper subscription salesgirl and studio wardrobe-department clerk.

Then, in 1936, she completed her first novel, “We the Living”—an attack on totalitarianism, set in Soviet Russia—which drew little notice. Two years later she finished “Anthem,” a short novel about a society in which the word “I” has been extirpated in favor of the collectivist “we.” It was not until five years and 12 publishers’ rejections later that her first commercially successful book, “The Fountainhead,” appeared; the story of an architect’s battle for his own individuality, it became a national best seller, and was later made into a movie.

For nearly a decade after that, Miss Rand struggled to write “Atlas Shrugged,” which she views not merely as a novel, but as the crystallization of a philosophy aimed at nothing less than reversing the entire direction of change in America—turning society toward a state of pure laissez-faire capitalism, even purer than that which existed during the 19th century. But her philosophy—which she calls “Objectivism”—encompasses more than economics or politics: Primarily, it sets forth a new kind of ethics which she defines as a morality of rational self-interest.

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Read the rest here.

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