Curious facts about the life and work of Ayn Rand
1. Ayn Rand was an extra in one of Cecil B. DeMille’s films. Rand met the acclaimed director in Hollywood and was offered the chance to feature as an extra in The King of Kings, DeMille’s 1927 silent film about the last weeks of the life of Jesus. She also began working as a screenwriter in Hollywood, as well as meeting her husband, an actor named Frank O’Connor. Rand later worked as the head of the costume department at RKO Studios.
2. Rand wrote an early dystopian novel. This novel was loosely based on life in the Soviet Union, from which Rand had escaped shortly after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. We discuss Rand’s 1938 novel Anthem in our pick of the best early dystopian novels.
3. Ayn Rand was a Scrabble enthusiast and stamp-collector. She even wrote a 1971 essay called ‘Why I Like Stamp Collecting’ about her interest in philately.
4. She came up with a whole philosophical system. Ayn Rand’s central idea was Objectivism, a philosophical belief system which maintains that reality exists outside of consciousness (in opposition to phenomenology, or the earlier writings of Bishop Berkeley, who maintained that perception is all), and that the individual can attain an objective understanding of the world using logic – hence ‘Objectivism’. Allied to this is the idea that Rand has been most criticised for: her championing of self-interest (or selfishness, as her detractors more plainly label it).
5. Her 1943 novel The Fountainhead was made into a film starring Gary Cooper. The hero of Rand’s novel was based on the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was adapted for the big screen six years after publication. But Rand’s masterpiece is the vast 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, which, like Anthem, is in the dystopian vein, set in an alternative United States in which the big players in American business, the Atlas-style ‘Titans’ of commerce and economy, leave the country effectively to run itself, with dire consequences. The novel is an epic attempt to put into narrative terms Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. It’s one of those novels often branded ‘unreadable’.
Image: Ayn Rand (picture: StefanoRR), via Wikimedia Commons.