Great Personalities » Ayn Rand

Christopher Columbus

Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand was born on the 2nd of February, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Being an avid reader from a very early age, Ayn had already decided by the age on nine that she would make writing fiction her career. She was an admirer of Victor Hugo and thought of herself as a European writer after encountering him. She was opposed to the collectivism and mysticism of her Russian culture.

She was witness to two major revolutions in Russia during her high school years, the Kerensky Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution. Her family fled to Crimea to escape the fight, Ayn Rand finished her high school there. Her father lost his pharmacy in the final communist victory and she lived through near starvation during this period. She read about the American history during her last year at school and immediately felt connected to the country as she was greatly taken by the model of governance the country stood for, a nation of free men.

She went to the University of Petrograd to study philosophy and history when her family returned from Crimea; Ayn Rand graduated in 1924, that year she experienced the university losing its stand of free inquiry and the takeover by communist thugs. Her only colourful experience during these years was the great pleasure she found in watching Western films and plays. She entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in the year 1924 to study screenwriting; being an admirer of cinema for so long.

She was granted permission to leave Soviet Russia for a visit to relatives in the United States in late 1925 and although she told Soviet authorities that her visit would be short, she had made up her mind never to return to Russia. Her dreams were coming true; she arrived in New York City in early 1926. She spent the first six months with her relatives in Chicago and later moved to Hollywood to pursue a career as a screenwriter after extending her visa.

On her second day at Hollywood she met Cecil B. DeMille who gave her a job; first as an extra on the set and later on as a script reader. It was from here that she met actor Frank O’Connor. The pair married and shared 50 blissful years together.

Ayn Rand sold her first screenplay, ‘Red Pawn’, in 1932 to Universal Pictures. Following that came her first stage play, Night of January 16th, that was produced in Hollywood first and later on in Broadway too. ‘We the Living’, is her first novel and though it was completed in 1934 it was rejected by a number of publishers, until it was finally accepted and published by The Macmillan Company in the United States and Cassells and Company in England in 1936. ‘We the Living’ is one of the most autobiographical of her books and it was written on the years she lived under Soviet tyranny.

Her next book, The Fountainhead, is one of her most famous novels which she began writing in 1935. It was rejected by twelve publishers and finally accepted by the Bobbs-Merrill Company and was published in 1943. The novel made history gaining popularity and becoming a bestseller two years later through word of mouth. It earned Ayn Rand a lasting acknowledgement as a champion of individualism.

In late 1943, she returned to Hollywood to write the screenplay for The Fountainhead. Unfortunately, wartime restrictions set back production until five years later, in 1948.

‘Atlas Shrugged’ is the second of Ayn Rand’s two major novels. She started writing it while she was working part time as a screenwriter for Hal Wallis Productions in 1946. In 1951, she devoted herself full time to the completion of Atlas Shrugged and moved back to New York City for this. The novel was published in 1957; it was her greatest achievement and her last work of fiction.

Ayn Rand wrote and lectured on her philosophy on Objectivism. Her philosophy was characterized as “a philosophy for living on earth” by her. From 1962 to 1976 she published and edited her own periodicals and wrote six books on Objectivism and its application to the culture.

Ayn Rand died in her apartment on the 6th of, 1982, in New York City. She is known today not only as a novelist, screenwriter and playwright but also as a philosopher.

Hundreds of thousands of copies of every book by Ayn Rand are sold each year. It totals to more than twenty-five million copies. Her perception of man and her ideology for living on earth have changed the lives of thousands of readers and initiated a philosophic movement with a growing impact on American culture.

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