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Atlas Shrugged Paperback – August 1, 1999
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About the Author
During her high school years, she was eyewitness to both the Kerensky Revolution, which she supported, and—in 1917—the Bolshevik Revolution, which she denounced from the outset. In order to escape the fighting, her family went to the Crimea, where she finished high school. The final Communist victory brought the confiscation of her father's pharmacy and periods of near-starvation. When introduced to American history in her last year of high school, she immediately took America as her model of what a nation of free men could be.
When her family returned from the Crimea, she entered the University of Petrograd to study philosophy and history. Graduating in 1924, she experienced the disintegration of free inquiry and the takeover of the university by communist thugs. Amidst the increasingly gray life, her one great pleasure was Western films and plays. Long an admirer of cinema, she entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in 1924 to study screenwriting.
In late 1925 she obtained permission to leave Soviet Russia for a visit to relatives in the United States. Although she told Soviet authorities that her visit would be short, she was determined never to return to Russia. She arrived in New York City in February 1926. She spent the next six months with her relatives in Chicago, obtained an extension to her visa, and then left for Hollywood to pursue a career as a screenwriter.
On Ayn Rand's second day in Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille saw her standing at the gate of his studio, offered her a ride to the set of his movie The King of Kings, and gave her a job, first as an extra, then as a script reader. During the next week at the studio, she met an actor, Frank O'Connor, whom she married in 1929; they were married until his death fifty years later.
After struggling for several years at various nonwriting jobs, including one in the wardrobe department at the RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., she sold her first screenplay, "Red Pawn," to Universal Pictures in 1932 and saw her first stage play, Night of January 16th, produced in Hollywood and then on Broadway. Her first novel, We the Living, was completed in 1934 but was rejected by numerous publishers, until The Macmillan Company in the United States and Cassells and Company in England published the book in 1936. The most autobiographical of her novels, it was based on her years under Soviet tyranny.
She 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 the Bobbs-Merrill Company. 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 a champion of individualism.
Ayn Rand returned to Hollywood in late 1943 to write the screenplay for The Fountainhead, but wartime restrictions delayed production until 1948. Working part time as a screenwriter for Hal Wallis Productions, 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.
Thereafter, Ayn Rand wrote and lectured on her philosophy—Objectivism, which she characterized as "a philosophy for living on earth.". She published and edited her own periodicals from 1962 to 1976, her essays providing much of the material for six books on Objectivism and its application to the culture. Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982, in her New York City apartment.
Every book by Ayn Rand published in her lifetime is still in print, and hundreds of thousands of copies are sold each year, so far totalling more than twenty million. Several new volumes have been published posthumously. Her vision of man and her philosophy for living on earth have changed the lives of thousands of readers and launched a philosophic movement with a growing impact on American culture.
Leonard Peikoff is universally recognized as the pre-eminent Rand scholar writing today. He worked closely with Ayn Rand for 30 years and was designated by her as her intellectual heir and heir to her estate. He has taught philosophy at Hunter College, Long Island University, and New York University, and hosted the national radio talk show "Philosophy: Who Needs It."
Top Customer Reviews
Ayn Rand's philosophy is known as objectivism. It is essentially having a objective reason and purpose for every action you commit.
Atlas Shrugged is one of two major novels that outlines her entire philosophy while trying to show how it would be applied. That is why this book deserves a 5 star rating. Any philosopher can give generic ideas with no application. Rand puts it all on the line to show exactly how she means her philosophy to be interpreted.
The student of philosophy will be able to understand her philosophy quite clearly after reading this. If you agree with her philosophy you should encourage others to read this book. If this book is so clearly wrong then you should encourage others to read it so they will see how clearly wrong it is. Those that want it burned or object to others reading it know that she offers some very strong arguments for a position they clearly do not want to be true.
This book takes place probably around the 1950s. It is centered around the industrial sector of the U.S., the only government that has not become a People's State. The main character in this book is Dagny Taggart. She is a no-nonsense VP of Operations for the largest railroad in the world. She is intelligent and is solely driven to keeping her RR as the best.
The times are dim and getting dimmer. In the beginning the country is in a recession of sorts and it is up to Taggart and others like her to save the country. There are two problems that are preventing her from doing this. One, the government seeks more and more control when it should be stepping away. Second, the men of industry are disappearing one by one just when they are critically needed. No one knows where they go off to.
In the sense of a novel this is a good one. It is suspenseful and intriguing. Everyone can identify with the characters in this book. Most of the antagonists have been left rather shallow. That is on purpose. They are supposed to represent certain elements of society. This book can get dry at times. One man has a 60 page speech that can seem a little preachy at times but is wholly necessary within the context of the novel.
Ayn Rand is perhaps the best known and widest read philosopher of the 20th century. If you have any interest in philosophy or economics then this is a must read. Don't fear her teachings. An open mind is a dangerous thing to some people.
The most important thing to remember is not to take everything you read here as dogma. Think for yourself and apply whatever ideas make sense to you and ignore that which you don't like. Think for yourself. I think Rand would object to anyone blindly following her philosophy without actually believing in it. No one says you can't be charitable to others. Just make sure you do it of your own volition and not because it is expected of you or because you feel guilty.
To begin with, this is not an ordinarily structured novel; it is an overt statement of a philosophy. The plot, like many of those employed by Shakespeare, is not wholly original. (See an older book entitled "Secret of the League"). In any event, Rand uses the complex plot allegorically as a vehicle for describing her own unique philosophy and its consequences. Rand's philosophy, and it is clear enough upon reading, is a synthesis of Aristotelianism with more modern "humanistic" concerns, in the greatest and original sense of the term. Rand ties Aristotle's basic conceptions of logic to the workings of egoism and capitalism. She rejects Nietzschean irrationalism, Kantian ethics, and the kind of Pragmatism championed by Dewey. Her suggested replacement for these constructs is a body of thought which recognizes and responds to human needs and values, economic conditions, political necessities, and logical imperatives, even if incompletely at times. Oddly, her critics continue to tout her as little more than a "pop-philosopher". On to her book.
Atlas Shrugged is a fountainhead of skilled dialogue and monologue. Francisco's speech on "money" is insightful, and honest. Some prosaic passages, like Galt's enormous speech near the novel's end, could have used some editing. Nonetheless, such passages are meant to (and succeed in) conveying a rather thorough philosophy. Also adept at employing dialogue, Rand leaves cutting snippets and short verbal gems throughout the book. She distinguishes perceptively between 'what people commonly say' and 'what those words often covertly are intended to mean.' This making-bare is done through the frankness of her protagonists, some of which mere foils to reveal more probing insights. Those who would call her characters "shallow" may be correct if judging by contemporary literary standards which praise personal texture and ambiguity. Rand seems more interested in the kind of moral tale woven by the great Greek dramatists, in which characters are primarily vehicles of ideas.
It was once said that the purpose of philosophy is to start with something that everyone takes for granted, and to end with that which noone will believe. Rand uses Atlas Shrugged to achieve this kind of ideational journey. No shallow fanatic, her novel is a work is also a great psychological study of the motives of several common ideas, values, and ethical standards. She constructs in Atlas Shrugged a powerful critique of collectivism, that thought which says "We are our brother's keepers."
I suppose one reason for the novel's continued popularity is that most readers are far too intelligent to be comforted by other kinds of books whose authors want them to think they are profound because they are difficult to grasp. Zservedah once called "clear prose the conceptual tool of conservativism." Readers are probably tired of being asked to find beauty in the Emperor's clothes, in works of art which are ugly, and in books which are pessimistic. Atlas Shrugged is unabashedly lucid and candid; it is refreshing to find such confident and clear writing in this age of self-doubt, relativism, and academic obscurity.
You will be a richer person for having read it.
Are some of Rand's adherents sycophantic? Certainly. Yet if her philosophy were the kind of "cheap trash" critics claim it to be, why the vehemence of her opposition?