In 2004, I had seen one of my classmates reading Altas Shrugged. I hadn’t read the blurb and the cover made it look like a mythological tale. I got to know that it was cult material, but till then I had veered to the Harry Potter series.
Last year I saw a copy of the Fountainhead on the younger sibling’s book rack and picked it up with a casual interest. That book changed my life. I know I sound clichéd.
The book was like no other. It was so sure of itself, so full of itself that I began to give in to its arguments for Objectivism.
Like I thought Sidney Sheldon was a woman, I had always thought Ayn Rand to be a man. She does write like a man. (Please spare me any feminist comments here for the sake of her. Ms Rand was very openly anti-feminist.)
The Fountainhead was my first introduction to the author. I wasn’t expecting much, because most of the famous books don’t live up to their reputation, for me. The novel starts with a defiant stand, and ends with another. This is one book whose end did not disappoint me.
She says she writes keeping in view the ideal within man and woman. More precisely man, because there aren’t many who’d stand up for themselves. Howard Roark would come across as an impudent arrogant eccentric genius (though the last adjective would be bestowed grudgingly) to the outsider. But to the reader, more precisely the believing reader, all his thoughts are bared and hence, he emerges as the perfect man – who’d prefer crumbling rather than giving in to the mundane demands of the society.
Having read two books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, I don’t quite like Ms Rand’s women protagonists. In fact both the men and women seem masochists, who revel in suffering in matters of the heart and deliberately choose different paths when they could very easily be together without compromising their virtues, as she calls their individualistic bent. She likes to put her readers through their pain.
How the Fountainhead influenced my life?
Well, I was torn between putting myself first and caring about my family selflessly. This book made it very clear to me that I prefer the first option. I am not selfless and I am proud of it now.
As concerns the bigger picture, I understood that all capitalism is not evil as all socialism is not beneficial. I am happy India had a mixed economy.
In conclusion, the euphoria over The Fountainhead lasted till I read Atlas Shrugged and watched Ms Rand’s interviews with Phil Donahue and learned about the movie/book The Passion of Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged made me cringe even though I offered it every poetic liberty. I now think that complete Objectivism is ideal. And it is equally true that the ideal does not exist. Nonetheless, most of my life decisions will be governed by her theory – keeping in mind never to become as dogmatic as she had become.