Ayn Rand

Russian-American Novelist, Philosopher, and Writer (1905-1982)

Ayn Rand is the pen name of a famous Russian-American writer born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum. She was famous for her novels and for developing a philosophy she called Objectivism.

Ayn Rand was a brilliant writer both loathed and beloved in her lifetime and even after her death. She propagated controversial concepts and ideas which are often subjects of intellectual debates, particularly in the United States. She passionately loathed the communist governmental system in her native country, Soviet Russia, and was outspoken about it.

Some of her most famous books are her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and her non-fiction philosophical book titled The Virtue of Selfishness.


Life Facts

  • Ayn Rand was born in St Petersburg, Russia on February 2, 1905.
  • Ayn Rand has dual nationality, she is a Russian by birth and became an American citizen by naturalization at the age of 26.
  • She schooled at the University of Petrograd in Russia where she majored in History.
  • She got married to an actor, Frank O’Connor on April 15, 1929, and they remained married until he died on November 9, 1979.
  • She died at the age of 77, of heart failure on March 6, 1982, in New York City.

Interesting Facts

  • Ayn Rand is her pen name and not her birth name.
  • She is multilingual. English was her second language after Russian but she wrote famous novels in English. She could also read and translate German and French.
  • She had a career in Hollywood; she was a screenplay writer and editor, and sometimes appeared in movies as an extra.
  • She developed a philosophy of her own, which she called Objectivism
  • A documentary about her titled, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life got an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
  • She battled with lung disease for many years but later died of heart failure.
  • There are institutes across the world named in her honor and serving to promote the philosophy of Objectivism which she developed. One of such is the Ayn Rand Institute in the United States.


Early Life

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905, in St Petersburg (known as Petrograd from 1914-1924 and later as Leningrad from 1924-1991), Russia. She was the oldest child of Zinovy Zakharovich Rosenbaum and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum (nee Kaplan). Her father was a pharmacist who owned small stores of his own and her mother was a housewife. She had two younger sisters named Nora and Natasha and each sister was exactly two and a half years older than the next.

Ayn Rand claimed that as a child, she was anti-social and that she disliked her mother for nagging her about it.

In 1914, when Rand was nine years old, she and her family embarked on a tour of Europe. They spent time in Switzerland and were heading to Paris from there but their tour was disrupted by World War I which started in July 1914.

Rand had enjoyed the comforts of upper-middle-class family wealth as a child as her father was well off in his business. However, her family had been forced to flee Petrograd when Ayn Rand was twelve years old because of the October Revolution of 1917, and by the time her family returned to Petrograd in 1921, her family was in hardship because her father’s business had been confiscated by the Communist government.

In 1914, her mother subscribed to a boys’ magazine for her because of her love for fantasy and adventure stories. In one of such magazines, she saw a pictorial illustration of a good-looking man which later became her description of an ideal man.


Education

Ayn Rand had her education in Russia. She claimed she found school so easy and unchallenging that she started writing screenplays at the age of eight and novels at the age of ten in other to keep herself from boredom.

In 1921, when she was sixteen years old, she began tertiary education at Petrograd State University in the Department of Social Pedagogy where she majored in History and she completed her education in October 1924.

She went further to study at the State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad. She also began learning the English Language as she began making plans to migrate to the United States.


Move to the United States and Marriage

Ayn Rand went to the United States of America on January 17, 1926, where she lived for a few months with her relatives in Chicago then moved to New York in search of a writing career. In New York, she met American producer and director Cecil DeMille, who offered her a job as a junior screenwriter and also screen appearances as an extra in movies.

It was at DeMille’s studio that Ayn Rand first met Frank O’Connor, an upcoming actor and after dating for a while, they got married on April 15, 1929, and she changed her name to Alice O’Connor.

She became a permanent American resident in July 1929 and an American citizen in March 1931.


Literary Career

Rand wrote three novels, a novella, a play, numerous screenplays, and philosophical books and essays.

She called her approach to literature Romantic Realism saying she wanted her literature to present the world as it could be and should be and not as it was.

Although she claimed she started writing plays at the age of eight and novels at age ten, her first known fiction was the play Night of January 16th, which was written in 1934 when she was twenty-six years old. In 1936, her first novel We the Living was published although not so successful. Then she published the novella Anthem in 1938.

Her first major success in fiction writing was achieved with the publication of The Fountainhead in 1943. And in 1957, her final novel and masterpiece Atlas Shrugged was published.

After an end to her fiction writing, she wrote philosophical books, popular among which are The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

Rand rejected the postulations of many philosophers and developed a philosophical system of her own which she called Objectivism. Her philosophy has however not been formally accepted in academics but continues to gain popularity across the world.


Literary Influences

Ayn Rand mentioned Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Edmond Rostand, and Friedreich Schiller as some of her favorite writers. She wrote an introduction to the English translation of Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three where she described Hugo as ”the greatest novelist in world literature.“

She was also influenced by American playwright Bayard Veiller whose 1929 play The Trial of Mary Dugan inspired her to write Night of January 16th.


Later Life and Death

After her 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand stopped writing fiction and devoted her writing to non-fiction that promoted the philosophy of Objectivism which she developed herself.

In 1974, she underwent surgery for lung cancer and eventually retired from writing in 1976. Although she objected to it, she was later enrolled in Social Security and Medicare.

At age 77, she died of heart failure in New York City on March 6, 1982. She is buried at Kensico Cemetry, Valhalla, New York.

She named her friend and associate, Leonard Sylvan Peikoff her legal heir. After her death, Peikoff co-founded an institute in her honor to promote her philosophy, the institute is called the Ayn Rand Institute.


Literature by Ayn Rand

Explore literature by Ayn Rand below, created by the team at Book Analysis.