Atlas Shrugged – the intelectual peak of Ayn Rand’s work turns the author into one of the most celebrated thinkers of the 20th century. It takes 14 years to complete the novel about radical individualism in a conformist world. It takes 2 years and a half to write the famous speech of John Galt, which summarizes Rand’s philosophy of objectivism: 1)reality is objective and cannot be changed by desires and emotions; 2)the biggest moral is the rational personal interest; 3) knowledge is achieved through reason and not through feelings; 4)politics is about individual rights; 5)economics should be based on the free markets concept. Cold, rational, and insensitive, Ayn Rand constructs through Galt’s eyes a philosophy that translates into a cult towards her personality even years after her death.
Atlas Shrugged’s success gives a rise to a group of loyal followers, who in parts of their life become fanatical about Rand. Ironically, as Ayn detests communism, they call themselves The Collective. Rand is charming, magnetic, and powerful. Her unshakable logic wins every conflict; she is able to change her opponent’s opinions in only one conversation. The controversy is that the biggest individualist, Rand, denies any form of individualism in her followers. She doesn’t accept any ideas but her own; she wants a world where everyone is the same and thinks the same, like her. Her loyal followers become a family, where origin, temperament, and personal preferences are eradicated. As for her protagonists, for Rand other people that do not share her views do not exist and in fact she doesn’t see any reason for their existence whatsoever. Thus, the author surrounds herself with artificially made super humans, so she doesn’t need to leave the fictionality of her novels.
This Rand obsession, in the face of a young 20-years old boy, turns into one of the most scandalous love affairs. Nathan Blumental is so fascinated with the great individualist that he changes his name to Nathaniel (as the founder of Tagart Transcontinental in Atlas Shrugged) Brandon (anagram of the Jewish formula with the meaning of “son of Rand”). The young man and the 25-years older author spend days and nights discussing her philosophy and ideas. The result is a subversive love affair lasting more than 20 years with the knowledge of their spouses. Rand, great logician, gathers her husband, Frank, and his wife, Barbara to explain why the two of them must have a sexual relationship. According to the author, she and Nathaniel represent the same intelectual virtues. As perfect rationalists they do not have disuinion between mind and body their attraction is logical, understandable, and must be incarnated. Thus, Rand and Nathaniel engage in an open affair, which logic seems rather absurd for everyone but Rand and the people who follow her blindly.
This love affair is predestined to a tragic end. Rand has turned Nathaniel into one of her perfect protagonists, but the man soon discovers that he was never in love with his patron. He admired Ayn for her rationalism, mind, and passion, but after 20 years he wants out. As with other people in her life, Rand accepts this as a rejection and erases him completely from her life. Once she has proclaimed him to be her legal follower but now the author claims Nathaniel shows signs of imperfect mind. She judges his infatuation with other women as a betrayal to herself and to objectivism. Unfortunately, as with all of her other relationships, Rand fails to see her mistakes.
What about her husband, Frank, you might ask? Subversive, invisible, and patient, he was there for her throughout 50 years of marriage. Rand always claimed he was her role model for a man and her inspiration (despite her affair?!). In the last years of her life she stands by his side as he slowly loses his mind. She still draws on her fame from Atlas Shrugged but the number of her fanatical followers has declined. Many of them are expelled from Rand’s entourage for real or unreal signs of deviations from objectivism. Still, even after her death, many people around the world continue the cult towards her personality.
Ayn Rand’s life strikingly resembles the stories she created in her novels. The author with a remarkable mind aimed at world governed by rational, purpose, and self-respect. She appealed to people to live for themselves and for their own rational principles. Rand favored the limitless power of the human mind against the ignorant and passive marauders. Her philosophy of objectivism was extreme and so was her life. Rand failed to see any shadows of gray; she was only able to see in black and white. Infinitely self-destructive and talented, Ayn created doctrine, which in its moderate use presents a world-view where people get what they deserve, where the human mind and abilities flourish, and where no political doctrine has the power to control lives; a world where people live for themselves and according to their own moral principles. Isn’t that what we all want?