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Ayn Rand and Whittaker Chambers

Posted on August 24 2010 4:33 am
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In writing “The Greatly Ghastly Rand” for NR’s current print issue, I wanted to evaluate Ayn Rand foremost as an artist, applying the simple standard, “Does this inspire me? Do I like what this woman is showing me of her soul?” This is more or less the standard Rand would have applied to herself. As I noted, she asserts in her Fountainhead introduction that her purpose as a writer is “the projection of an ideal man.” She goes on to explain that “any didactic, intellectual or philosophical values” in her novels are only a means to that end, and that her goal “is not the philosophical enlightenment of my readers” but “the portrayal of Howard Roark [or the heroes of Atlas Shrugged]” — Rand’s brackets; she is quoting herself — “as an end in himself.”

Whittaker Chambers, in reviewing Atlas Shrugged, was instead concerned with Rand as a political thinker. He is fairly explicit about this: “Atlas Shrugged can be called a novel only by devaluing the term. It is a massive tract for the times. Its story merely serves Miss Rand to get the customers inside the tent, and as a soapbox for delivering her Message.” He then details his objections to the Message — and here I think he does her an injustice.

Read the whole thing.

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