Me Me Me .... And Me Too
''My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as
a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral
purpose for his life, with productive achievement as his
noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.''-Ayn Rand
These four lines are the essence of this masterpiece. This 1000 page fiction novel, written in 1957, is the biggest philosophical bestseller of all time. This novel is a generalisation of her previous novel The Fountainhead or as the author put it, Fountainhead was about the men, the characters as the theme with the relation between them as secondary, But in this novel the relation is the theme. This is a more Social.
Everyone has his perfect 10's in various fields be it acting, singing, driving, beauty, places to visit etc. As far as writing is concerned this is my Perfect 10 (or 5 as in MS). This is my idea of what a good novel should be. It fulfills two main conditions, first you know you have gained something after you have read it and is not is one of the good as long as it lasts novels. Secondly, you want to read it again after you have finished.
The Novel is wonderfully structured with brilliant charactarisations (A good part of the first 200-300 pages is used in sketching the main characters). But the best part is that the novel reads like a suspense thriller, if you do not know the story beforehand. That's why any person who really wnats you to read this novel will never tell you what's it all about. Therefore I wont give a detailed plot either. Don't worry about the size, once you cross the first 200-300 pages the rest go by in a jiffy.
The novel is set in near future USA, where the actual men of action the innovators, leading industrialists, composers mysteriously start disappearing as a result of which the nation is collapsing in every respect. These men decide they will not help the looters anymore. Those who haven't read this must be wondering how does there lines justify 1000 pages, well this is where the author's philosophy comes in. The author's abstract views expressed in this novel were not part of any philosophical literature (as she disagreed with most of them) so she decided to create a fictional world which can help the readers understand the premise.
To quote the author ''....In other words, I must show in what concrete, specific way the world is moved by the creators. Exactly how do second-handers live on creators. Both in spirutual matters-and (most particularly) in concrete, physical events. (Concentrate on the concrete, physical events-but don't forget to keep in mind at all times how the physical proceeds fron the spirutual.)...
I do not set out to glorify prime movers (that was in Fountainhead). I set out to show how desperately the world needs them, and how viciously it treats them. And I show it on a hypothetical case-what happens to the world without them.
If you are thinking who are Creator or Second-hander? I will like to introduce it to you by quoting a para of the author's note
''It is proper for a creator to have unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, and that's its up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason..). [But] here is what he must keep clearly in his mind: It is true that the creator can accomplish anything he wishes-if he functions according to nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality,that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and doe not attempt or desire aything that is of collective in nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature of creator.) If he attempts that, he's out of a creator's province and in that of collectivist and the second-hander. This mainly sums up the main characters of this novel.
Here I would like to mention that author saw the Bolshevik revolution in Russia (she studied in the petrograd university) first hand and most of her ideology was formed in the 'Red Decade'.She was one of the few writers who openly critised communism. Most of the world thought of communism as a good system which was not implemented proparly. She was one of the first who Openly critisized communism as a concept. All her novels represented this ideology and the reason why altruistic systems are doomed to fail. Her views were so diametrically opposite to the prevailing beliefs in the world that if you don't agree with them you had to reject them but the way she went on prooving her stand that rejecting them was no longer an option and it became a philosophical revelution.
Many of her critics rejected this novel as exageration of the facts. But as the author points out in an essay in her book Capitalism:An Unknown Ideal most of the statements situations and laws she mentioned were actually there in US Law. But we Indians don't need to go far, This novel actually explains the concept of 'brain drain'even before that term was coined. The only difference is, that instead of going to atlantis, men who matter go to america and this has not just happened in India, it has happened round the world where able men are forced to 'contribute' to the society rather than earn money. So the next time you get those emails saying ''Bell Labs is headed by an Indian, Sun was founded by an Indian, 15% scientists in bell labs are indian or 36% MS employees are Indian .. etc so you should be proud to be an indian'' just think why with such brainpower or manpower we failed to produce anything even closely resembling institutions like Sun, MS, Bell Labs in India. Just for the record we still send second highest number of immigrants to Us and the highest number of students to US every year.
We even have crude example of the happenings in the novel, I hope most indians remember Indira Gandhi's regime with respect to economy. I couldn't help but think of her regime while reading the novel. You could state most of her's steps to the ones mentioned in the novel. And we all know what resulted, within 10 years indian economy collapsed.(Not Only that, Her N-Bomb--Project X??) Also the sudden rise to power of the people henceforth unknown politically and the drastic reversal in policies that finally bought india back to its feet and it success in fields unthinkable a decade back do have a chilly similarity. As I said that the novel reads like a thriller but when you come to know that this has actually happenned and can actually happen, sends a chill down your spine.
One of my fellow MS'ian review on this novel was titled 'Strictly for Adults'. Well there are some parts, like Dagny's relationship with Rearden, which certainly are above the level understanding for some but I wouldn't go that far. I think that current generation is best placed to understand this novel because it is the first generation, especially in India which had the freedom to see the world as it is, without prejudices, and have out its own judgement. Of course this applies to those who actually wanted to and not to those who are happy to accept anything without asking question. So if you have above characteristic you will enjoy this novel as this novel questions beliefs many people always took for granted, like belief in God, altruism, 'virtue of selfishness', putting me first etc..Though you may fully understand it only if you have given these things a little thought. But its never too late to start, so you can-by picking up this novel.