Having read Fountainhead more than a year ago, I was looking forward to read Atlas Shrugged, the other masterpiece from Ayn Rand. Given the huge size of the novel, the idea of beginning to read it was unsettling me a wee bit. Finally after the prof. exams last January, I decided to delve into Atlas Shrugged.
Fountainhead, which made me an Ayn Rand fan, taught me that one should do what he likes – that is, what he believes in, what he can relate to most – and should put his whole heart to it. Championing individualism, the book describes selfishness (not in the usual sense – here Ayn Rand uses the term to mean staying true to one’s ideals) as a virtue while bashing meaningless altruism. The book is all about the heroic in man, embodied in the character of Howard Roark.
The philosophical ideas put forward in Fountainhead are further established in Ayn Rand’s next novel Atlas Shrugged. The title, if it didn’t occur to you already, refers to the Greek god Atlas who carried the globe on his shoulders. Now what would happen if Atlas ever shrugged! What would really happen if the great minds of the society chose not to make productive use of their ability! Rand explores a number of philosophical themes in the novel, set against a fantastic storyline that follows a beautiful and efficient railroad executive Dagny Taggart and her struggle (and also that of other productive minds of her time) against the looters and moochers of the society, at a time when a state policy of collectivism, statism and altruism was destroying the industries.
I am still reading Atlas Shrugged, half way through so far. 14 years in writing, this is one of the largest novels in English language I am told. Even in a small print, it runs into over a 1000 pages. The book which continues to be a bestseller even after 5 decades, as does Fountainhead, has inspired millions of individuals. Both the novels have influenced me profoundly. I am mesmerised by Ayn Rand’s writings. I can’t help wondering what a great thinker she must have been!