on 22 September 2013
I started reading the Fountainhead because I came across the author's name and the term "Randian" a number of times during a short time. (I am from Finland, where Rand is not well known.) I was intrigued by her reputation as a die hard defender of individualism and capitalism and thought that reading her would be relevant amid all the debate over bankers' bonuses, bailouts and the future of the welfare state. I also sometimes wonder about the virtues of individualism on a personal level, which made me all the more interested in reading about Rand's characters, who symbolise individualism and its rival "ideologies." The lives and fates of the characters reveal Rand's take on the merits, implications and outcomes of the thought systems that they each embody.
The novel's hero is Howard Roark, an architect who is the archetype of individualism. Career-wise he is talented, passionate, and uncorrupted: he will not compromise his artistic vision in order to get a lucrative commission no matter how dire a financial strait he is in. He is similarly pure in all facets of life, refusing to feign friendship with anyone, or to sacrifice himself for anyone even though this often causes him much trouble and suffering. Roark's life is noble and contrasts sharply with that of his peer since college, Peter Keating, who symbolises the spinelessness that most people possess to some degree. Unlike Roark, Keating lives for everyone but himself: as an architect, he has no style of his own and craves recognition rather than self-expression. Even in his love life, the most personal thing of all, he lets the opinions of others dictate his actions. Although he has an influential network and is a member of high society, Keating's relations with people are hollow and unfulfilling, whereas Roark's are meaningful and deep.
Roark's real antagonist is Toohey the socialist. Unlike Keating, who cannot articulate the reasons for his discomfort with Roark, Toohey understands Roark perfectly and despises all that he represents. Roark exudes strength and independence; Toohey has always protected and sided with the weak (both in his personal life and professionally, as a socialist agitator and writer). He is one of the few who recognises Roark's genius, but is intent on destroying him. In Toohey's opinion, Roark and his wonderful buildings would not inspire and elevate the rest of the population, but rather depress them by showing them what greatness people are capable of, but which they themselves never will be. Toohey advocates the sacrifice of individual achievement and self-expression to egalitarianism through mediocrity, and is portrayed as the most despicable character of the novel. The life of his niece, Catherine, demonstrates the result of living according to Toohey's philosophy. She devotes herself to her career as a social worker, completely abandoning her own needs in favour of those of societys' weakest members. Rather than finding the fulfilment that Toohey promised she would in relieving herself of her own ego, she feels bitter and empty to the point of losing her humanity. There could be no clearer indictment of socialism than this. Rand suggests that if, by contrast, everyone lived like Roark and pursued their own self-interest, all human relations would be purer and people would be happier and more fully human. This is, of course, the classic argument for capitalism.
Rand's worldview is very black and white. As many have noted, her characters are one-dimensional vehicles to express ideas, and are hardly realistic. Roark is presented as the ideal human being and seems to have no internal contradictions or flaws, while Keating lacks any redeeming qualities. Rand seems to be very contemptuous of the average person, represented in the novel by the mindless readers of a filthy tabloid newspaper called the Gazette. She idealizes Roark's strength, creativity and resolution but has no regard for other values such as kindness, cooperation and altruism. This, of course, is her point: that it would be best for individuals and society if everyone uncompromisingly pursued their own interest. This idea has been acknowledged as overly-simplified in economics, and I think it is also that on an individual level. In my opinion, altruism, cooperation and wanting to be accepted by others are fundamental aspects of human nature, albeit more present in some people than others. The quality of seeking others' approval, which Rand so scorns in Keating, has been seen by for example Adam Smith as the very glue that holds our society together and creates the basis of our morality.
Precisely because of its polarization, The Fountainhead is extremely thought-provoking and inspiring. It does not surprise me that many people have described it as a life-changing work: who couldn't help but admire someone as strong, free and independent as Roark. Although I do not believe that it would be possible or desirable for everyone to become like him, I do think that most people would benefit from trying to adopt some of his qualities. In this sense the fountainhead is very inspiring and perhaps for some, life-changing. It is also a very engaging and entertaining read which touches upon debates that are relevant today. I highly recommend it.
So says Ayn Rand in the forward to this edition, words written 25 years after The Fountainhead was first published in 1943. It's hard to imagine that many people read this book today without being aware of Ms Rand's philosophy of "Objectivism" and that she is the novelist of choice for so many from the libertarian strand of right-wing political and economic thinking, as exemplified, but perhaps also over-simplified, by the Tea-Party in the USA. So it was for me, certainly, although I made a conscious decision not to read any more commentary about the book before I read it so as to be able to experience it, as far as possible, simply as a novel.
So maybe you should stop reading here and read the book first?
As a story it is well constructed, albeit a little slow paced. We have a protagonist, architect Howard Roark, a heroine and love interest, Dominique Francon, and several antagonists who seem determined either to put him down or steal his ideas and energy. He perseveres, maintains his integrity, wins through, gets the girl...and the final scene depicts him silhouetted against the New York skyline and the Atlantic. Ms Rand spent much of her early writing career in Hollywood, and cinematic influences on her scene descriptions become quite obvious once you're aware of this.
It's hard not to be aware, however, that almost all of the characters are archetypes for certain ways of thinking or behaving, and in many cases that they are probably modelled on historical personalities. As a result, they do seem somewhat extreme or unlikely characters even in the context, and I found it difficult not always to be thinking about what they represented rather than who they were as people. I say that as someone, moreover, is usually oblivious to allegory and levels of meaning on first reading a book.
In Howard Roark, Ayn Rand is projecting her vision of an ideal man. That ideal is someone who is absolutely confident of his own abilities and vision, utterly unwilling to compromise or engage in a team effort, and who works solely for his own profit and satisfaction. While Rand does appears to believe that rational self-interest by individuals will work to the benefit of mankind as a whole - the "glory of mankind" as she puts it - this is not the justification for permitting people to acting selfishly. They should act selfishly, she seems to say, because it is only by serving themselves that they achieve their full potential, and because there should be no restriction on their freedom to act as they wish, save respect for property and the willingness of others to engage with them in free trade. Sometimes, however, Rand gives her ideal man a freedom to act that does impinge upon others' freedoms, most shockingly in a scene where Roark has sex with Dominique Francon for the first time, an act that Rand describes as rape. While whether it was rape or not is open to argument - Rand herself suggested that Francon had in effect invited Roark's attention - but she comes perilously close to suggesting that her ideal man is free not just to enter into free trade but physically to impose upon others in pursuit of his selfish ends. Neither character makes a great role model; I can only think that the sexual mores of the 1940s made it impossible to suggest that Ms Francon might have initiated the act.
As portrayed in The Fountainhead, objectivism seems to be a harsh philosophy that takes individualism to an extreme. It seems to me that it's based on some questionable premises. In the introduction to this book, for example, Rand states that a social system best suited to an ideal man would be one that is "free, productive, rational" and "which demands and rewards the best in every man". So far so good, you might say, but she goes on to say that such a system "is, obviously, laissez-faire capitalism". Obviously? A fan though I am of capitalism, and opponent of state communism, I do think we should allow for the possibility of a third (or fourth, or fifth) way.
Architecture provides the context for this story. Roark is a modernist, but I found it hard to recognise the style that he was opposing, given that the book is written during the period of flowering of what came to be known as art deco. If art deco were the derivative mish-mash of styles that Rand, through Roark, was so opposed to then it seems an unfair criticism to me. As for modernism, this certainly looked more interesting in 1943 than it did thirty or seventy years later. I work at the moment in an modernist "New Town" built in the 1960s - perhaps Rand is right that it and the other new towns would be better had they been designed and built by unfettered individualists rather than municipal planning committees, but they might have been better still without "modernism".
It always seems a presumptuous and pointless to give a rating to a book that's been regarded as a classic for more than half a century, and about which so many erudite and much better researched words have been written. In awarding it four stars, however, I am reflecting both how I found it as a story and my view of Objectivism as expressed in it. I was torn between three and four stars rather than four and five. This is, however, a book that I will probably re-read in due course, and that is probably not the case for many less challenging works that I have awarded five stars.
on 2 December 2002
This book was recommended to me by a friend who described it as a life-altering work and the best book he had ever read. I greeted this with the cynicism that such emotive comments often deserve. Nevertheless, I bought the book and have bought it for many more friends since. No book (or other art form, for that matter) has influenced me, encouraged me, excited me and criticised me as much as Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead".
I find it impossible to describe precisely what I took away from the book other than an overwhelming desire to meet the protagonist, Howard Roark. I compared myself (somewhat unfavourably) to his inspirational character; a man of complete integrity (in the sense of being whole and unimpaired) and, above all, a man who remains incorruptibly faithful to himself (odd though that sounds - read the book!). I fell short in almost every respect because he is, of course, a work of fiction living in a stylised world. However, I have since found that in some small measure we can attempt to lead our lives in a manner which more closely resembles Roark's philosophy (or, rather, his way of being). I agree with another reviewer that this is not The Answer, but I believe it is some small part, without which the remainder may be unobtainable.
This book will not be universally liked. It polarises opinion because its message is not to everyone's taste. Nor is it the most beautifully crafted prose (it was the author's second language, after all). And, Ayn Rand sometimes verges on being self-consciously clever. However, if the measure of a book is how often you refer back to it, how heavily you rely on its message and how vociferously you recommend it to others, it is clearly the best book I have ever read (and the only book I have felt obliged to review online).
Just my thoughts - I hope you enjoy it.
on 20 September 2011
How far should a man go to stand up for his ideas in the face of conventional standards? To hold onto his vision despite the many societal norms? To preserve his integrity and his `selfness' at all cost? Well, if you ascribe to Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, then there should be no doubt. According to Rand, it is the self which is the highest goal every single person should strive for, and everything else simply does not matter.
This basic idea form the foundation for the Fountainhead. It tells the story of Howard Roark, a young brilliant architect who is far ahead of his time. Roark is the epitome of what Rand depicts as `the ideal man,'* a man who stays true to himself despite all the obstacles society throws upon him. I actually hated Roark's guts when I first started reading the book. Here is a man whose will is so unbending, who is so unwilling or, more accurately, unable to consider other people's viewpoints and opinions, that it is hard to muster up a single gram of sympathy for him. But that is the whole point, right? Rand teaches us that Roark is not a man who seeks sympathy. And as I read further I started to gain, if not exactly sympathy, a great deal of respect and even admiration for him. You see, despite my own anxieties, despite my own tendency to care deeply about what others think, I am a staunch believer of Rand's basic premise. Roark, in some crucial ways, represents the man who I would like to become.
This is especially the case when you place him beside Peter Keating, a man who does not have any ideas of his own, but instead feeds off Roark's ideas while at the same time being consumed by fear, jealousy and anger for Roark. At first glance, you might think that Keating represents the anti-thesis of Roark, but Rand does not even give him this much honour. Keating in the end is a nobody, someone who is not even worth considering because he has no concept of `self' at all. He does not even represent a proper threat for Roark (this role is reserved for the demagogue Ellsworth Toohey, whom I will not discuss in detail as I think this will steer us towards a more political discussion, rather than a personal one). By making Keating such a spineless non-entity, Rand directly appeals to our feelings of self-worth. Every single one of us has a fair amount of Peter Keating within us, but who would readily admit it after reading the Fountainhead? Much better to suppress that part of us and instead aspire to be more like Roark. Crude, but highly effective.
It should come as no surprise however, that Rand employs these crude methods. In a way, perhaps it is even necessary considering the fundamentalist nature of Howard Roark. This is a man who, among the more obvious things, is willing to rape (it was consensual in a weird `Ayn Randian' kind of way, but still**) or to blow up a building to preserve what he perceives to be his own integrity. And the scariest part is that he believes he is absolutely right in everything he does and is utterly incapable of even trying to see things from the other side. How to gain acceptance or admiration for such a man? By making the world as black as white as possible. By making his adversary Ellsworth Toohey a representation of evil, someone who seeks power through the propagation of collectivism and altruism. By making Roark's ideas far superior than those of his peers, a bunch of arrogant airheads who are capable of little more than rehashing old ideas from Classicism and the Renaissance, but are treated as men of vision anyway. By depicting a society who worships such men as Toohey simply because he caters to the mob-like mentality of society. And by having Roark come up against these obstacles and succeed anyway by holding onto his own vision.*** Isn't this the very definition of a heroic man? For many, including myself, it is easy to (want to) identify with a man like this.
In a way, it is fortunate that I wrote this review a few weeks after I finished the Fountainhead. Had I written this a week or two ago, I probably would have been less critical and been more willing to overlook the fundamentalist elements. As I mentioned earlier, I greatly believe in its basic premise. At the core, every person has his own ideals, vision and values, and the world would be a better place in my opinion if more people, including myself, were more willing to stand up for these ideals. But a person does not only consist of a core and nothing else. A large part of what defines us, including our ideals, visions and values, only exists within the larger context of our background and surroundings and our interaction with other people. People with their own ideas, visions and values. Our ideals do not exist within a vacuum. Nor do our ideals matter more or less than other persons' ideals. Fortunately, I would say. The world is a richer place because of it.
Now, I can understand where Rand is coming from.**** She grew up as a young child in communist Russia, so it is not entirely surprising that she rejects collectivism and values individualism so highly. But there are some inherent ironies and contradictions in her way of thinking. For someone who has named her own philosophy Objectivism, she is quite subjective in her opinions. An important part of her argument relies on the `self' being right, and all the others opposing the `self' being wrong. Isn't that the definition of being subjective? She also constantly reminds us that we should think for ourselves, and not be persuaded by those proponents of collectivism and altruism, who preys upon our feelings in the hope we would abandon our rational thought and follow them instead. Yet you can also accuse her for employing the exact same tactics by glorifying Howard Roark and belittling almost everyone else in the novel. But let's give her the benefit of the doubt for a second. Let's say we all aspire to her vision and that one day the world is filled with Howard Roarks. Can you even start to imagine a world like that? It would be a catastrophe whenever there would be an argument. Such a world is a contradiction in itself.
After much deliberation I decided to give the book 3 stars out of 5. This may seem a bit high considering what I've written in the last few paragraphs. But my ratings are always based for a large part on how I feel during reading (as opposed to what I think). I genuinely enjoyed reading the Fountainhead and I wanted to keep reading to get a better grasp on her ideas. No, I do not fully agree with the fundamentalistic nature of the book, but it has inspired me to reevaluate the way I view and lead my life and to write about it. And isn't that why we read books in the first place?
* Yes, I'm using the term man on purpose. I was disappointed that the plot was so male-centric, especially since it was written by a female author. Yes, there was Dominique Francon, an extremely smart and beautiful woman. She is supposed to be someone who is self-aware, but she seemed only to truly exist within the context of Howard Roark. The perfect companion for the ideal man, in the most literal sense of the word.
** See also previous note. In Rand's own words, "if it was rape, it was rape by engraved invitation." Meaning that Dominique could have stopped it if she truly wanted to in Rand's interpretation. Even so, the fact that Dominique is in a way willing to be taken this way strengthens my assertion that she is nothing more than someone who can exist only within the context of the ideal man.
*** An important flaw in the novel in my opinion is how Rand portrays Roark as he goes against these obstacles. Roark is so firmly entrenched in his own beliefs and so detached from the outside world, that you never even get a sense of real struggle within his character. He's just like "Meh, whatever." I guess that's the message Rand is trying to get across, that the ideal man is not concerned with such trivial matters, but it makes him less sympathetic than he already is.
**** To be fair, I still have to read her other books, most notably Atlas Shrugged and her works of philosophy. I believe you should never fully judge an author by a single book, especially a book written relatively early in her career.
on 5 December 2015
I must admit that I was drawn to “The Fountainhead” by my interest in architecture rather than by any great interest in Ayn Rand’s philosophy of “Objectivism”. The novel, initially at least, tells the story of two young architects, Howard Roark and Peter Keating, who study together at the same college. The two men are very different in personality. Roark is a bold, free-thinking man of rigid integrity who refuses to compromise his artistic vision, which in his case means modernist architecture, and would rather remain in obscurity than do so.
Rand never makes it clear what type of “modernism” Roark practises. There is no reference to Art Deco, which would have been considered very “modern” at the time the book is set, the 1920s and 1930s, but some of her comments suggest she had little time for Bauhaus-style modernism. It has been suggested that she modelled Roark on Frank Lloyd Wright, in terms of architectural style if not in terms of personality. Her evident appreciation for architectural modernism, incidentally, is not carried over into other artistic fields. Literary modernism, represented by the ludicrous figure of Lois Cook, is mercilessly satirised and Rand expressed support for Romanticism as the highest form of literature.
Keating, in contrast to Roark, is a man lacking in any personal vision, happy to build in whatever style his clients dictate, which normally means a traditionalist one. He also lacks integrity, and although he enjoys worldly success, becoming a partner in a prestigious New York practice, this owes less to his talent for designing buildings (which Rand implies is minimal) than to his talent for self-promotion, intrigue and backstabbing. Three other characters also play important roles in the plot- Ellsworth Toohey, an architectural critic and newspaper columnist, Gail Wynand, the millionaire proprietor of the paper for which Toohey writes, and Dominique Francon, the beautiful daughter of Keating’s senior partner. (Wynand, incidentally, is male, despite that feminine-looking Christian name).
In her foreword to the book, written in 1968 on the twenty-fifth anniversary of its original publication, Rand explains something of the philosophy which inspired it. She was an atheist who distrusted organised religion, but nevertheless thought that concepts such as “sacred”, “reverence” and “worship” were still meaningful. She believed that our worship, reverence and sense of the sacred needed to be directed away from a non-existent God and redirected towards their “proper object, man” to produce what she called “man-worship”. By “man-worship”, however, she did not- as she was at pains to point out- mean some collectivist quasi-religion which substituted “humanity” for God. She loathed all forms of collectivism, which she regarded as a mere secularisation of everything she disliked about religion. She wanted to worship man as an individual, not as part of “mankind”, describing “man-worshippers” as “those who see man’s highest potential and strive to actualise it”. Her portrayal of Roark was intended as a portrayal of what she called the “ideal man”.
Each of the other main characters falls short of Rand’s ideal in one way or another. Keating is what she called a “second-hander”, a man who lacks self-respect and who has to compensate for this lack by seeking the respect of others. He becomes an architect not because of any great artistic vision or any love of his work but in order to make money and to become famous and admired. For Rand love of fame and admiration was a worse form of corruption than mere love of money; she may have lacked religious beliefs but would surely have agreed with the hymn-writer that “Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise”.
Wynand has qualities which Rand obviously appreciates- ability in business and a drive and ambition which have lifted him out of poverty- but the two factors which damn him in her eyes are his desire for power over others and his shameless pandering to the worst instincts of the public in order to sell his newspapers. He is, however, partially redeemed when he makes an unpopular stand in favour of something he believes to be right, even though it hurts his business. Toohey is an obvious hypocrite, a man who uses his newspaper column to preach a gospel of equality and altruism but who never does anything which is not motivated by his own self-advancement or self-aggrandisement. He claims to be a socialist, but many of his arguments could equally well be used to justify fascism. (Rand drew little distinction between socialism and fascism, seeing them as two sides of the same collectivist coin).
Is Roark, then the “ideal man”? The answer to this question, of course, will depend very much upon the reader’s own views. Certainly, the independence and integrity he displays in the early part of the book, and his willingness to endure poverty and lack of recognition rather than compromise his ideals make him in many ways admirable. On the other side of the equation must be counted his curious sadomasochistic relationship with his lover Dominique, and (without wanting to give away too much of the ending) I must say that his actions in the latter part of the book fell a long way short of my idea of the “ideal man”. Of all the main characters, in fact, it was Dominique whom I found the least convincing. Her motivation for her actions frequently remained opaque; at least with the male characters (even a man as devious as Toohey) it was never difficult to understand what motivated them.
At times I also felt that Rand tried to load the dice too much in Roark’s favour, especially in the contrast between Roark and Keating, who is portrayed not merely as a worthless individual but also as totally incompetent in his profession, something I found unrealistic. It would have been better if Rand had made Keating a technically competent if conventional and uninspired architect. It is conceivable that a second-rater might become a partner in a major practice through a talent for playing the game of office politics. A tenth-rater, never.
Towards the end of the book Rand gives Roark a lengthy speech in self-justification, and we can take it that his opinions are also her own. His arguments are all in favour of individualism and egoism and highly critical not only of any form of collectivism but also of any form of altruism which he believes is destructive of self-respect and self-worth. (The book’s title derives from his conviction that egoism is the "fountainhead" of creativity). I found, however, these arguments to be deeply flawed because they are based upon premises which are either dubious or outright false. It is just not true, as Roark and Rand imply, that all great advances in human civilisation, whether in science, medicine, technology or the creative arts, have been won by lonely individual geniuses whose only motivation is their own ego and who are quite unmoved by such unworthy considerations as fame, money, power or the good of others. (Rand would regard this last as unworthy, even if the rest of us would not). In many, probably most, cases these advances have either been won collaboratively, if only in the sense that those who won them were, in Newton’s phrase, “standing on the shoulders of giants”, or been won by individuals who were far from indifferent to the wealth and prestige which their achievements would bring them, or been won by those who were actually inspired by the thought that their work might benefit the public. As for Rand’s criticism of altruism, there is a strong counter-argument that true altruism is actually dependent upon a sense of self-worth; how can we love others as ourselves if we do not love ourselves in the first place?
Rand has been described as a “conservative thinker”, yet it struck me that the implications of her philosophy could actually be corrosive of certain ideals which conservatives hold dear, namely capitalism (because modern capitalism is mostly corporate in form and therefore to some extent collectivist), democracy (because democratic politicians depend upon their ability to win the approval of the public and are therefore, in her terms, "second-handers") and patriotism. The novel was published in 1943, at the height of World War II, so it is perhaps not surprising that Rand does not make explicit the implied critique of patriotism contained in her philosophy of individualism; had she done so the book would probably never have been published. It must follow, however, that if one accepts her precepts then sacrificing one’s life for the collective good of one’s country must be a supremely futile gesture. The soldier must be the most un-Randian of all professions.
“The Fountainhead'” i's in many way a powerfully written book, especially in the early scenes, but it suffers from the drawback that it is too obviously written in support of a very tendentious philosophical position which many of Rand’s readers will not share. Even those who do, and I note that the book has received many positive reviews, may feel that this leads to another disadvantage, namely that all the main characters are less rounded characters than simplified archetypes or mouthpieces for one set of opinions or another. Howard Roark is not so much an ideal man as a human megaphone.
Howard Roark, struggling architect, has to compete with meritocracy and the system. He has no intention of corrupting his principals. The world (good guys and bad guys) plans to do that for him. So he finds a unique solution.
I have read the book, saw the movie (1949, Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, and Raymond Massey) and listened to the audio tapes. Each media gives a different feel to her story and brings out the underlying message in different ways. If this is your first Ayn Rand book then either you are in high school (where they think this is the pentacle her work) or you started in the middle of here forming. Other books as "We the Living", she knew something was wrong, but did not know what it was. In "The Fountain Head", she puts her finger on the symptoms and rebels against them. In "Atlas Shrugged", she finally identifies the source of the problem and even if it seems like a surrealistic story, she offers concrete solutions. Out of this process Objectivism was born.
on 20 September 2015
Largely agree with the review of Nicholas Dougan who sums everything up extremely well. I read the book without having read the reviews first. The story is well constructed but is a little long (rather than slow paced). And I understand the premise of the "ideal man" and just how hard, if not impossible, that is to achieve. My problem is that I'm not sure I get the motives of Dominique in particular. Wynand I understand, Roarke is obvious, as is Toohey and the other lackeys, but what's all the denial and emotion from Dominique? No doubt I missed the point, or maybe I just can't see it from the feminine perspective.
In parts I think it is incredibly well written, but by the end I have to say that (a) I was glad to finish and (b) I felt a bit let down, even if I'm not sure why. As I say, it's probably me rather than the book itself. And I'm still going to read Atlas Shrugged. I'm just hoping it's even more to my taste.
on 21 February 2012
I first read this book at 18 (to enter an essay for a scholarship - which I didn't win) and was captivated by the story (even though I disagreed with much of Rand's personal philosophy - and still do). This book should make you think about yourself and what sort of person you are and what sort of person you want to be (whether that's someone Rand would have approved of or not is irrelevant). If you keep in mind that the author was a person who naturally valued autonomy, who was born and raised in communist Russia where she wasn't allowed to be who she wanted to be, where the State controlled every aspect of her life (under the real threat of death) you can understand why she advocated so strongly for the individual self. But that's not why I love this book! In my copy I have this excerpt underlined (page 633) (Roark and Gail are talking)
Gail asks, "What have you been thinking about, these past weeks?"
"The principle behind the dean who fired me from Stanton."
"The thing that is destroying the world. The thing you were talking about. Actual selflessness."
"The ideal which they say does not exist?"
"They're wrong. It does exist - though not in the way they imagine. It's what I couldn't understand about people for a long time. They have no self. They live within others. They live second-hand. Look at Peter Keating."
"You look at him. I hate his guts."
"I've looked at him - at what's left of him - and it's helped me to understand. He's paying the price and wondering for what sin and telling himself that he's been too selfish. In what act or thought of his has there been any self? What was his aim in life? Greatness - in other people's eyes. Fame, admiration, envy - all that which comes from others. Others dictated his convictions, which he did not hold, but he was satisfied that others believed he held them. Others were his motive power and his prime concern. He didn't want to be great, but to be thought great. He didn't want to build, but to be admired as a builder. He borrowed from others in order to make an impression on others. There's your actual selflessness. It's his ego he's betrayed and given up. But everybody calls him selfish."
"That's the pattern most people follow."
"Yes! And isn't that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but the absence of a self."
That sums up the world we live in. Clambering hordes running to stand on a stage and be the next big this or that...hordes of people, most of who don't know themselves. People devoid of self awareness, or understanding of what they are or are not good at. People who want to be "A Star!" as if being famous for being famous was some sort of pinnacle of accomplishment. We're living in a Narcissistic age with millions of people all wearing masks pretending to be what they think people want them to be so that others will think they're special because deep down the mask wearers don't feel special and have no intention of putting in the effort to develop themselves until they become something special. For me, The Fountainhead encourages us to tear off the mask, look in the mirror and be whoever that may be. The world doesn't need a million clones of this singer or that actor. It needs individuals who will put in the hours, blood, sweat and tears to become the best they can be as individuals so they can then help build a better society by doing what they do well.
on 1 January 2015
A true classic. Brilliant as a novel. Insightful as complaint against communism by a fled Russian writer. It is the true story of individual freedom again the will of the masses. Personally I like the fountainhead more than Atlas shrugged, the book that is generally considered to be Ayn Rands' masterpiece
on 17 February 2015
I have read this amazing, inspirational book a long time ago and my copy went from one friend to another. I bought another copy just in case I could find the time to read it again. I'll never forget it - - it inspires you to be just what and who you are.