This biography is highly condensed from Barbara Branden's book The Passion Of Ayn Rand (Doubleday, 1986). Readers interested in a full account of Rand's highly dramatic life should read it. This page is still in draft form!
Ayn Rand was born Alice Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Rand hated life in Russia; she felt the dominant culture of Russia to glorify the tragic and the malevolent, the antithesis of what she wanted for her own life. And then there was the Bolshevik revolution. Not only did she witness the nationalization of her father's chemistry shop---a shop that represented the culmination of his self-made rise from poverty---but the morality of collectivism was abhorrent to Rand even as a young girl.
Rand studied history at University of St. Petersburg. Although she knew she wanted to be a writer as early as age nine, she chose history because, on the one hand, she did not want to ``study, as examples, writers who bored [her] and whom [she] despised,'' and, on the other hand, history would give her the background she needed to write on the broad social issues with which she planned to deal. She graduated in 1924, only to work as a tour guide.
In 1926 she left Russia for America, never to return.
Almost immediately she set to work writing her novels. She started her first major novel We the Living in early 1930 and finished almost four years later, near the end of 1933. We the Living was not to be a success until 25 years later. Her next major novel, however, The Fountainhead, published in 1943, was to make Rand famous. By the end of 1943 she had sold the movie rights for $50,000, and by 1945, over over 100,000 copies had been sold.
The years between 1926 and 1943 were financially difficult for Rand and her husband Frank O'Connor, whom she married in 1929. An aspiring actor, Frank had difficulties finding work, so Rand had to take time away from writing and find jobs---usually reading and writing for the stage and screen---to support them financially. But they were productive years. She mastered the English language. She wrote a number of novelletes and plays, many of which are collected in The Early Ayn Rand. One play, The Night of January 16th, was a modest success on Broadway. She wrote Anthem, a novellete which would eventually become a bestseller twenty years later. She found time to master US history and politics and met such conservatives as Albert Nock, Rose Wilder Lane, and Isabel Paterson, with whom she developed a close friendship.
Before it was published, The Fountainhead was turned down by twelve publishers. The thirteenth publisher, Bobbs-Merrill, was about to reject it when the young editor who recommended the book for consideration, Archie Ogden, staked his job on The Fountainhead. When he heard the Bobbs-Merrill was about to reject the book he wired the head office: IF THIS IS NOT THE BOOK FOR YOU, THEN I AM NOT THE EDITOR FOR YOU. Ogden's wire convinced the company to buy the book.
Immediately after finishing The Fountainhead, Rand started work on her greatest novel, Atlas Shrugged. Atlas took fourteen years to complete, and was published in 1957.
More to come...