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> It sounds as if you might believe that they were not naturally eager. Is that your view?

No.

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Jennifer, thank you for supplying some useful context, such as how non-transparent heirs and literary executors have traditionally been.

I don't know if this is a topic either you or Anne Heller give a great deal of emphasis to, but for me, the most fascinating -and useful- single aspect of Ayn Rand is not the purely personal story or the courage of resisting and overcoming, but the *intellectual development story*. The stories of her escape from Russia, De Mille and Hollywood, publisher rejections, the affair, etc. have been told before. But how she made herself into Ayn Rand, how she bootstrapped herself, how she made herself into a major intellectual force, a novelist with millions of fans? I've learned a lot less on this, to me, transcendently important topic.

Millions have escaped oppression and been motivated to fight it, but didn't become major thinkers and writers. Especially fully mastering a language not one's first language. The emergence of a powerful and original mind is rarer than a supernova. Millions of refugees have had it as their single-minded mission to fight the system or systems they escaped from. What makes one person have the kind or level of mind Rand did when so many do not? Can we learn from this? Improve our education, child-rearing, counseling, development?

How did it happen? What were her methods and steps? How and why did she shake off the attraction of Nietzscheanism? Edison said "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." If unstinting time and effot are key, that would be useful to know. Too often people think you are either born a genius or not, were born with talent or various kinds, that you either have the math gene or not, etc. She did not seem so sharp or precise in her earlier writings. He mind seems to have grown - amazingly. Barbara Branden made a brief remark on this discussion board once that Rand was the hardest working person she had ever met. It caused sort of an Aha! moment in my mind.

For some reason, I didn't follow up on that at the time, but I'd like to know the details - the who, what, why, when, where of this effort. There's obviously a great hidden, perhaps even book-length, story here.

Some clues come (as to methods, perhaps more than effort) in her two books on writing - the art of non-fiction and the art of fiction. I was allowed to hear the undedited, unexpurgated tapes years ago. (I've heard the tapes that were sold of one of the books and they were *much shorter*, as I recall.) And the FW and NFW books contain only a portion of the fascinating material, asides, tangents, etc. that were on those orignal, unedited, unshortened tapes.

When I heard the later tapes and read the books, I had the double feeling of there is good stuff here and a sense of tragic loss for what was missing. And the insight into how her mind works. Here's a single example: One time she makes an informal, loose comment to the writing group [this is an approximate quote from memory], "Well, you all know the standard Objectivist bromides, but let's look at this..." She was able to have a sense of humor about her own principles or see that this group of people might sometimes just be repeating them as a platitude without further mental work. I had never seen that side of her in the -public- Ayn Rand -- I don't quite know how to put it: stepping back from her own principles in a certain way, not denying them but not having the group treat them as scripture in a certain context.

Phil,

Terrific post! It's true that there is a compelling untold story involved with Rand's work ethic and with her methods. Rand was simultaneously very active productively and an assiduous editor and her own harshest critic. Without getting too much into philosophical and creative method which I hope to write about at some later date, I think that it is important to have information turns in your work and have them as quickly as possible without losing quality. If people develop the habit of editing and critiquing their own work without squelching themselves, they will have accomplished something truly rare indeed.

Jim

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Phil: " Barbara Branden made a brief remark on this discussion board once that Rand was the hardest working person she had ever met. It caused sort of an Aha! moment in my mind.

"For some reason, I didn't follow up on that at the time, but I'd like to know the details - the who, what, why, when, where of this effort. There's obviously a great hidden, perhaps even book-length, story here."

Phil, the story is less hidden than you appear to believe. You really should read my biography of Rand; you so often raise issues, such as this one, that I deal with. Here are some relevant excerpts pertaining to Rand's writing of Galt's speech:

"Ayn had expected that it would require two or three months to write the speech. It required two full years.

"'The organization was a major difficulty,' she said. 'And the difficulty of legalistic definition, of covering all the loopholes and all the possible objections, the arguing without sounding like it was arguing. . . . I first started writing the theoretical part of the speech beginning with metaphysics, then epistemology, then morality; that was the easiest way to do it. But then I realized, after a lot of pages, that you can't do that in fiction, you have to start with the presentation of the morality, which is the real theme of the book. I had to change the whole order, then sometimes spend weeks getting the original mental set out of my mind, then start rewriting it.'

"The work was nerve-racking. The most difficult part was the need to impose a fictional form on philosophy. 'I had to keep remembering the emotional part of the presentation,' Ayn explained, 'and to make it a rousing speech, and that kept getting in the way of the theoretical presentation. My assignment was to present the whole of my philosophy briefly and logically; to have to worry about emotions was pure hell. When I'd arrive at especially good formulations, that was a pleasure, but it was only drops-of-water-in-the-desert kind of of pleasure. Frank said it was the worst he ever saw me go through.'

"The sixthy-page sspeech was the culmination of a lifetime of thinking, a lifetime of devotion to philosophic truth, a lifetime of flogging her mind, her spirit and her body to do more and still more, to delve deeper, to work harder, to push to the limit of her endurance and beyond. Ayn suffered both physical and mental agonies in her struggle. Sometimes Frank would find her slumped over her desk as if she were unable ever to rise again; she would emerge from her study with new deep lines on her brow and her body sagging with weariness. At other times, she projected an emotional tension that was painful to see; she could not eat, or sleep, or even talk. She was reaching the limit of her endurance."

Barbara

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> Phil, the story is less hidden than you appear to believe. You really should read my biography of Rand; you so often raise issues, such as this one, that I deal with.

Barbara, you're right. I'm beginning to see that more and more.

> Here are some relevant excerpts pertaining to Rand's writing of Galt's speech...

Thank you. That is very illuminating!

> Sometimes Frank would find her slumped over her desk as if she were unable ever to rise again

I can see where the Rearden passages came from about rising up, pushing himself to exhaustion late at night at the mills, the satisfaction at the end when the first heat of Rearden Metal was poured, the loneliness of being surrounded by people (his family in one case; the intelligent and critics in the other): She was writing about herself. And with regard to drawing elements of fiction from herself: Francisco's ease and playfulness, perhaps the lightness she admired, would have liked in herself, found in her husband? Or am I psychologizing a bit too much here?

> a lifetime of flogging her mind, her spirit and her body to do more and still more, to delve deeper, to work harder, to push to the limit of her endurance and beyond. Ayn suffered both physical and mental agonies in her struggle.

If you've already covered the following in the book and don't want to repeat it, I will certainly understand,but I wonder if you have evidence or ability to hypothesize that the i) hard-workingness and ii) [a somewhat different issue] things not coming easy came only with that book, or came in years long fits and spurts? And times to "veg out" for months at a time and watch "Charlie's Angels". Did she seem to have to expend prodigious effort when she became an essayist and a philosopher in the decade that you saw her after Atlas? Or was it more, oh, that's obvious, and smooth sailing. She said the measurement-omission insight came to her very easily and readily.

Of course, Louis Pasteur, another genius, said "Chance favors only the prepared mind."

I imagine the bootstrapping effort to become a great writer in a language not one's own must have also been, if not excruciating, at least a steady, unrelenting, step by step series of assignments in reading or writing over three or four decades. Before she even met you and Nathaniel and Leonard. If I were learning a foreign language -- especially to the point of absolute mastery not just to ask how much are those cucumbers -- I would have a daily or weekly reading program and a regular writing program.

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Phil "I can see where the Rearden passages came from about rising up, pushing himself to exhaustion late at night at the mills, the satisfaction at the end when the first heat of Rearden Metal was poured, the loneliness of being surrounded by people (his family in one case; the intelligent and critics in the other): She was writing about herself. And with regard to drawing elements of fiction from herself: Francisco's ease and playfulness, perhaps the lightness she admired, would have liked in herself, found in her husband? Or am I psychologizing a bit too much here?"

You're correct that those Rearden passages were Ayn Rand; his attitude toward work was hers. And yes, Frank did have some of the lightness. the ease of Francisco. Both Francisco and Frank were at home in their bodies -- comfortable in their own skin -- in a way Ayn never was.

I do cover, in some detail, the change over the years in the difficulty of writing for her, and the reasons for the change,

You wrote: "I imagine the bootstrapping effort to become a great writer in a language not one's own must have also been, if not excruciating, at least a steady, unrelenting, step by step series of assignments in reading or writing over three or four decades. Before she even met you and Nathaniel and Leonard. If I were learning a foreign language -- especially to the point of absolute mastery not just to ask how much are those cucumbers -- I would have a daily or weekly reading program and a regular writing program."

That was not at all how she proceeded. She did not give herself "a step by step series of assignments in reading or writing" or "a daily or weekly reading program and a regular writing program." There was no time for that. America was in the midst of the Great Depression, and she was too busy trying to earn a living. What you describe would have seemed an impossible luxury. In those early years, she did read as much as she could, but her purpose was predominantly to learn about her new country and its writers. For the rest, she spoke only English (with few exceptions) and heard only English, and she did what so many immigrants who wanted o learn the language of their new country have done: she went to the movies!

I can't quite imagine how she survived the writing of We the Living, because by then she found herself thinking sometimes in English, sometime in Russian, and sometimes in French.

Barbara

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> America was in the midst of the Great Depression, and she was too busy trying to earn a living...In those early years, she did read as much as she could, but her purpose was predominantly to learn about her new country and its writers. For the rest, she spoke only English (with few exceptions) and heard only English, and she did what so many immigrants who wanted to learn the language of their new country have done: she went to the movies! [barbara]

My learning of French consisted of six years of language and literature courses in high school and college and a summer and shorter visits with 'total immersion' when I stayed with relatives in Belgium and France who spoke no English. But my French is "fluent" in the sense of carrying on an everyday conversation and being able to read in French. Even if I'd lived in France for as long as AR has in the U.S., there would have to have been *massive* extra work if I wanted to become a -master- of that non-native language the way AR was. With regard to immigrants who come to the U.S. as late as their twenties and then become lifelong English speakers, I wonder, if even among those whose lifework is with words, there are writers working and thinking in a second language who have become as articulate as she was? Right now I'm drawing a blank as to great, forceful writers of either fiction (harder) or non-fiction in English whose minds were fully developed and stocked with all sorts of high-level concepts for twenty years in another language.

Perhaps there is one very great epistemological advantage, though, for a truly focused mind. She was able to develop great precision by bringing an adult's mature mental power and rigor to each new concept and word, to recognize when a concept was unfairly loaded or another meaning was needed - as with the way schoolchildren have unthinkingly learned the word 'selfishness' very early in life with no room or maturity for a more benign or at least less loaded meaning of self-interest.

> I can't quite imagine how she survived the writing of We the Living, because by then she found herself thinking sometimes in English, sometime in Russian, and sometimes in French.

En FRANCAIS??? Mon dieu! Sacre bleu et zut alors!! Ce n'est pas possible, certainement. Why would someone who had never lived in France or spent a lot of time -ever- be thinking in French. Only after I spent a whole summer there and had had all those courses did that even -begin- to happen to me. Seulement apres un ou deux mois pendant que je ne peut pas parler - ou penser - dans une autre langue.

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> America was in the midst of the Great Depression, and she was too busy trying to earn a living...In those early years, she did read as much as she could, but her purpose was predominantly to learn about her new country and its writers. For the rest, she spoke only English (with few exceptions) and heard only English, and she did what so many immigrants who wanted to learn the language of their new country have done: she went to the movies! [barbara]

My learning of French consisted of six years of language and literature courses in high school and college and a summer and shorter visits with 'total immersion' when I stayed with relatives in Belgium and France who spoke no English. But my French is "fluent" in the sense of carrying on an everyday conversation and being able to read in French. Even if I'd lived in France for as long as AR has in the U.S., there would have to have been *massive* extra work if I wanted to become a -master- of that non-native language the way AR was. With regard to immigrants who come to the U.S. as late as their twenties and then become lifelong English speakers, I wonder, if even among those whose lifework is with words, there are writers working and thinking in a second language who have become as articulate as she was? Right now I'm drawing a blank as to great, forceful writers of either fiction (harder) or non-fiction in English whose minds were fully developed and stocked with all sorts of high-level concepts for twenty years in another language.

Perhaps there is one very great epistemological advantage, though, for a truly focused mind. She was able to develop great precision by bringing an adult's mature mental power and rigor to each new concept and word, to recognize when a concept was unfairly loaded or another meaning was needed - as with the way schoolchildren have unthinkingly learned the word 'selfishness' very early in life with no room or maturity for a more benign or at least less loaded meaning of self-interest.

> I can't quite imagine how she survived the writing of We the Living, because by then she found herself thinking sometimes in English, sometime in Russian, and sometimes in French.

En FRANCAIS??? Mon dieu! Sacre bleu et zut alors!! Ce n'est pas possible, certainement. Why would someone who had never lived in France or spent a lot of time -ever- be thinking in French. Only after I spent a whole summer there and had had all those courses did that even -begin- to happen to me. Seulement apres un ou deux mois pendant que je ne peut pas parler - ou penser - dans une autre langue.

As one would know from reading Tolstoy, Russian society was stratified, and French was the court language, with many works being in that language - Balzac, Hugo, etc. so would presume she thought in French from all the literature in that language being read [as the court language no longer was allowed to be other than Russian]...

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> French was the court language, with many works being in that language - Balzac, Hugo, etc. so would presume she thought in French from all the literature in that language being read

Great point, Robert. "Upper Classes in Russia spoke French, some even as their first language" [wikipedia]. It would seem to answer my question, as she was from an educated class. Also would make it a lot easier to learn English, going from one Latin-based (Romance) language to another heavily Latin-based language. At first glance, odd that they would speak French or read French so much, unitl one remembers that at the time in its history when Russia was trying to westernize and find a culture to imitate, France was pretty much the dominant western nation, the fountainhead of intellectuality, culture, literature, the 'philosophes' (age of reason, 18th century and into 19th, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander.)

> [on the point of being a master, great writer in a foreign language ] Joseph Conrad and Nabokov come to mind. Going in the opposite direction, Oscar Wilde wrote Salome in French.

Jeffrey, interesting examples. Conrad was Polish. I have read a couple of his works and he at least was highly fluent. Don't know if he was a master of the language epistemologically / precision-wise in the way Rand was without rereading him. Nabokov (Russian) is -considered- a great writer but, since I seldom trust the opinion of the regnant critics in the humanities or the arts to know the difference between a tent, a testicle, and a triphammer, I'd have to read N to judge for myself. (Aside: I have no desire to read Lolita to find out since what I've heard of the subject matter sounds repugnant to me.)

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Jeffrey: "Joseph Conrad and Nabokov come to mind."

Those were the two I would have mentioned. Their -- and Rand's -- mastery of a language they did not learn until they were adults is very rare, and I can't offhand think of other examples.

When writing We the Living, Rand did not feel fully in control, for several reasons: because of her language difficulty, and because she was still in the process of mastering her technique and developing her own unique style. But by the time she wrote The Fountainhead, she said she felt fully in control and fully satisfied with her means of expression; she was achieving exactly what she wanted in exactly the formn she intended.

I expect that Conrad and Nabokov, like Rand, occasionally made funny slips, however, despite their proficiency in their new language. Rand once said that Frank looked like a particular Hollywood actor, "only not as ugly" -- and she spoke of "an ungulfable bridge" -- and she had initially thought to say, in the dedication of The Fountainhead to Frank, "the least second-hand man I know." Interestingly, despite her views on humor, and her conviction that one should never laugh at oneself, she did laugh at her occasional blooper.

Barbara

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That's funny. It reminds me of my mother, whose native language is French, doing the same kind of switching. She once told my father and me that "the basement is very clamp and dammy this time of year."

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That's funny. It reminds me of my mother, whose native language is French, doing the same kind of switching. She once told my father and me that "the basement is very clamp and dammy this time of year."

Phil; It sounds like your mother made a spoonerism without knowing it.

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Phil,

Vladimir Nabokov is a somewhat different case from either Joseph Conrad or Ayn Rand, because he had a "perfectly normal trilingual childhood."

But he did have to develop a writing style in English, after publishing novels in Russian.

And why equate Nabokov with Lolita? Try something else, like Bend Sinister.

Robert Campbell

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> And why equate Nabokov with Lolita? Try something else, like Bend Sinister.

Robert, I wasn't equating him, just mentioning his most praised/best known work to me.

I have a huge stack of reading awaiting me -- fiction, drama, history, philosophy, poetry. Plus I'd like to learn Greek. You'd have to give me a reason. Is he a master of story-telling, description, suspense, comedy, style, wit, psychological insight? Does he have a good sense of life? Is he a master tragedian? Of course, if you can tell me he does all of these simultaneously :-), then I'll add him to my list.

No one can read everything, not even all of the "classics". And I'm dancing as fast as I can.

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> And why equate Nabokov with Lolita? Try something else, like Bend Sinister.

Robert, I wasn't equating him, just mentioning his most praised/best known work to me.

I have a huge stack of reading awaiting me -- fiction, drama, history, philosophy, poetry. Plus I'd like to learn Greek. You'd have to give me a reason. Is he a master of story-telling, description, suspense, comedy, style, wit, psychological insight? Does he have a good sense of life? Is he a master tragedian? Of course, if you can tell me he does all of these simultaneously :-), then I'll add him to my list.

No one can read everything, not even all of the "classics". And I'm dancing as fast as I can.

Personally, I do not think it a loss if ye never read him - there are other more worthy writers to be enjoyed over... his popularity is more from the 'in crowd' than his quality as a writer... my view...

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I'm certainly open to being influenced by the opinions of others on who to read, especially if they are backed up with some sort of detail - elaboration or examples or quotes. In the case of Rand, I her recommendations would be enough to make me add something to my TBRL, as experience has shown a large overlap between her tastes and mine. On the other hand, I've sometimes found her too dismissive, so I am less likely to dislike or find no value in the books she doesn't like (as naturalistic or having a bad sense of life). I have not read Tolstoy yet, but because he is so universally considered great and because of his influence is -definitely- on my list. So I'll be curious when the time comes to see if I find value in Anna Karenina or War and Peaches. Outside of literature, I emphatically don't share her views of Impressionism or of wreck and roll.

There was an error in each of the last two sentences. Just testing to see if anyone's reading.

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I'm certainly open to being influenced by the opinions of others on who to read, especially if they are backed up with some sort of detail - elaboration or examples or quotes. In the case of Rand, I her recommendations would be enough to make me add something to my TBRL, as experience has shown a large overlap between her tastes and mine. On the other hand, I've sometimes found her too dismissive, so I am less likely to dislike or find no value in the books she doesn't like (as naturalistic or having a bad sense of life). I have not read Tolstoy yet, but because he is so universally considered great and because of his influence is -definitely- on my list. So I'll be curious when the time comes to see if I find value in Anna Karenina or War and Peaches. Outside of literature, I emphatically don't share her views of Impressionism or of wreck and roll.

There was an error in each of the last two sentences. Just testing to see if anyone's reading.

Voina i Mir is well worth reading, as long as you are prepared to skim the sections (sometimes long ones) in which Tolstoy stops telling the story and starts lecturing on the philosophy of history or similar subjects. But it's one of the great historical novels, especially when it gets to Napoleon's invasion of Russia, with the burning of Moscow and the retreat of the Grand Armee, yet set with stunning little episodes such as the death of old Count Bezhukov, and Pierre's duel with his wife's lover.

But, rather curiously, although I've read W&P several times, I've never been motivated to read Anna Karenina or any of his shorter works.

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I've had mixed luck with Rand's literary recommendations. Most successful was Coward, and I'm forever in her debt for that. Merwin and Webster, together or separately, are entertaining, though Calumet K was not their best. Hugo is like exercise or dental work, worth the effort but not entertaining. I've started two Dostoyevskys but failed to finish either. Maybe it was the translations.

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> Hugo is like exercise or dental work, worth the effort but not entertaining. I've started two Dostoyevskys but failed to finish either. Maybe it was the translations. [Reidy]

On Hugo, it -definitely- seems to be the translations--or at least that may be enough to kill it for people. For a number of years, every time I picked up a new Hugo novel and wanted to try it again, it was always translated by Charles Wilbour. Rand translated a passage from Hunchback somewhere? and the language was crisp and lovely and pellucid. I went and got the book and the same passage stunk, paraphrasing what I think Mark Twain once said, like a week-dead mackerel in the sunlight. It would have made me hate Hugo forever....if he is going to be so long-winded, at least he ought to be clear, forceful, riveting. And he is a great writer - at least in that one translation by Rand. I've had a terrible time finding good translations of Hugo [unsuccessful so far], of the Odyssey [successful after a number of tries], and of occasional other foreign authors. A bad translation makes one too often blame the author. My guess is AR read Hugo in French and Dostoevsky in Russian.

I can only imagine how bad some of the foreign editions of Rand might be:

"I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

Italian version: "I curse my existence and I lust in proximity to it, yet I never vacation at the house of another male person, nor ask another male person to time-share."

German version: "The transcendental dialectic is eternally the square of the hypotenuse."

Gujarat version: ???

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Toilers of the Sea is a most wonderful book, I wish I knew which translation I had (my library isn't with me). Dostoyevsky was translated well by Andrew MacAndrew; there are new translations that are more plain by two people with impossible Russian names that are also good. Stay away from the 19th century translator Constance Garnett.

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Toilers of the Sea is a most wonderful book, I wish I knew which translation I had (my library isn't with me). Dostoyevsky was translated well by Andrew MacAndrew; there are new translations that are more plain by two people with impossible Russian names that are also good. Stay away from the 19th century translator Constance Garnett.

Isn't the "Toilers of the Sea" an earlier translation.

I will stay away Canstance Garnett.

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