Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Fountainhead was a surprise popular success that catapulted Ayn (pronounced to rhyme with “mine”) Rand to fame. Rand had been born Alice Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905, to an affluent and assimilated Jewish family. Early in her life, she rebelled against all religion, at age fourteen declaring herself an atheist. She was even more vehemently anti-Communist. In 1926, after her graduation from the University of Petrograd, she managed to leave the Soviet Union for the United States. She worked in Hollywood at a wide range of odd jobs before becoming a screenwriter. She wrote a play that under the title Night of January 16th opened on Broadway in 1935 for a successful half-year’s run. Her first novel, We the Living (1936), was a grim portrayal of the stultifying effects of the Soviet system upon the individual. Her second, Anthem, was a brief parable indicting a collectivist society dominated by a good-of-the-group ideology; it was published in Great Britain in 1938 but could not find an American publisher until 1953.

Rand appears to have begun work on The Fountainhead in 1934 in reaction against what she saw as the collectivist direction in which the New Deal was taking the United States. After she decided to make the hero, Howard Roark, an architect, she undertook intensive study of the field; she even worked, without pay, as a typist in the office of a prominent New York architect. One publisher after another turned down the manuscript before an editor at the Indianapolis-based firm of Bobbs-Merrill took a chance on it. Although the first reviews—including those in such influential periodicals as Saturday Review of...

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