Ayn Rand saw heroes and bruises – with Floor Rusman and Guus Valk

Ayn Rand saw heroes and bruises – with Floor Rusman and Guus Valk

In Ayn Rand’s universe, there is no room for shades of gray. She divided humanity into two types: brilliant heroes with successful companies (who also happen to make the tastiest hamburgers and can fly airplanes) and sickly idiots, with nauseating names such as Balph Eubank or Wesley Mouch.

This week we read Atlas Shrugged, a book set in a dystopian America. “As a literary work it fails on all levels,” said this week’s guest, NRC columnist Floor Rusman, who graduated on Rand’s work. Guus Valk, former America correspondent and current editor-in-chief in The Hague, is also not happy about it. The characters are flat and it is “an unnecessarily thick book full of preachy texts”. Still, they found Atlas Shrugged a fascinating book to read. “Rand gives selfishness a moral sauce.”

Since its publication in 1957, more than 10 million copies of this book have been sold. Ayn Rand’s work mainly appeals to right-wing Americans. Rand believed that people should operate rationally and egocentrically, with their own happiness as the goal in life. With her philosophy, Objectivism, she wanted to change the world.

She didn’t blink an eye, wore dollar sign necklaces and founded a cult. Who was Ayn Rand, a Russian who became the capitalist figurehead of conservative America? What has her work caused in America and Europe, and what is it like to read Atlas Shrugged, “a political pamphlet in the form of a novel”, today?

This is the eighth installment of a nine-part series about books that changed the world.

Eva Peek
Floor Rusman & Guus Valk
Editing & editing:
Jeanne Geerken
Everett Collection