“Never trust a woman who wears mauve, whatever her age may be, …It always means that they have a history.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
I read this book as an academic exercise because I was curious. It is one of those books that seems to generate a lot of controversy.
Ayn Rand’s family were Russian Jews who suffered the loss of their business after the Oktober Revolution. I write this brief thumbnail sketch because, like all authors, Ayn Rand is a product of her experiences – and it has clearly informed her thinking.
Atlas Shrugged is supposed to be a dystopian novel about a world on the verge of economic collapse. As far as I’m concerned, it misses dystopian and descends into absurd fiction. I would go so far as to say farcical.
Her writing lacks any sort of finesse or nuance, it’s simplistic and crude in the extreme with space to drive a tank through the holes in her logic. One example is a comment made by one of the ‘good guys’ (for which read espousing Rand’s own view) during the course of the story. He asserts that the USA “was the only country in history where wealth was not acquired by looting” – a laughably naïve statement which almost made me choke. (the American Indian population who were murdered and had their land stolen by white settlers would disagree – not to mention those African people kidnapped from their homes so they and their descendants could be brutalised and forced into slavery). This is just one example of her selective blindness.
Her characters are caricatures. All Communists are bad: venal, corrupt and hypocritical (in fact not communist at all) whilst all the business people (or Capitalists) are good: rational, principled and put-upon by the mechanism of the state to provide for those too feckless to provide for themselves. Clearly, there are people who are like this – but human beings are rarely so one-dimensional as they are portrayed by Rand.
True, there are some valuable nuggets buried in the text: individual responsibility is good, science should not be used as a political football, and a society built on an extreme political ideology which takes no account of the realities of the situation is a *really* bad idea – but there are far more accessible writers out there which will make these and many other worthy points in a more mature, entertaining and far less turgid fashion. It’s a shame because where she is describing how the lives of ordinary people are being disrupted by spectacular economic mismanagement and describing the resulting slow decline of an entire society, the book is interesting and engaging. Unfortunately, this is the minority rather than the norm – an awful lot of the book is devoted to the higher eschelons of society spouting their own personal philosophy and contemplating their navels.
I’m only glad I didn’t pay for the book (downloaded a free pdf from the web). Shame about the time I wasted reading it. I suggest you don’t bother.
Added 9th June 2019