At the Crossroads
by Justin Raimondo
“No one is free save Jove.”
Up until now, Ayn Rand hasn’t had a biographer worthy of the name: only the memoirs of embittered ex-followers, or hagiographies written by devotees. Anne Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made remedies that lack. It’s the first serious attempt to get behind the ideologue and catch a glimpse of the woman. Not that there aren’t a few problems . . .
Born in Russia in 1905, Rand, the middle daughter of a well-to-do pharmacist, was swept up in the turmoil of the Bolshevik Revolution, and one of the persistent themes of Anne Heller’s book is that this was the formative influence on her life and the development of her philosophy. While early experiences can have an outsized impact, Heller overplays this angle. For example, she tries to make the point that Rand’s Jewish heritage made her an outsider in Russia, and that because pogroms were sweeping the country as she was enduring her difficult girlhood, her reaction to rampant Russian antisemitism was the genesis of her philosophical outlook and literary method, which elevated outsiders to the status of heroes. Yet Rand never said a word about such struggles, and the historical record tends to contradict Heller:...