The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead

1943

The novel's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who designs modernist buildings and refuses to compromise with an architectural establishment unwilling to accept innovation....

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Philosophical fiction

752 Pages
4.4

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The novel's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who designs modernist buildings and refuses to compromise with an architectural establishment unwilling to accept innovation.

The Fountainhead is a 1943 novel by Russian-American author Ayn Rand, her first major literary success. The novel's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who designs modernist buildings and refuses to compromise with an architectural establishment unwilling to accept innovation. Roark embodies what Rand believed to be the ideal man, and his struggle reflects Rand's belief that individualism is superior to collectivism.

 

Roark is opposed by what he calls "second-handers", who value conformity over independence and integrity. These include Roark's former classmate, Peter Keating, who succeeds by following popular styles, but turns to Roark for help with design problems. Ellsworth Toohey, a socialist architecture critic who uses his influence to promote his political and social agenda, tries to destroy Roark's career. Tabloid newspaper publisher Gail Wynand seeks to shape popular opinion; he befriends Roark, then betrays him when public opinion turns in a direction he cannot control. The novel's most controversial character is Roark's lover, Dominique Francon. She believes that non-conformity has no chance of winning, so she alternates between helping Roark and working to undermine him. Feminist critics have condemned Roark and Dominique's first sexual encounter, accusing Rand of endorsing rape.

 

Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript before an editor at the Bobbs-Merrill Company risked his job to get it published. Contemporary reviewers' opinions were polarized. Some praised the novel as a powerful paean to individualism, while others thought it overlong and lacking sympathetic characters. Initial sales were slow, but the book gained a following by word of mouth and became a bestseller. More than 6.5 million copies of The Fountainhead have been sold worldwide and it has been translated into more than 20 languages. The novel attracted a new following for Rand and has enjoyed a lasting influence, especially among architects, American conservatives and right-libertarians.

 

The novel has been adapted into other media several times. An illustrated version was syndicated in newspapers in 1945. Warner Bros. produced a film version in 1949; Rand wrote the screenplay, and Gary Cooper played Roark. Critics panned the film, which did not recoup its budget; several directors and writers have considered developing a new film adaptation. In 2014, Belgian theater director Ivo van Hove created a stage adaptation, which has received mostly positive reviews.

Ayn Rand ( February 2  1905 – March 6, 1982) was a Russian-American writer and philosopher. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. Educated in Russia, she moved to the United States in 1926. She had a play produced on Broadway in

 1935 and 1936. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. In 1957, Rand published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own periodicals and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982.

 

Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism and rejected altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism and statism as well as anarchism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognizing individual rights, including property rights. In art, Rand promoted romantic realism. She was sharply critical of most philosophers and philosophical traditions known to her, except for Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and classical liberals.

 

Literary critics received Rand's fiction with mixed reviews and academia generally ignored or rejected her philosophy, though academic interest has increased in recent decades. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings.She has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives.

 

Review:

Michael Billington

theguardian.com

Ivo van Hove is the most ubiquitous of modern directors. But, while it is good to find the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam paying its first visit to Manchester as part of the current festival and while Van Hove’s production displays his characteristic virtuosity, I wish all this phenomenal talent were devoted to something other than a four-hour version of Ayn Rand’s

 1943 novel, which has become the bible of the American right.

 

Rand’s book is a hymn to “rational selfishness” and rugged individualism as embodied in Howard Roark, a modernist architect of genius at odds with a culture that worships compromise, mediocrity and, in public buildings, a fake classicism. What skews the story, including this faithful dramatisation, is the loaded nature of the argument. Rand clearly endorses Roark’s view that “no man can live for another”. The trouble is that the advocate of democratic equality in the story, Ellsworth M Toohey, is a columnist with a pathological power-lust. The book’s sexual politics also leave one feeling decidedly queasy since Roark’s lover, Dominique, is obsessed by him after he has shown his mastery by taking “shameful, contemptuous possession of her”.

Van Hove and his designer, Jan Versweyveld, stage this nonsense with typical elan. Above all, the production achieves something very rare: it shows work actually being done. We are confronted by a gigantic architect’s office and overhead cameras record every stroke of the pen by Ramsey Nasr’s Roark, who does a highly plausible sketch of a Frank Lloyd Wright-style building growing organically out of a cliff-top. The sex scenes are also rendered with startling intimacy and it is greatly to the credit of Halina Reijn that she invests Dominique with a fire and spirit I didn’t detect in the book. Hans Kesting plays a newspaper tycoon, who clearly owes something to Welles’s Citizen Kane, with a bullish single-mindedness, and there is assured support from Bart Slegers as the insidious columnist and from Aus Greidanus Jr as an architectural parasite.

 

The staging is constantly inventive and, through Tal Yarden’s video, at one point captures the sensational collapse of a social housing project. It’s just a shame all this energy wasn’t devoted to something more profound than Rand’s overheated polemic.

 

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