Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: The Fountainhead: Ayn Rand

This famous novel The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, an important Russian American intellectual is one of the few examples of twentieth century Balzac novel in the strictest sense of the term. Not only because it is the story of a man the protagonist, architect Howard Roark that is driven by a unique passion and almost exclusively, that for his art, which led him to confront without fear or compromise the difficulties, the poverty, unpopularity, the hostility of colleagues and critics.

Not only because, then, it is a character, immeasurable, which as those of Balzac is, so to say, larger than the real, and because, in a sense, are just as boundless the other characters, at least those main well, the bad, the critic Ellsworth Toohey, it is really bad, contemptible, fanatical, to an extent that is hard to find in reality, the loser, the loser, Peter Keating, so is losing, so weak, so cowardly as to make it a kind of iconic figure, and in some ways even two characters complicated and not fully resolved, although most vital, as Gail Wynand and Dominique Francon, are essentially also an incarnation of a unique passion: love to be pursued also in cost of self-destruction in the first case, and admiration for the integrity and honesty of others with the inability to forgive their weaknesses, in the second case.

Not only because it's a really well-rounded portrait of a world - that of the rich New York society and intellectual professions in America in the early forties of the twentieth century - represented in all its facets, even and especially in the most minute detail, with a competence and impressive skills economic and structural constraints of each order of architecture there are illustration for word for word, as well as the meaning and symptoms of the rise or decline of the social, etc.

But also, and perhaps above all, because all the representation is derived from a real philosophy, which imposes unity and ideological coherence to a vast and heterogeneous materials: a philosophy exposed by Ayn Rand in other works highly individualistic, which made the necessary distinctions and taking into account the temporal and cultural distance, it is certainly very different from that of the same Balzac.

It is not, of course, a masterpiece, but still a beautiful novel, rich, interesting and, at times, even moving. It is hard to remain indifferent to the reaction of Roark when the extent of the collapse of Keating's finally becomes evident When Keating was gone, Roark leaned back against the door, closing his eyes. He felt bad for mercy had never heard this before not when Henry Cameron had collapsed in the office at his feet, not when he saw Steven Mallory sobbing on a bed in front of him. Those moments were clean. But this was pity this complete awareness of a man without value or hope, this sense of finality, of the impossibility of redemption.

There was shame in this feeling - his own shame, of having to pronounce such a judgment on a man, having to learn an emotion that did not contain an ounce of respect. This is a pity, he thought, and then he raised his head in wonder. He thought that there must be something terribly wrong with a world in which this monstrous feeling is called a virtue although I hasten to add that, although the writer does not call this feeling pity, both characters, ie both Roark is Dominique, often try and noble human feeling which is normally called that, and not feel ashamed at all. Human relations, at least among the characters positive Roark, Cameron, Dominique, Wynand, Steve Mallory, the father of Mike and Dominique, are intense and treated effectively and modest.

Even the great love story that is at the center of the story the one between Roark and Dominique, it is not too far from the emotional world of Balzac just think of the lily in the valley to notice the similarities.

The paradoxes manifest itself as hatred, the union that leads to the separation, the faithfulness that is expressed in the betrayal, honesty, and innocence that disguise themselves as perversion and violence. The love story begins with the fact that in all respects is a rape but also that according to the author is implicit. The sexual act cannot be eliminated. The novel is a result of the sensitivity of the twentieth century, but none of this would have been incomprehensible to a reader of Balzac. It is so good to see a novel and surprisingly almost defiantly outdated.

Besides, even the strong narrative structure the division into four parts, each named after one of the main characters and where each of them is particularly thorough, and the two marriages and the two processes are closely intertwined and mark the whole story, the number and variety of characters, the attention to their environment and their daily means of subsistence, make it a novel rather atypical in the context of twentieth-century literature, also American.

The dialogue, however, sometimes ends up being a bit intellectual and tiring. It happens quite often that not only Roark and Dominique, for whom it may also be understandable but also other characters, continue to say I'm sure you understand or I already know what you want me to say, but I want you to tell me. It is also founded on a conception of human relationships and not just the relationship between the sexes.

A surprising aggressiveness seems that the characters are constantly worried about not giving, not to surrender, and not to fall down. All these words occur frequently in the writings of the author before the interlocutor.

Finally, the style is often heavy and sometimes is pleased to find trivial some characters in particular Toohey, but partly also Wynand probably would have earned if they had been a bit less verbose. After all, it would be understandable even without us explain themselves at every turn what they intend to do and how they intend to it and I admit that, I find it unconscionable, incredible and totally absurd, not so much the harangue of Roark in the second process which if nothing else is a fine piece of oratory, though certainly not forensic, but the fact that a jury whatever he could acquit on the basis of that speech. But I understand that a book like this and this is the real difference with the novels of Balzac can not finir good.

Title: The Fountainhead | Author: Ayn Rand | ISBN: 9780451191151 | Publisher: New American Library | Category: Fiction | Published: 1943 | Format: Paperback | Pages: 704