Monday, November 28, 2005


IN 1943, during the height of the Second World War, the philosopher Ayn
Rand wrote a book that would mark a milestone in the literary world.
The book was The Fountainhead, which in later years allegedly became the
"bible" of architects the world over.
In Fountainhead, Rand expounded her now-famous treatise of objectivism.
It promotes the cause of individualism in a world torn asunder by greed,
moral decline and crumbling social standards.
From the debris of human avarice and lustful longings strode her
protagonist, Howard Roark. He's the epitome of Rand's Utopian man. Roark
is an architectural genius who cannot be bribed, cannot be cowed and
absolutely cannot be suppressed or oppressed.
In his quiet strength, Roark was to rise from the ground on which he
seemingly had been trampled to the heights yet unreached by men in the
same profession.
Personally, the book had a powerful and lingering influence in my life.
I read the book when I was on the threshold of adulthood about a quarter
of century ago. At that time, my inchoate philosophies of life were still
in their formative stage. Ayn Rand therefore became larger than life to
me. I couldn't imagine, at that age, that an individual could elevate
philosophy to such an exciting level. It was exhilarating, profound and
well thought-out. The bottom line was an enduring admiration for an author
with whom I only had a fleeting familiarity.
The Fountainhead is undoubtedly one of the finest novels of its time and
continues to have wide following, especially in America. It is stirring
without being too forceful, stimulating without being overbearing, and
profound without cryptic. If there are two words to describe this book,
they are "intellectually stimulating".
In the midst of a powerful and suspenseful story, love blazes between
Roark and Dominique Francon, a beautiful newspaper columnist.
As only Rand would have spun it, the tale careens around the tight plot
with Dominique determined to ruin Roark's career. But a love as strong as
theirs cannot be derailed, conquered or forgotten.
The Fountainhead has several characters of varying strengths; among
these is Ellsworth Toohey, a humanitarian of some repute.
He plays a prominent role in Roark's rise from the ashes, principally
from the lowly station of a mine labourer to the pinnacle of architectural
In some ways, The Fountainhead re-arranged my life's priorities. It
taught me to hold on fast to my principles despite the overwhelming odds
that were sometimes not in my favour.
During those times when I felt the temptation of "taking the easy way
out", the memory of a character like Howard Roark strengthened my resolve
to march to the bitter end.
There's much satisfaction in emulating a persona like Howard Roark.
Nothing rattles him. He's like a rock in a hard place. Heck, he's both.
Been there, done that and back home safe. That's what they say.
The Fountainhead is for anybody who needs reassurance that an individual
is capable to performing great deeds, only if he has unshakeable belief in
For 60 years, the shadow of Howard Roark has loomed large over sections
of our thinking society.
Ayn Rand's philosophy lives on in some of us and is practised by many
unknown and unnamed individuals.
Objectivism is a philosophy and belief that, if practised right and
lived according to its core principles, can lift human endeavours to mind-
boggling heights - even in the 21st century.

No comments: