Ayn Rand Tidbit:

I'm reading a review copy of Anne Heller's forthcoming biography of Ayn Rand, which so far appears to be meticulously researched and fairminded. One tidbit I'll share with Rand-watchers: Heller surmises that the the most likely source for Rand's adopted first name (Rand was born Alice Rosenbaum in Russia, Ayn Rand was the name she adopted in the U.S.) is the Hebrew word "Ayin" ("eye"). Rand's father apparently had a Russian/Hebrew/Yiddish pet name for her which started with "Ayin" and meant "bright eyes." And everyone who met Rand remarks that the first thing you noticed about her was her eyes, so it makes sense.

The Ayn Rand Institute gives a different account.

I've always like the theory that 'Ayn' is a homophone of 'ein' (= 'one') and 'Rand' is a reference to the gold currency of South Africa, hence "one gold".
9.13.2009 10:58pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Yes, this is a novel account, but Heller also claims that Rand purposely changed her name to make sure she wouldn't sound Jewish. If she had gone around telling everyone that her first name was from Hebrew, and not "Finnish," as she claimed, that would have defeated her goal.
9.13.2009 11:43pm
Off Kilter (mail):
According to Wikipedia, the South African Rand was introduced in 1961. Rosenbaum changed her name on arriving in America in 1921, I think. I believe the Branden biography says she got Rand from her Remington-Rand typewriter.
9.14.2009 1:23am
Not to be (more) pedantic, but "ayin" is the singular form. The plural is "anayim." This seems to cast doubt on Heller's story.
9.14.2009 2:40am
Though to be fair, and so pedantic I want to slap myself, the words ayin and anayim both begin with the letter ayin.
9.14.2009 2:45am
Speedwell (mail):
Oh, FC, don't go slapping yourself for being pedantic. Why do something yourself when there are so many others willing to do it for you? (kidding, heh.)
9.14.2009 7:57am
Finally, a post about something other than HRW.
9.14.2009 10:14am
At least as (and probably more) important: The controversy concerning the name of Keith Richards/Keith Richard.

Far more important: Who will play guitar for the Stones during the next tour? (I hope Ron is ready, but if not I would pick Mick Taylor, and if Mick is ill I would volunteer.)
9.14.2009 11:31am
What was it about Miss Rand's eyes one would immediately notice, I wonder? The hard, metallic glitter?
9.14.2009 4:24pm
It's possible that Rand chose a name of vague origin fully knowing that it had both a Finnish and Hebrew meaning. Her first jobs were in Hollywood, where many Jews in the film industry changed their names until the 1960s. It was common for many Jews in America to completely hide their identity if they were not observant, and a name with confusing origins helped. Although Rand was totally atheistic, there is certainly something in her writing about the search for justice and questioning what is right and moral that is very Jewish. As uncomfortable as it may be for Jewish progressives, she has much in common with them. Choosing a quasi-Hebrew first name was perhaps a way for her not to completely abandon her identity.
9.14.2009 6:09pm

there is certainly something in her writing about the search for justice and questioning what is right and moral that is very Jewish

I have not observed those traits to be associated with any particular religious affiliation, or lack of religious affiliation. I believe it would be just as reasonable to write:

Although the author was totally Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Buddhist/Hindu/Scientologist, there is something about the author's writing about the search for justice and questioning what is right and moral that is very atheistic.

Or, to make the Mad Lib exercise even broader, start plugging in denominations.
9.14.2009 10:41pm
kurt9 (mail):
Barbara Brandon's "The Passion of Ayn Rand" is also an excellent biography of Ayn Rand. It was published in 1986 and can be found on Amazon.
9.15.2009 2:24pm
Nicholas Provenzo:
James Valiant's "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics" more or less demolishes the idea that Barbara Brandon's "The Passion of Ayn Rand" should even be considered a biography. Bad naturalist fiction, yes, but biography, no.
9.15.2009 9:48pm

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