My Years with Ayn Rand

My Years with Ayn Rand

My Years with Ayn Rand

My Years with Ayn Rand


Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is one of the most influential books of the twentieth century-its popular impact ranked second only to the Bible in a major poll. Millions know Rand as one of this century's great thinkers, writers, and philosophers, yet much about the private Ayn Rand remains shrouded in mystery. Who was Ayn Rand? My Years with Ayn Rand charts the course of the clandestine, tempestuous relationship between the enigmatic author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and Nathaniel Branden-her young disciple and future pioneer of the self-esteem movement. In this book, discover the real Ayn Rand through the eyes of the man who became her soul mate and shared her passions and philosophical ideals. Their tragic and tumultuous love story began with a letter written by Branden as an admiring teenage fan and ended, more than twenty years later, with accusations of betrayal and bitter recriminations. My Years with Ayn Rand paints an unforgettable portrait of Ayn Rand-whose ideas, even today, can generate a maelstrom of controversy. Previous Praise for Nathaniel Branden "Relentlessly revealing. . . the myth of Ayn Rand gives way to a full-sized portrait in contrasting colors, appealing and appalling, potent and paradoxical. . . . it takes a special kind of nerve to write such a book."-Norman Cousins, author of Head First and The Healing Heart "Non-stop theater. All the ingredients are there: conflict, colorful characters, suspense, and a Greek inevitability of tragedy born of hubris. There's a nexus of sex nearly dizzying in its permutations."-Dale Wasserman, playwright and screenwriter, Man of La Mancha and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest "Branden plots his relationship with Rand from a psychological vantage point, with devastatingly articulate results. . . . A fascinating portrait of Rand and her disciples."-Kirkus Reviews "What a story! It's heroic, romantic, deadly, horrifying, tender-and I couldn't put it down."-George Leonard, author of The Transformation and Education and Education and Ecstasy


i met her a month before I turned twenty. She was forty-five. I was studying psychology at UCLA. She was already famous as the author of The Fountainhead and was now engaged in writing a new novel, Atlas Shrugged, which would make her still more famous—and more controversial—not only as a novelist but also as a philosopher. Our relationship lasted eighteen years, coming to an explosive parting of the ways in the summer of 1968. During the course of those eighteen years, the relationship went through many transformations; we went from student and mentor to friends to colleagues and partners to lovers—and, ultimately, to adversaries.

At the time of the break, neither she nor I (for different reasons) chose to disclose to the world its actual cause. In her case, she chose to withhold the truth even from her closest friends. But everywhere I went I was assailed with questions: “What really happened between you and Ayn Rand? What could possibly have broken you two apart? How could two people who were so close find themselves in irreconcilable conflict?” I had been the foremost exponent of her philosophy. She had described me as its most consistent embodiment. What could have happened? The questions never stopped.

Because I thought the facts were of some importance as a matter of intellectual history, I decided that I would eventually write a book about our relationship. The problem was, the project did not overly excite me. My world was the present and the future, not the past. And then, one day, in a single shift of perspective, my attitude changed. I suddenly saw that our story had all the elements of a well-constructed novel. It had a range of characters whose lives, choices, and actions were all integrated in a central story line, events that propelled the “plot” forward to the logical explosion of its climax, and a resolution that satisfied all the requirements of high drama. Seeing the story through the eyes of a dramatist ignited my enthusiasm to write it.

Although I would not begin to work on it until some years later, I first announced my intention to write the book in a lecture I gave in 1982 at the University of San Diego. Called “The Benefits and Hazards of . . .

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