Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ayn Rand vs. Ethel Voynich - Different Messages for Different Nations

Ethel Lillian Voynich (maiden name Boole) (born May 11, 1864, County Cork, Ireland - died July 27, 1960, New York City). E. L. Voynich's father - George Boole - is famous for Boolean algebra, which is the basis of computer calculations. Married Wilfrid Michael Voynich, of Poland; however, she was also possibly romantically involved with Sigmund Rosenbaum aka Sidney Reilly ... upon whom The Gadfly may be based (he apparently made this claim, she never verified this). It is known that Ian Fleming based his James Bond character upon Mr. Reilly.

E. L. Voynich is virtually unknown in the US or UK; however, in the former USSR and People's Republic of China, she is most famous for her novel The Gadfly, first published in 1897. This novel is very popular in Russia and the former USSR and a top best seller. In fact, in these countries she is considered among the West's greatest writers ... mentioned in the same breath as Shakespeare or Charles Dickens. The book was compulsory reading in schools, and was seen as ideologically useful in communist nations. By the time of Voynich's death The Gadfly had sold an estimated 2,500,000 copies in the Soviet Union. It has been made into movies in communist nations several times, perhaps most famously in Aleksandr Fajntsimmer's "Ovod" (1955).

The novel is about the struggles of Arthur Burton (aka "The Gadfly"), philosophy student, member of the Youth Movement, and international revolutionary in Italy during the 1840s and Austrian dominance of that country. During this time of revolts and uprisings, the story centers on the Gadfly and his nemesis Padre Montanelli. The tragic (and ultimately unfulfilled) relationship between Arthur and his love Gemma is simultaneously part of the story. It is a novel of faith, revolution, romance, and heroism ... maybe even martyrdom ... and makes the case sublimation of the individual, even if the result is a short life - lived pursuing selfless causes and ambitions.

"Then am I a happy fly, if I live or if I die"

Ayn Rand, born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum (born February 2 [O.S. January 20] 1905 St. Petersburg, Russia - died– March 6, 1982, New York City). Ms. Rand is just as well known in the US as Ms. Voynich is unknown. Conversely, Ayn Rand is unknown in Russia, the former USSR states, and communist nations. Likely, this is for very good reason; the irony of these two women authors origins, writings, and spheres of popularity is certainly not lost on me.

Ayn Rands novels include We the Living, Anthem, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and The Virtue of Selfishness. Her philosophy of Objectivism emphasized concepts of individualism, rational self-interest, and ultimately - capitalism. The proper morale purpose of life is pursuing one's own happiness. Is this hedonism? Whoo hoo! Let the pah-tay begin!

Unfortunately no, Ms. Rand is much too serious and puritanical for happiness to be found in wanton debauchery. Instead, it must be found in power, influence, and capital. Given that she was Jewish, I can just imagine what a Russian might say ...

As cited in Wikipedia she believed that man must choose his values and actions by reason; that the individual has a right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing self to others nor others to self; and that no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force, or impose ideas on others by physical force.
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. - Ayn Rand


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