This paper hypothesizes that a little-known, early text by Ayn Rand foreshadowed the esthetic principles and tropes of her later work, including books written nearly fifty years later.
The text in question is a 41-page booklet, “Gollivud: Amerikanskii Kino-Gorod”; it appeared in 1926 in a series published by “Kinopechat’” (Moscow/Leningrad). The topics included directors, actors, screenwriters, designers, cameramen, and composers. The author, identified as “A. Rozenbaum,” later became famous, under the pseudonym “Ayn Rand.” By the time of the publication of “Gollivud,” the writer, age 21, had left Russia, never to return, and never again to write in the Russian language. By 1927, she was, in effect, living her subject: she was working as a junior scenarist in Hollywood, the American city of movies.
Over the following decades, she wrote fiction (including several best-sellers), films, and philosophical non-fiction. There is a growing body of scholarship dealing with her work—with the exception of this text. “Gollivud” was not identified as hers until the late 1990s, and has not undergone any scholarly investigation. The current paper will be the first examination of this early work, in the double context of the writer’s past (her studies at St. Petersburg University and the State Institute of Cinematography) and her future (the books she was to write in the five decades that followed).
To a remarkable extent, “Gollivud” appears to foreshadow her later writing. The esthetic principles and preferences of this early text are found as well in the writing of her maturity. She comments, approvingly, that Cecil B. DeMille is “dalek ot naturalizma,” and that his films are often “nepravdopodobny, s tochki zreniia vernogo izobrazheniia byta, no zato porazhaiut svoeobraznoi khudozhestvennoi pravdoi, tipichnym de-Millevskim bleskom” (Rand, Russian Writings, 54). Her own esthetic—as articulated in such essays as “What Is Romanticism?” (1969) and “The Goal of My Writing”(1963) (in Rand, The Romantic Manifesto)—was similarly, and explicitly, anti-naturalistic.
Some aspects of the style of “Gollivud,” moreover, are characteristic of her mature style—which is especially surprising given that “Gollivud” was written in Russian and all later writing was in English. A biological metaphor for economics—i.e., the image of a network of arteries (Russian Writings, 49)—appears first in “Gollivud,” and later in her Broadway play (Night of January 16th, 1935) and her last novel (Atlas Shrugged, 1957). The dramatic openings of several chapters—startling assertions followed by corroboration—were typical of her essays, including several in her final collection, Philosophy: Who Needs It (1982). These and other aspects will serve to show that in “Gollivud,” the child (A. Rozenbaum) was the mother of the woman (Ayn Rand).
Rand, Ayn. The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature. Revised edition. New York: Signet, 1975.
_____. Russian Writings on Hollywood. Edited by Michael S. Berliner. Marina del Rey: ARI Press, 1999.