Barbara Branden, the first biographer of Ayn Rand with her
penetrating and humanizing
The Passion of Ayn Rand (1986), has died at age 84.
Branden and her then-husband Nathaniel Branden were Rand’s
closest associates and friends during the years she finished
writing Atlas Shrugged and the years when the Nathaniel
Branden Institute began teaching the principles of Rand’s
Objectivism in lecture form to a wider world.
Branden’s understanding of Rand arose from her own very personal
intertwining with Rand’s life–one that came to a sad end around
the time Nathaniel told Rand he could no longer continue an affair
with her (one conducted with the knowledge of Barbara and Rand’s
husband Frank O’Connor).
Despite this strange personal entanglement, Branden still set
the standard and provided the basic context and shape of the story
of Rand that later books have approached from different angles, yet
never fundamentally contradicting or exceeding Branden’s
brilliantly crafted and, yes, passionate story of a woman who was,
as befit her philosophy, both body and mind, with all the
difficulties inherent in that condition.
Branden was a living and bracing example of how one needn’t
either blindly worship or ignore the humanity of Ayn Rand to admire
and promote her philosophy. While the very existence of a book
telling a true story of Rand the woman created great controversy
and division in the Objectivist world in the 1980s, as generations
arise who never met the woman herself, such controversies will fade
to historical ephemera. But the monument of understanding and
appreciation Branden crafted with such skill and care will
Branden remained through all her personal contretemps with Rand
an enthusiastic appreciator, and spreader, of Rand’s best message
to the world, which Branden summed up brilliantly and affectingly
in her book as this: “In Ayn’s presence, and in her work, one felt
that command: a command to function at one’s best, to be the most
that one could be, to drive oneself constantly harder, never to
disappoint one’s highest ideals.”
In her biography she painted a full and compelling picture of
the woman, and the ideas, that inspired that passion.
On a personal level, Barbara was unfailingly kind and helpful to
me above and beyond the call of interview subject duty while I was
researching my book
Radicals for Capitalism, and remained a friend of
Reason magazine and the Reason Foundation til the end.
Her friend Jim Peron
provides an obituary at
from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/12/barbara-branden-rip