Barbara Branden died last week in her 85th year.
A writer with a devoted following, Ms. Branden published many articles over the years — on politics, economics, literature, film, methods of clear thinking, smoking and other subjects — and was a popular public speaker, impressing audiences with what Stephen Cox calls her “charm and personal persuasiveness.” But she was best known for her acclaimed 1986 biography The Passion of Ayn Rand. The book was recently published in a Kindle ebook edition, and Barbara emailed an enthusiastic announcement to friends and colleagues.
Passion tells the story of the famous novelist and philosopher (1905–1982) whose novel Atlas Shrugged has been getting even more attention in recent years — thanks to cinematic adaptations and, not least, parallels between Rand’s dystopian tale and political horrors of the present era.
Ms. Branden (then Weidman) approached the Russian émigré as an enthusiastic admirer of the elder author’s second novel, The Fountainhead. She quickly became Rand’s close friend, an integral part of a tumultuous inner circle. She co-wrote an early biographical treatment, Who Is Ayn Rand?, in 1962, and maintained close business and personal ties until a traumatic parting of the ways six years later over a love triangle — or, more properly, rectangle.
No wonder, then, that Barbara said that for many years she had been unsure that she could tackle such a project objectively. Only when she felt that she had come to terms with her tumultuous years with Rand (she met her mentor only once after their break) did she write the book that only she could write.
An admirable thing, to rise above bitterness.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.