Barbara Branden, RIP

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 remain.

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 Capitalismand remained a friend of Reason magazine and the Reason Foundation til the end.

Her friend Jim Peron provides an obituary at Huffington Post.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Her friend Jim Peron provides an obituary at Huffington Post.

    I bet the comments on that are going to be intelligent and insightful.

  • RishJoMo||

    Sounds like some serious business. EWo

    www.Anon-Go.tk

  • MattJ||

    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.

    Huh?

  • Medical Physics Guy||

    Barbara Branden wrote a terrific biography of Ayn Rand. It did balanced justice to a complex, difficult genius in a way that no one else seems to have come close to, before or since.

    She was a class act who never lost her horse sense or toed anyone's line. This allowed her to write such a nuanced, human book. It also never stopped sending members of the Objectivist community around the bend. Weird, Orwellian doublethink revionisms, that cast Barbara as some sort of psychologically damaged conspirator, and Ayn and/or Nathaniel as innocent victims, never seemed to stop appearing, well into the social media era. She couldn't stand the strange immature behavior of so many in the Objectivist community, all the way to the top, and was always willing to speak up about it. At the same time she generously regaled young admirers of Rand with fascinating personal anecdotes only she knew. The IOS did a good turn integrating her into their community.

    She did indeed stay close to Nathaniel which was another tribute to her ability to look past partisan divides. I am told they attended opening night of the Atlas Shrugged movie together and, even if an imperfect movie, were overjoyed to finally see it on the screen.

    Rest in peace Barbara, I enjoyed the times we met.

  • DJK||

    I'm also a fan of her former husband, Nathaniel Branden. He had a similar take on the Objectivist movement. He spent a lifetime developing the theory of psychology that the Objectivist movement (and no one more than Rand herself) was missing.

  • DJK||

    Granted, he had some strange views - promoting Rolfing, for instance. Still, on the psychology, he was fantastic.

  • DJK||

    Btw, Medical Physics Guy, where do you do your medical physics? I did my PhD in physics, working on NMR/MRI development. Medical physics sounds like an interesting field to get into and I'm looking for contacts in the field.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement