Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, as a novel has had mixed luck with me. First time i picked it up, few pages was all it took, to decide i wont read it :-)
But my buddies persisted and i decided to give it a try and man, was i a lost soul for the better part of two weeks. While i read the book, it was one of the most addictive books i've ever read - but it pushed me further into depression. The small print and the size of the book made a fast-reader like me, crawl like a road-roller racing against time, prolonging the depression.
The story is about 'the ideal man', Howard Roark - an architect, with modernistic ideas - a man, who does not know how to emote, who does not feel anger, happiness, but just lives on. He wants all his work to be purely his. Not a pencil stroke of dilution from his original construction plans. He does not care about the money, nor the reputation involved - it is either his way or highway.
Peter Keating, is the embodiment of successful men by corporate standards. He manipulates everyone in his way to get to the top. He gives up some many things he loves - his love-interest, his passion for painting and, his morals - to reach the top. Only to be controlled by Ellsworth Toohey.
Ellsworth Toohey, a critic, reviewer, is manipulator par-excellence. He manages to control a vast majority of the population with his socio-religious-communist view, preaching self-sacrifice, altruism and use that card to get his needs satisfied. He cultivates collectivism - cult by volume. He attempts to steer the world in the direction he wants via the masses a.k.a his followers.
Dominique Francon, is a beautiful woman (apparently - 'heriones better be beautiful', is a theme that has been adopted since time immemorial :P) - who is potrayed as the female equivalent of Roark. She displays very little emotion. She and Roark speak without speaking. She rarely permits herself to indulge in the emotion that a normal woman is expected to.
Gail Wynand, a media mogul - controls everything via the ever-powerful media. He holds a vast empire of magazines, real estate and commands enough control within the powers-that-be to let life-of-the-country run, the way he wants. He is the ruthless, merciless, amoral, rich business magnate.
Story in a nut-shell - Roark stays at Keating's place, from where both go to the same architecture school. Roark is expelled, for refusing to do things the conventional-way. He insists on modernism in his work - while the school would have none of it.
Apparently, not just the school - but the world. His work fails miserably, building after building, contract after contract. Keating, the topper, takes the help of Roark, every single time, and is supremely successful in his career. He is backed by the likes of Toohey and Dominique - both writing for Wynand publications. Along the way, Keating meets Dominique, who also happens to be the daughter of the owner of the company he works for - decides that marrying her would mean control of the entire company.
Dominique meets Roark, and they fall in 'love' - if it can be called that !. Toohey decides to prevent Roark's success at any cost - since he believes in collectivism. Dominique agrees to the strategy because, Roark's work is too good to be let appreciated by the masses (!!). Dominique marries Keating to get him the success, that is supposed to bring Roark down (so that masses dont get to appreciate Roark's work !). Subsequently, Toohey decides, he will throw spanner in the life of Keating by, introducing Dominique to Wynand.
Wynand asks for Dominique's hand in marriage and succeeds. He falls madly in love with her. He discovers Roark, and immediately adores him as his hero. Slowly but surely, Roark starts getting more attention, albeit, not publicly endorsed by Wynand. Toohey does not like the developments. He arranges for Keating to be de-throned and installs some of his yes-men at the helm. Toohey also builds up worker's union against Wynand publications.
Keating now almost a pauper, needs a project desperately to redeem his lost status. He approaches Roark for help - and Roark agrees to help on one-condition - 'Keating would have to make sure, his design is accepted and implemented as is'. Keating accepts the condition and takes Roark's help. Toohey arranges for dilution of the design via more architects and the modified building is up and running before Roark comes to know of it.
Roark, not happy with the development (flaw in his character potrayal ?) - blasts the building and surrenders himself to the cops. Wynand, for the first time, comes out in support of Roark - all his people revolt against him. Public stop reading his magazine, he loses support, money - everything in trying to support Roark. Dominique publicises sleeping with Roark, Wynand unwillingly divorces her, his publications character assasinate Dominique - and he builds back his empire.
Roark delivers a climactic lecture, as is the wont of heroes, and gets acquitted the moment he stops his lecture. Toohey is fired, Roark marries Dominique, and everyone lives happily ever after.
phew - the nut-shell is not very small apparently ;) - the one reason, i chose to explain the story is, if it takes so long to write, it needs much more time to read :-D
I liked the development of characters and situation -not the narrative so much. The story ends highly unlike what has been preached through the book. The philosophy is cool - 'The need of the individual comes before the need of society' :-)
Verdict - needs patience, needs stamina, needs perseverance - to complete this book -Not recommended for light reading.
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