Anti-communist driven by a cause

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The Independent Online
Ayn Rand was born Alisia Rozenbaum in St Petersburg in 1905, the eldest of three children of a Jewish chemist shop owner. She changed her name when she arrived in the United States, on a visitor's visa, but intent on staying, in 1926. Ayn she took from a Finnish writer; Rand from the brand name on her prized typewriter.

Driven by the certainty that she would become a famous writer, she struggled as a junior Hollywood scriptwriter, before earning controversial fame in 1936 with her first novel, We the Living, about Soviet Russia. She moved to New York, her adopted home, publishing The Fountainhead, about the struggles of an unconventional American architect in 1943, and her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, in 1957.

She was married for 50 years to Frank O'Connor, an unsuccessful actor and painter, a marriage complicated - but not ended - by her 18-year affair with Nathaniel Branden, a disciple 25 years her junior.

A fierce anti-Communist from the age of 12, when she witnessed the first shots of the Russian revolution, she died in 1982 - too early to see the extent of her influence or the end of the system she despised.