Sunday, January 24, 2016

How Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ got its title

“The most brilliant inspiration for a title of mine is Frank’s suggestion of Atlas Shrugged, which is almost a mystery to me. I do not know how he made that integration, but it is brilliant, because it names in two words the essence of the book. When I asked him how he came up with the title, he could not explain it. It was purely inspirational; titles usually occur that way.

“Atlas Shrugged was not my original title for the book, and it was a big regret in my life that I could not use my original title, which was ‘The Strike’. As I wrote the book, however, I realised ‘The Strike’ gave away too much. But the drama behind that title was this: I first conceived of the book shortly after the publication of The Fountainhead. This was in the heyday of the New Deal, when strikes were fashionable and they were all by the Left. Today, they are passé—taken for granted. If you see pickets, you take them as part of daily life. We have completely mixed economy, so each pressure group uses means of that type to gain something. But in those days it was a collectivist, definitely a leftist phenomena. At the time, I thought that there would a certain drama in having a novel with that title by me, who after The Fountainhead was well known as a “reactionary.” I was being slightly subjective in that I was counting on the reputation of my previous novel. The change in the title is actually a monument to how long it took me to write the book. If the novel had been published within the first five years, ‘The Strike’ might have been all right. But from the perspective of the ages, it would have been dated, and it would not be a good title even now. But the main consideration was that ‘The Strike’ gave away too much.

“I did not change the title to ‘Atlas Shrugged’ until about four years after Frank suggested it…. I weighed the choice carefully, but each time I considered the issue, its appropriateness and enormous condensation made me conclude that there was no better title for the book. [Atlas Shrugged] names everything and gives away nothing.” ~ Ayn Rand

(Source: ‘The Art of Nonfiction’ by Ayn Rand; Chapter: ‘Selecting a Title; Page-169-170)

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