15 Sep 2007

50th Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged

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Even today as we approach the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged on October 12, 1957, the New York Times acknowledges, Ayn Rand’s libertarian masterpiece is selling strongly.

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Dominique R. Poirier

In another post relating to Ayn Rand you once wrote: “The Establishment has never liked Ayn Rand, but her books continue to sell, (….)”

I understood you were talking about the American Establishment.

Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged is rather a recurrent subject on Never Yet Melted and what I eventually found on Wikipedia on this book had to convince me to read it, at last.

I live in France and I wondered: what about the French Establishment, then?

On yesterday evening I went to the biggest bookstore one can find around here, located in the city nearby. It’s kind of French equivalent to Border’s and it’s a store big enough to afford having a small Books-in-English-Language department. I first assumed it was the most likely place where I could find Atlas Shrugged; or order it, at least.
Alas, I wasn’t unable to find it on shelves, in English as in French neither, and so I asked for to a young saleswoman quietly working on her computer behind a counter.

–“Anne Reid,” you say?
–No, no, A-Y-N, and R-A-N-D, I spelled.
–Hmmm… No, I don’t find that name. Do you have a title? Said the girl who visibly assumed I could have been mistaken with foreign orthography.
–Yes. Atlas Shrugged; Atlas, like the giant; then Shrugged: S-H-R-U-two Gs-E-D, I spelled.
I waited for a little while as the obliging girl was busying herself again on her keyboard.
–No, sorry, I don’t find this title. Are you sure of the author’s name and title?
–Oh yes, absolutely. It’s an American best seller since years already and it keeps steady at about 500,000 copies a year.
She frowned and turned to her chief who was also working on a computer; an older an equally obliging woman on her 35.
–Does it ring any bell to you: Atlas Shrugged; Ayn Rand; A-Y-N, R-A-N-D?
–Hmm, no; never heard of, while addressing to me rather than to her younger colleague who went back resuming her search for my book.
–Well, I’m going to look for this elsewhere, she said, and if ever this book does exist then I’ll find out.
It didn’t take more than a tenth of seconds before the girl who exclaimed, triumphal:
–That’s it, I got it!
I noticed that she was browsing on Amazon while I was bending to take a look at her computer’s screen.
–But why can’t I find it on my database? Oh, it is available in English only; and we can’t order this book for you, seemingly. We can order nearly all books in English you want; but, sorry, not this one, seemingly.
Still browsing the web while addressing this time to her superior who began to express some curiosity about our conversation: How curious it is, I am even unable to find any critics or else in French about this book!
The kind girl seemed sincerely sorry.
–I’m sorry sir, she finally said when she ended her search; did you try elsewhere in some other bookstores downtown? Maybe they can order it, but…uh…if we can’t then I doubt you’ll be able to order it elsewhere, in my opinion.
–I know, I tried while browsing their online catalogue, already.

As a conclusion to this anecdote, let’s say that the American Establishment doesn’t seem to be as established as the French is, after all.



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