« Derek Jeter Day in the Bronx | Main | Dan Sanchez's Essays on Nathaniel Branden »

Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche

On a Facebook thread dealing with the relationship of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche, I wrote the following:

Troy [Camplin] is right that Rand's first exposure to Nietzsche was Thus Spake Zarathustra (which she read in Russia at the urging of an older cousin) and that her view of Nietzsche began to change with her later reading of The Birth of Tragedy. She certainly grappled with Nietzsche throughout her early fiction (up through The Fountainhead, but traces of the more "exalted" Nietzsche can be found even in Atlas Shrugged).
It should be noted that Rand's years in Russia were in the last days of Silver Age Russian culture, on which Nietzsche made an enormous impact. Nietzsche influenced everyone from the Symbolist poets (including Rand's favorite poet, Aleksandr Blok) to Russian Marxists, such as Maxim Gorky.
But to my knowledge, at least in my analyses of Rand's college transcripts, there is no evidence of her having studied him formally. She did take two courses (one on the "History of (Ancient) Greece" and another on the "History of the Development of Social Forms [or Institutions]"), which were taught by F. F. Zelinsky and N. Gredeskul, respectively, both of whom were deeply influenced by Nietzsche, and whose presentation of the material in those courses would have incorporated a distinctive "Nietzschean" flavor.
There is no doubt that Nietzsche made a huge impact on Rand, though it is Aristotle, I think, whose work made the biggest impact. Rand's mature thought shows far more sophistication than do any of her off-the-cuff comments on any number of subjects (including whatever she may have said about Native Americans or any other cultures that she viewed as "primitive" or "savage," an issue raised on another thread). Needless to say, I get into the nuances of Rand's corpus rather extensively in my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical