I remember vividly many months ago when, while coming from class, I heard the familiar sound from the speaker some distance away, “100 naira any book here.” I approached the sound with usual enthusiasm, ready to venture into book hunting like I love doing anytime this vendor is around.
“Oyinbo dey write am, Na we dey sell am, 100 Naira any book here,” the speaker continued as I reached the vendor’s old pick-up van containing old books piled unordered on each other. On top of the van is the battery-powered speaker from which the prerecorded advert is been broadcast. “If you want your child to become a doctor or an engineer, 100 Naira any book here.”
(Now most of the books this man sell are novels, and I’ve always wondered how he expected parents to make doctors or engineers of their children by simply having them read novels.)
Indifferent to the sound coming from the speaker, few people surrounded the van, digging through the pile, searching for one or two of the books that might interest them. I joined them, neither greeting anyone of them nor uttering a word to the vendor himself, in a manner that showed that I am a regular customer and not just a naïve passerby.
For about ten minutes I was adventurously involved in searching through the pile, pushing aside little cook books, weight-loss tomes, yoga guides with boring titles and one or two interesting books that I’ve read (that I once had but have lost to people who would borrow books but wouldn’t care about returning them to their owner) and wouldn’t mind reading again if only someone who has some extra cash that they are not using again can buy them for me. Then I stumbled upon Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and I immediately knew I was going for it.
Why, at that time my ears had been filled with beautiful testimonies of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged–of how great the book is, of how brilliant its writer is, etcetera etcetera. In fact I’ve had an unread soft copy in my e-library for quite a while before then. I knew I’d love it whenever I make the time to read it but I’d never been able to read it.
“But I’m going to buy this one, this The Fountainhead, and I’m going to keep it in my library too,” I thought. “Even if I don’t get to read it until 10 years later, at least I’ll be able to tell people that I have both of this great writers’ books in my library. Even if I haven’t read them.”
Exactly one week ago, immediately after finishing Chimamanda’s Americanah (yes, I know, everybody already read that like 68 years ago, but who cares? He who reads last reads best), I was left with the hunger to read more fiction books.
Then I ventured into my little physical library, and I stumbled upon this book, and the old baseless enthusiasm for Ayn Rand’s works made me consider checking the back cober of the book to read the synopsis. Immediately after the synopsis was something more appealing than the one-paragraph summary, an excerpt from Lorine Pruette’s review of the book for the New York times: Ayn Rand is a writer of great power. she has a subtle and ingenious mind and the capacity of writing brilliantly, beautifully, bitterly…. This is the only novel of ideas written by an American woman that I can recall.
So, Lorine wrote that Ayn’s book is the only novel of ideas by an American woman he can recall and I immediately remembered that I just finished reading a novel of ideas and sentiments by a Nigerian woman and I loved it because it left me hungry for more. So I concluded that I’m going to love The Fountainhead.
Fast forward: 7 days later and 700+ pages of intriguing story plot aced.
I’ve finished reading The Fountainhead and the least I can say is that the book is transforming. Very much a book of ideas, it has transformed the way I view things, particularly the way I view people and their motive for doing the things they do.
At least for the moment, I can say I’ve been ideologically transformed, and I believe that this transformation has come to stay as I’ve decided that as soon as possible (I’ll just take a short break from her and then I’ll be back) I’ll go read more of Rand’s works, starting from Atlas Shrugged to all of her other articles and lecture transcripts.
The Fountainhead represented Rand’s philosophy of objectivism and her ideas about human freedom, both of which I find interesting and would love to learn more about.
The book appeals to me first as a beautiful work of fiction, then as introduction to an interesting philosophical subject which at any time and by any means possible I’ll be glad to study–both in her other works and in the works of critics and writers influenced by her.
In conclusion, I should add that the baseless enthusiasm I once had for Ayn Rand even when I haven’t read any of her books may soon turn out to become a rational obsession, for I have read The Fountainhead.