Fountainhead and why I couldn’t get through it

You’ve probably heard of the novel – The Fountainhead – by Ayn Rand. Everyone and their dog were recommending it to me when they heard I was doing architecture. But no – yours truly had gone one step ahead and had ordered it from Flipkart already.

Finally laying my hands on the book a few months back, proceeded to read the book to be taught a few lessons in architecture by the spotless Howard Roark. The next few days were a case of must-read-book-even-if-boring-giving-up-is-a-crime kind of attitude. I managed to reach around 400 pages or so, then gave up. A couple weeks back, started again from the beginning. Now I can’t reach even 200.

So why do I dislike The Fountainhead? (‘Hate’ is probably a very strong word)

The primary reason is the main character, of course. Ar.Howard Roark. If there ever was a character I couldn’t relate to at all in a novel, it would be him. The first of all, is his maddening superiority over everyone else – the environment included. Picture this –

He always looked at people and his damnable eyes never missed a thing, it was only that he made people feel as if they did not exist.

I could go on quoting many more examples, but I don’t want to open the book again. Every time, with a new character interacting with Mr.Roark, it’s the same drill. He/she feels Howard to be properly attentive, but displaying about as much emotion as a doorknob. Or in the case of the person who commissions Howard to build his first house (the name escapes me), it is quite similar – he finds Howard to be a good friend intellectually but not emotionally. And oh – to ensure that Howard Roark’s achievements were not purely academic, the author goes so far to make him a plumber, stone cutter, woodworker, mason and what not. You name a job in construction, he would’ve done it. Thank God Howard was not a scientist – he would’ve made Einstein lose sleep with his achievements.

By creating a character raised in a pedestal like this – she creates an instant disconnect with the reader. In fact, the character I could identify more with is actually his nemesis, Peter Keating. And don’t even get me started on Howard’s ‘love’ interest – Dominique Francon – a character as plastic if you could ever have on. She’s beautiful, talented, tra la la and all that bullshit, and at the same time is supremely disinterested in the world. In fact, she dislikes beauty in the traditional sense because she thinks the world in general is not mature enough to appreciate it or have it.

Something tells me the two main characters should get off their high horses.

Was Mr.Howard Roark suffering from the architect’s ego?

And there is the author’s tiresome style of writing, of course. The 200 odd pages I read had pretty much the same theme – the world against Howard Roark. And supremely detailed descriptions of incidents which highlight this. It is one man’s vision against the herd mentality of the architect crowd in general, apparently.

I’ll probably never give a shot at reading that book again.


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