For someone who hails from a creative field, and is an atheist, this book is my Geeta, Quran and Bible, all rolled into one. The book I refer to is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
I am sure The Fountainhead needs no introduction, but for those who have come in late in life, here’s a laconic précis of its storyline. The Fountainhead is the story of Howard Roark, an architect. Roark is the quintessential man; he is how every man should be. He fights conventional standards, the system, the society and the woman he loves. From the sound of it, the story’s premise might seem hackneyed, but The Fountainhead is more than just one man’s fight against everything that is wrong. The book teaches you how to live, what to follow, what not to follow, why your individualistic thoughts are your prerogative, and why upholding them is so important. In a way, The Fountainhead is the finest self-help book. There are very few guideposts to find, this book is one of them.
The other protagonist of the book is Peter Keating. A complete opposite of Roark, Keating is what man shouldn’t be. And ironically, for most part of the story, you will relate to Keating more than you relate to Roark. And this why The Fountainhead should be read by everyone, especially the younger generation. The transformation from Keating to Roark is an essential exercise in self-evaluation, self-discovery and self-belief.
As I read The Fountainhead, I could fathom the things that Keating did. On the other hand, Roark’s character left me in wow. I wondered if I could really be like Roark. I could feel that I was majorly like Keating (a parasite, selfless, unprincipled egoistic, unethical) and as the story unfolded, I realised that I had to be like Roark (a creator, self-sufficient, self-confident, an end of ends). And thus started my journey from Keating to Roark. Of course, being completely like Roark might not be possible, but every day, I try to be a little less like Keating and a little more like Roark.
For me, the best part about The Fountainhead is that it doesn’t preach. The book makes you realise things by yourself, without having to tell you directly. The fact could be that someone might not be able to extract a deeper meaning from the story like I did, and even without that, the story by itself is fascinating. Ayn Rand has weaved the story in such a way that you itch to read the next page. It’s a story that won’t let you leave it alone.
The Fountainhead was first published in 1943 and since then it has had a cult following. The essence of the story stands true even today. Ayn Rand gave birth to her theory of Objectivism with this book, and followed it up with her next – Atlas Shrugged.
The Fountainhead, the story of the quintessential man, is by itself the quintessential novel. A true classic, this is how a novel should be. Its longevity – still published after over seven decades – vindicates its power and brilliance.
Ayn Rand once wrote: ‘A spirit, too, needs fuel. It can run dry.’ Well, The Fountainhead is the fuel of the spirit that is me. And all I can say is: make it yours as well.