My copy of the Donahue tape hasn’t arrived from the ARI, so I’ll have to discuss a couple points in The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics (PARC) that have been mentioned before, but this time with the emphasis on how James Valliant represents arguments made in The Passion of Ayn Rand (PAR).
More on the Name Change
On page 12 of PARC, Valliant says:
“’Ms. Branden also tells us: 'Ayn Rand never told her family in Russia her new name . . . they never knew she became Ayn Rand.’ Ms. Branden may be trying to insinuate that Rand was being neurotically secretive, perhaps even turning her back on her family. This is the sort of vague impression we will see the Brandens persistently attempt to create. Ms. Branden certainly claims that this was an important reason why Rand lost contact with her family shortly before World War II—they did not know her name.” [Ellipses in the original PARC.]
What Branden said in full is:
“Ayn never told her family in Russia the new name she had chosen. She had no doubt that she would one day be famous, and she feared that if it were known in Russia that she was Alice Rosenbaum, daughter of Fronz and Anna, her family’s safety, even their lives, would be endangered by their relationship to a vocal anti-Communist. Through all the years that she corresponded with her family, until just before World War II, Russia refused entry to mail from the United States and she lost track of them—they never knew she had become ‘Ayn Rand.’” (PAR, 71-72.)
Valliant creates a totally different impression of what Branden is writing through the use of the ellipses. He omits Branden’s assertion that Rand (allegedly) did not tell her family in Russia that here new name was “Ayn Rand” for concern for their safety. Had this been true (which it apparently wasn’t) it would have been a perfectly reasonably concern on Rand’s part. So while Branden may be mistaken on the name issue, nothing she says implies that she considers Rand to have been “neurotically secretive” much less “turning her back” on her family in Russia. In fact, Branden is saying the opposite. Rand corresponded with them often and would have continued had it not been for a change in Soviet policy shortly before World War II. Had Valliant included the material in the ellipses this would have been clear. Finally, although a minor point, I don’t read Branden as claiming that the new name resulted in her family in Russia losing track with her. I think “they never knew she had become ‘Ayn Rand’” refers back to the opening statement of the sentence about the correspondence (as Valliant appears to read it in his first sentence quoted).
More on We the Living
On page 44 of PARC, Valliant claims that Branden alleges that Rand’s statements concerning the changes in the revised We the Living were the product of “self-delusion.” Branden, while noting that Rand claims she did change the content of the book, says she removed the Nietzscheian element from the book. Branden says Rand “evidently considered it a defect” and decided to “ignore” the reason for the changes rather than explain it to her readers. (PAR, 114-15.)
Say what you want about Branden’s analysis of the content of the changes, she is not accusing Rand of being self-delusional. Branden accuses Rand of deliberately refusing to admit the extent (and the reason for) the changes. Perhaps it isn't too strong to say that Branden is accusing Rand of lying, but doesn’t want to come out and say it.