Saturday, October 25, 2008

James Valliant On Naming Names

James Valliant first brought to the larger attention of the Objectivist world Allan Gotthelf’s finding that Ayn Rand’s name could not have originated from a Remington Rand typewriter because typewriters with name “Rand” were not produced until several years after Rand’s first use of her name.

I think that Valliant makes too much of this mistake by Barbara Branden. In any event, Valliant also raises suspicions about Rand’s first name and her father’s name in Branden’s biography:

. . . it is interesting to observe that Ms. Branden uniformly names Rand’s father “Fronz” while all other sources and scholars are in agreement that his name was “Zinovy.” Ms. Branden does not reveal her source for this naming. Perhaps Ms. Branden is attempting to draw more dubious “patterns” between Rand’s father and her husband, Frank O’Connor (whose given name was “Francis”) . . . . Ms. Branden translates Rand’s Russian name as “Alice,” while scholars as diverse as Sciabarra and Binswanger normally render it “Alyssa” or “Alisa” . . . . at least “Alice” is how her name appeared on her 1926 passport. (PARC, pp. 389-90.)

Valliant’s suspicions are misplaced. Concerning Rand’s father’s name, Branden reports that Rand called him “Fronz” in her taped interviews. In addition, Adam Reed pointed out:

In footnote 10 on page 389, you speculate on Barbara Branden's motives for giving Ayn Rand's father's first name as 'Fronz,' 'while all other sources and scholars are in agreement that his name was 'Zinovy.' You speculate, 'Perhaps Ms. Branden is attempting to draw more dubious "patterns" between Rand's father and her husband, Frank O'Connor.' But it so happens that my parents were born in ethnically Jewish families in the Russian Empire in 1909 - and they and my other relatives had different native-sounding first names in different languages. For example, my father was Tsvi in Hebrew, Hersh in Yiddish, Genrik in Russian and so on. It was the Yiddish name that was used in everyday life within the family, even though they talked to each other much more often in Polish (or German or Russian) than in Yiddish. So it would not have been unusual if Ayn's father were named Franz/Fronz in German/Yiddish and Zinovy in Russian; Zinovy would have been on official documents examined by scholars and Fronz would have been Alyssa's father's name in childhood memories recounted by Ayn Rand to Barbara Branden.

Reed also discovered that:

The archives of the Jewish community of Saint Petersburg mention the couple Fronz Zakharovich Rosenbaum and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum (see,53662,2806632.html (in Polish) - presumably Alyssa Rosenbaum's parents.

Concerning “Alice,” Branden also reports that Rand said that this is what her family and friends called her in Russia. It should be remembered that Branden did not have access to Russian archives or Rand's letters to her family when writing her biography.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two Articles By Larry Sechrest

Two articles by Larry Sechrest from The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies are available here and here.