Q: What about the writing, reading it in manuscript, the rough draft. We kind of had an indication of what that was like from the things Leonard Peikoff published from The Fountainhead. I remember reading it and being embarrassed for her, that it was in print.
Branden: It should not have been published. That was wastebasket stuff for her, the material from The Fountainhead. But Ayn was a paper-miser; she couldn't throw things out.
Q: Why do you think he published that?
Branden: Well, I can only think of one reason, to make money. What else could there be?
Q: Fill up the pages of The Early Ayn Rand?
Branden: He had to know that the reason she never published it is because she didn't want to publish it.
Q: The writing was so rough. When she read Atlas in manuscript to the group, was it rough like that too?
Branden: No, it wasn't. It was much more polished writing from the beginning. It was really final draft before she left any section. When Nathan and I first started reading it, it was typed, but then we caught up to her; so she would show us what was handwritten before it was typed. The really difficult thing for me was not to read what was crossed out. The temptation was overwhelming but she begged me not to. Oh, I was dying to see, and sometimes she would let me see what was crossed out and talk about it, which was fascinating. As a matter of fact I have some of the manuscript pages where she has cross-outs. It's immensely interesting to see, like seeing her thought processes.
Q: Did the people talk about their own lives? I noticed that a lot of Objectivists just talk about ideas and they don't ask the person how they're doing?
Branden: Oh, yes we did. We were friends. Things began to go wrong in later years with everybody but essentially we were a group of friends. We knew each other very well and cared for each other. We talked like real people talk.
Q: Ayn Rand appointed Nathaniel Branden, and later Leonard Peikoff, her intellectual heir; did she ever define what that meant?
Branden: I don't know that she defined it, but I knew what she meant. Specifically with regard to Nathan, she believed that, after she was gone, he would carry on her ideas and continue elaborating and presenting them. That's what she meant by intellectual heir. It wasn't that she had placed the mantle on him. She thought that's what he planned to do, and wanted to do, to carry on her ideas and continue as she was doing, presenting them to the world in ways that would be acceptable to her and that he was the person best qualified to do it.
I think that if that had been said, people wouldn't have had the objections that they do have. It is a very strange concept, intellectual heir, unless one understands exactly what she meant by it. It's not clear from the term itself. I assume she meant the same thing about Leonard. Unfortunately it hasn't happened. It hasn't happened with either of them. Which is part of what is wrong with deciding that somebody is your intellectual heir. You cannot know what the future will be.
Q: At the end of your interview in Liberty, you criticized the handling of Rand's estate, what specifically did you have in mind?
Branden: It has been really upsetting me since shortly after Ayn died. The fact that there have been no archives; the fact that Leonard is publishing material that shouldn't be published, but should be in archives. The fact that he is selling things which should have been kept. He has such an important literary estate, and he hasn't the foggiest idea of what you ought to do with a literary estate. Clearly he has not asked anyone who knows, or at least he is not interested in whatever they've told him. It's been sold off in bits and pieces, published in bits and pieces, and to me the worst thing of all is, not even that he published her philosophical "thinking aloud" notes, but that he edited them! Edited Ayn Rand has no historical value. Ayn Rand thinking aloud on paper — edited by Leonard Peikoff? It has no meaning!
Q: Do you think he edited it just grammatically, or did he change philosophical ideas?
Branden: I don't think he invented philosophical ideas, or reversed them. But I think he was very careful about the language that she might have used at one time, then later would not have written quite that way. To make such changes absolutely destroys the historical value of her notes.
Q: Do you remember anything specific?
Branden: I don't. When I saw this treasure of Ayn thinking aloud about philosophy on paper and then saw "Edited by Leonard Peikoff", I couldn't believe my eyes! Edited by anybody! You just don't do that. Because how does anybody ever know what was Ayn and what was Leonard? What was there and what has been cut out?
I was very happy to see at BarbaraBranden.com some positive book reviews by BB of books that previously in her career would probably have been verboten reading for Objectivists, such as "My Name Is Asher Lev" by Chaim Potok.
Sorry you don't appreciate Thornton Wilder -- it's an acquired, adult taste, I grant you -- he happens to be my favorite American author. Especially good is a very early work titled "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" and his little-known final novel "The Eighth Day." I also very much enjoy his play "Our Town."
And I was happy to learn from part of the above interview that some of AR's early writings have, apparently, been archived at the Library of Congress -- thanks to Robert Hessen.