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The Fountainhead in Chinese translation

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Is China ready for the Randroids?

Ayn Rand's more tolerable tome, The Fountainhead, hits Chinese bookstores in November. 700 pages, 800,000 characters, the story of Howard Roark's individualist triumph over the forces of collectivism will arrive in cities whose architecture he would probably have had difficulty preventing himself from dynamiting.

Why is The Fountainhead getting translated? Numbers, for one thing. Most early reviews note Rand's vast audience, with Atlas Shrugged selling second only to the Bible. It's certainly not because of any literary value. The Beijing News, in a review casting it as a work of utopian fiction, calls it "long, dull, and unbalanced, with no sense of rhythm," but says that as a work of philosophy, "we really shouldn't use the standards of literature to evaluate it."

Writing in The Economic Observer Review of Books, reviewer Shi Tao pinpoints why this book might appeal to today's Chinese readers:

In Rand's view, you need not abase yourself to pursue wealth, but you should be ashamed of yourself if you lack creativity. The IT elite who came along later highly praised this ideal.

Or it could just be that the "virtue of selfishness" is just the philosophy China's rich need to explain away such unpleasantries as the wealth gap and social duties.

While this is the first novel to be translated, Rand's theories have been available in China for a decade. In 1993, her A New Concept of Egoism was published. But it was only last year, with the publication of The Ayn Rand Column (translated as The Only Road to Tomorrow), that she really broke out. Earlier this year, Rand's For the New Intellectual and The Voice of Reason were published in translation.

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