The Fountainhead-1

… I read the book recently and I keep wondering why I didn’t read it before. The book has a lot of powerful dialogues, and the author has the knack of converting her thoughts into the right words. It’s a bit slow, but its definitely worth a read if you like to think about things.  The book makes you feel ashamed of situations where you have been Peter Keating-ish, feel proud of the situations in which you been Howard Roark-ish, wonder how many times you have let people like Gail Wynand and Ellsworth Toohey manipulate your mind. The book has a lot of amazing quotes, and even the sections where the characters’ think to themselves have been etched out brilliantly.

Roark  about self pity  “Sometimes, not often, he sat up and did not move for a long time; then he smiled, the slow smile of an executioner watching a victim. He thought of his days going by, of the buildings he could have been doing, should have been doing  and, perhaps, never would be doing again. He watched the pain’s unsummoned appearance with a cold, detached curiosity; he said to himself: Well, here it is again. He waited to see how long it would last. It gave him a strange, hard  pleasure to watch his fight against it, and he could forget that it was his own suffering; he could smile in contempt, not realizing that he smiled at his own agony. Such moments were rare. But when they came, he felt as he did in the quarry: that he had to drill through granite, that he had to drive a wedge and blast the thing within him which persisted in calling to his pity.”

Gail  “No, he thought, I regret nothing. There have been things I missed, but I ask no questions, because I have loved it, such as it has been, even the moments of emptiness, even the unanswered- and that I loved it, THAT is the unanswered in my life. But I loved it.”

Roark to Keating “That’s the sort of thing I want you to understand, To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I ask you to keep your soul, would you understand why that is much harder.”


Mallory about Roark “I often think that he’s the only one of us who’s achieved immortality. I don’t mean in the sense of fame and I don’t mean that he won’t die some day. But he’s living it. I think he is what the conception really means. You know how people long to be eternal. But they die with every day that passes. When you meet them, they’re not what you met last. In any given hour, they kill some part of themselves. They change, they deny, they contradict–and they call it growth. At the end there’s nothing left, nothing unreversed or unbetrayed; as if there had never been an entity, only a succession of adjectives fading in and out on an unformed mass. How do they expect a permanence which they have never held for a single moment? But Howard–one can imagine him existing forever.”


The description of Peter Keating’s character was something that stuck to my mind. Some of the dialogues in the later part where he tries to be honest with himself are particularly nice —
“Peter Keating had never felt the need to formulate abstract convictions. But he had a working substitute. ‘A thing is not high if one can reach it; it is not great if one can reason about it; it is not deep if one can see its bottom.’ – this had always been his credo, unstated and unquestioned. This spared him any attempt to reach, reason, or see; and it cast a nice reflection of scorn on those who made the attempt.”


“I need a prestige I don’t deserve for an achievement I didn’t accomplish to save a name I haven’t earned the right to bear.”


“Katie, why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world, to do what we want…As I wanted to marry you. Not as I want to sleep with some woman or get drunk. Those things are not even desires- they are things people do to escape from desires- because it’s such a big responsibility, to really want something.” Seriously!


The conversation between Dominique and Alvah,
Alvah “What do you want? Perfection?”
Dominique “–or nothing. So, you see, I take the nothing.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“I take the only desire one can really permit oneself. Freedom, Alvah, freedom.”
“You call that freedom?”
“To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.”


Roark to Dominique (probably the best proposal ever)  “You’d rather not hear it now? But I want you to hear it. We never need to say anything to each other when we’re together. This is for the time when we won’t be together. I love you, Dominique. As selfishly as the fact that I exist. As selfishly as my lungs breathe air. I breathe for my own necessity, for the fuel of my body, for my survival. I’ve given you, not my sacrifice or my pity, but my ego and my naked need. This is the only way you can wish to be loved. This is the only way I can want you to love me. If you married me now, I would become your whole existence. But I would not want you then. You would not want yourself and so you would not love me long. To say ’I love you’ one must know first how to say the ’I.’ The kind of surrender I could have from you now would give me nothing but an empty hulk. If I demanded it, I’d destroy you. That’s why I won’t stop you. I’ll let you go to your husband. I don’t know how I’ll live through tonight, but I will. I want you whole, as I am, as you’ll remain in the battle you’ve chosen. A battle is never selfless.”  Amazing dialogue! 🙂

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