Ayn Rand’s Red Pawn, written in the 1930s, takes place on the imaginary Strastnoy (“Passion,” in the Christian theological sense) Island, in “the Arctic waters off the Siberian coast,” where a Christian monastery has been converted into a Soviet prison camp.
In real life there actually was, during the 1920s and 30s, a Christian monastery that had been converted into a Soviet prison camp, on a remote island in Arctic waters – though on the western side of Russia, not the eastern, Siberian side – namely Solovki Prison on Solovetzky Island, which was actually the nucleus of the entire Gulag system. (Appropriately enough, the Gulag Archipelago began on a literal archipelago.)
Solovki Prison is not as forbidding-looking as the one described in Rand’s story (Rand’s version has a bit more the flavour of the Château d’If), but I still suspect it influenced the tale. (During World War II, Solovki became a military base. Today it is a monastery again.) (There was also a Strastnoy monastery in Moscow that was demolished by the Soviets, and might have influenced Rand’s choice of name.)
Would Rand have been aware of Solovki Prison? I think likely yes, since two books had been published on it in the west during the 1920s, by former inmates – S. A. Malsagoff’s An Island Hell: A Soviet Prison in the Far North, and Youri Bezsonov’s Mes vingt-six prisons et mon évasion de Solovki.
In Part 1 of this 2-part interview, I chat with Sheldon Richman about his youthful enthusiasm for the Swamp Fox and his guerilla fighters; the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution and the Articles of Confederation; defying YAF with Karl Hess at the March to the Arch; the positive externalities achievable by sitting next to Dave Barry; using Koch money to fight big business; Robert Bidinotto’s dark anarchist past; the perils of publishing Kevin Carson; going crazy for Thomas Szasz; the identity of Filthy Pierre; how to smoke like Gandalf; an atheist’s favourite Bishop; and which prominent Austrian economist experimented on Sheldon’s newborn infant.
In Part 2, we chat about the Israeli occupation of Palestine; u.s. intervention in the Middle East; the meaning of Jewish identity; the relation between libertarian individualism and social cooperation; the communistic theories of Frédéric Bastiat; the theologico-political merits of Spinoza; Nathaniel Branden and George H. Smith on atheism; Thomas Paine and Lysander Spooner on deism; the philosophical failings of the New Atheists; rehabilitating the cost-of-production theory of value; the uses of coherentist epistemology for both theists and atheists; reading Wittgenstein for relaxation; the advantages and disadvantages of Randian approaches to knowledge and concepts; the sordid truth behind the special effects in Roderick’s videos (and in particular, what the deal is with Roderick’s hair); Sheldon’s case against open Borders; and the shocking misuse of libertarian think tank resources to photocopy body parts (but who did it, Sheldon or Roderick? and which body parts? watch and learn!).
So here’s a mystery. It seems that Amazon no longer carries The Fountainhead (except secondhand copies). This link, which worked last month, no longer works:
They still carry Atlas Shrugged; and Barnes & Noble still carries The Fountainhead.
Hmm. Well, I’ll ask my contact at ARI (yes, I have one!) if they know what’s up.