November 2, 1946
Mr. Robert Bremer
P.O. Box 2014
Dear Robert Bremer:
Please forgive me for my long delay in answering you. It was impossible for me to answer sooner, but I am truly sorry that I have kept you waiting, as I realize that my answer was important to you.
If we continue corresponding—and I hope we will—you must make allowance for one peculiarity of mine: I have certain periods when I am working on my writing day and night, and cannot answer any letters. This is an understanding which I have with all my friends, so that if it should happen that you don’t hear from me for a long time, do not take it as neglect or indifference. I will answer as soon as I can.
You have asked me so many questions and some of them are so important, that it would take an article to answer you properly. I can only do it briefly this time.
First, let’s start with what probably interests you most (and properly so)—yourself. I am very much impressed by what I can gather about you from your letters. I think I am impressed in the right way—so stop worrying about my opinion of you. I think I know exactly how you feel, but take my word for it—you don’t have to be afraid.
I am startled by the fact that you are 16, and I can tell you right now that you have an unusual intelligence. The passages you selected as your favorite from THE FOUNTAINHEAD are the most important ones in it. What impressed me particularly is that you selected Roark’s conversations with Wynand. Those passages are the least obvious ones, and the most important ones philosophically. If you were able to pick them, and if that is what interests you—you have my compliments. You have passed the test brilliantly.
You asked me if I have any suggestions to give you about the choice of a career. That, as you probably know, is something that no other person can suggest to you. I can only tell you this: don’t expect any outside circumstance or observation to give you a desire for a particular career. That desire comes from your own convictions about life, its purpose, what you want to do with it, and in what form you want to express it. When you say, “I want something that can mean to me what your writing means to you”—it seems to imply that you hope to find it just by looking around and waiting to have your interest
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aroused. You will never find it that way. What you should do is ask yourself what do you consider the most important thing in life, and why? When you have thought that out carefully, the work that you want to do will suggest itself, and also the desire to do it. But you certainly don’t have to hurry. When you say, “Why is it taking me so long to find it?” you are really a little too impatient. I think I understand your impatience, and it is natural that you should feel it, but at the age of 16 your choice of a career for life does not really have to be set. There are no rules about this—some men make a choice earlier, some much later, and any age is proper for any particular person. If you have not made your choice, it merely means that you are not quite clear enough about your basic convictions. Since you seem to have an unusual mind, it might take you longer than it would another, simpler person. So I suggest that you think about it, but do not worry too much.
I doubt whether you should be an actor, but I can’t say this with certainty, since I do not really know you. I say it only as a suggestion, for the following reason: if your interests are mainly intellectual, you would not be happy in a profession which is not essentially an intellectual one. Of course, good acting takes intelligence, like any kind of good work, but that is quite another matter. Acting is an interpretative profession, and I suspect that what you are really after is a creative one.
You mention that you wrote some poems, which you would like me to see. Do send them on if you want me to read them. I am wondering why you said that they are morbid. If you like THE FOUNTAINHEAD, I wouldn’t suppose that you are essentially a morbid person, because it is probably the most “un-morbid” book ever written.
In connection with that I was a little startled by the questions you asked me. You ask, “Do you ever think about death? Do you look forward to it, merely accept it or don’t think about it at all?” I wonder why that question occurred to you, and above all why you ask, “do you look forward to it?” Do you imagine that I would? To answer you properly, I would have to write a treatise, so I will say only this: I don’t think about it at all—although I have definite philosophical reasons why one should not think about it. I have given it that much thought, and no more. I think it is the essence of human life that death should be no part of it, and by definition it isn’t. When you die, you stop living. I am concerned only with the living. THE FOUNTAINHEAD is an affirmation of life here, now, on this earth. I think so much of this life that I am not interested in what comes after, if anything. But tell me why you asked this.
You ask, “Exactly why don’t you believe in God?” Because I have found no rational argument in support of such a belief.
You ask, “Is Dominique any less human than Roark? In what
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way?” Dominique potentially is not less human than Roark, but in the period covered by the book, she functioned on an extremely wrong premise, on a very mistaken idea about life. Roark is the genuine human being, because he exemplifies a man who has reached perfection. He found the philosophy proper to man, and he acted upon it. You asked a very intelligent question when you said, “Why didn’t Dominique do any serious writing after she married Roark?” It is my own conclusion that she probably did or would—and I was interested to see that you thought of that, too. But that would not be part of the story. Her story was the search for the proper philosophy. When she found it at the end, we can infer that she then lived accordingly, which would include a serious endeavor of her own.
You ask me about my next novel. I can’t tell you very much about it, because it is very difficult for me to discuss unfinished work. I can only tell you that its theme will be Individualism, but from a different angle than THE FOUNTAINHEAD. I think you will like it.
As to WE THE LIVING, it is out of print, and you can obtain a copy only from a public library or by advertising for a used copy.
Does this answer your questions for one letter?
I want to add that your last letter to me is a magnificent piece of writing. You don’t have to “go naked and eat bread crusts and water” in order to write as I do. I think you will.
Yes, I am very much interested in you now. If you say you want a Henry Cameron—that is what I wanted at your age. I never found him. I would like very much to see whether I can really be a Cameron in relation to you. But it is much too early to think of that now. It would take years to see whether I am the right person for that purpose or whether you are the right pupil.
Now tell me more about yourself, and why you should be morbid at the age of sixteen.