Barbara Branden—1929-2013

Tom Burroughes's picture
Submitted by Tom Burroughes on Thu, 2013-12-12 08:51

I see that Barbara Branden, best known of course for her association with Rand and the 1986 biography, has died. I never met her but corresponded with her a few times over the last 20 years. My old UK friend and supporter of Objectivism, Chris R Tame, knew her quite well and was helping her on various projects (he died at a tragically young age in early 2006 and was a big loss to the libertarian movement in the UK).

She's obviously best known for her biography of Rand in the mid-80s. I have read James Valliant's own response to it and the work of BB's former husband. My take is that while some of her comments could be smacked down, not all of them could be, which is why I think her book was an is a valuable move in looking at Rand the person.

My condolences to her friends.


I was sorry to hear of

Newberry's picture

I was sorry to hear of Barbara's passing. She graced with style and charm whatever space she was in. She will be missed.

Eh?

Lindsay Perigo's picture

As Linz said, Valliant's book is just a lot of "gnat's poo."

Where did I say that?

Just for you, Neil, I have resurrected and re-stickied my review of James Valliant's book.

Gregster

Neil Parille's picture

Valliant's book came out in 2005. In 2009 there were two bios of Rand by Heller and Burns. Both reject Valliant's nonsense.

As Linz said, Valliant's book is just a lot of "gnat's poo." Who cares if the Brandens threw a surprise party for Rand?

Neil

Well..

Jules Troy's picture

To me she was nothing more than a parasite.

RIP anyway.

I was new to Rand's works..

gregster's picture

..when I read Passion. It is very well written. I loved it, because I recognized the outstanding genius of Rand, though appreciating this was a biography. But when I loaned it to my girlfriend she saw there was much ammunition against Rand. By the time Valliant had a go I knew better, and he exposed them as "operators" by their words. Two people in such a position, publishing books with uncorroborated innuendoes after Rand's death have Judas forever brought upon themselves.

Gang

seddon's picture

I found out about Ouray (Galt's Gulch) due to Barbara's PAR and am forever grateful. I have visited Ouray once or twice every year since 1996.

RIP Barbara,

Fred

Linz

Neil Parille's picture

I note that a few days before Barbara's death, she posted an e-mail to sundry supporters announcing that PAR is now available as an e-book. I was about to post here asking if she'd resiled from her slurs against Frank O'Connor, given the irrefutable evidence presented right here by Michael Moeller and Ellen Stuttle that those slurs were untenable. Then came the news of her death. I held back. Now I pose the question for you or any other of her supporters to answer.

By slurs I assume you are talking about the claim that Frank O'Connor drank excessively.

The evidence that he drank to excess in his sad, later years is quite convincing.

The claim that he drank to excess beginning with the start of the Affair is something that I've suspended judgment on, considering that her one reported source didn't meet FO and AR until 62 or 63.

-Neil Parille

Ed

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm delighted to hear about Barbara's contempt for Islam. I venture to hope that she would have agreed with me that using the term "Islamism" is a cop-out!

I know she was not at peace in the time I knew and misguidedly loved her: there was too much crying going on. This is not a criticism: rational people have much reason to cry in the contemporary culture; and deep down, in spite of her worst efforts, Barbara was rational, and uniquely sensitive. But there was a part of her that was like the child trying to tear down other kids' sandcastles. Sorry, but that's the truth as I see it. You may not know it, but she did that with IOS. She certainly did it with Ayn, in her self-styled "stiletto" way. She did it with SOLO, as you definitely do know. And her libels against me personally, expressed publicly to you in an effort (to which you unfortunately acquiesced) to rescind my speaking engagement at TAS in whatever year it was, were inexcusable. I'm not going to pretend otherwise just because she's died; her behaviour on that occasion was utterly ignoble, and I still can't believe you countenanced it. I won't let you off the hook just because your kids are adorable—which they undeniably are!

I note that a few days before Barbara's death, she posted an e-mail to sundry supporters announcing that PAR is now available as an e-book. I was about to post here asking if she'd resiled from her slurs against Frank O'Connor, given the irrefutable evidence presented right here by Michael Moeller and Ellen Stuttle that those slurs were untenable. Then came the news of her death. I held back. Now I pose the question for you or any other of her supporters to answer.

This is not inconsequential, gossip-level stuff. If Objectivists cannot behave with honour, then who can? And if they cannot, what hope is there for the world Objectivists are trying to save?

What her life and now death

Rick Giles's picture

What her life and now death bring to my mind is the same thing.

In 2005 she posted here about her own mother's death. That in her final days Barbara lied to her mother about still being happily married to ex-husband Nathaniel Branden. She even asked him to collude in this and he did one better, traveling to Canada to lie in person! According to Barbara, this got the seal of approval from Ayn Rand.

Reading that bothered me, I call it contempt for the mother. Maybe the right thing to have done but it was no beautiful, noble, act to be admired. Bit of a let down of people I wanted to admire. She didn't answer my post of protest.

Eight years down the line, I wonder if anybody was telling her lies to ease her passing or if she'd want them to?

Barbara at peace then and now

Ed Hudgins's picture

Linz – I know about your conflicts with Barbara. I’ve seen her usually once a year and the last time in July of this year. I can report that she was very much at peace with herself. She was intellectually sharp as well as passionate. I had dinner with her just as she was turning 80, and she said she felt no different, that she was not mentally or spiritually feeling her age. And I’d noticed in recent years she’d taken to wearing a Star of David pendant. No, she was not turning religious. She wore it to make a statement both about Islamists and the growing assaults on Jews and Israel from low-life leftists.

Oh, and she found my little daughters delightful!

She was quite at peace.

BBrabden SponsorDin 2011 photo BBranden-SponDin1.jpg

So Sad

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Barbara Branden seemed to live a long and rich life, but this is still immensely sad. She wasn't nearly as intellectually powerful or productive as Nathaniel Branden, but she often exceeded him by her far superior honesty. Their two speeches at the Cato Institute in Washington DC in 2007 are examples of this. Barbara also radically helped liberate, normalize, and advance the Objectivist Movement with her 1986 biography of Ayn Rand. Without her, Nathaniel's bio probably would have come out somewhat later and been considerably less frank and accurate. And David Kelley's Institute for Objectivist Studies would likely have emerged substantially slower and weaker.

Barbara

Neil Parille's picture

Sorry to hear this. I never met or talked to Barbara, but she was always pleasant in the emails I had with her.

Barbara and I

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's no secret that BB and I ended up bitter adversaries after I read Valliant's book and generally found in its favour. I resile from nothing I said to her or about her, but this is not the occasion for relitigation or recrimination. In better times when she was here on SOLO I deferred to her as "Majesty," and genuinely thought of her that way back then. When we hooked up at and after SOLOC 4 we had many heartfelt conversations over wine and cigarettes. Where that Barbara went after that I don't know, except that it was in the most unsavoury company. She clearly was not a soul at peace; I hope she has found it now. I'll remember our good times, and, with affection, contemplate what might have been, had it been possible for our collaboration to continue.

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