PRODOS SPEAKS WITH
THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF ROMANTIC ART
Sylvia Bokor is an artist and editor of AOB News, The Journal of The Association of Objectivist Businessmen - "The magazine FOR the producer". As a subscriber to AOB News I recommend it highly as a rich source of powerful ideas and fascinating articles.
Prodos: (INTRO) Today we're going to look into Ayn Rand's ideas on Art - the field of Esthetics. And particularly the type of Art that's consistent with Objectivism - what we call ROMANTICISM. And joining me on line from New Mexico, USA, is the Editor of the Association of Objectivist Businessmen's Journal - AOB News - which is a philosophically oriented magazine for Businesspeople right around the world. She also appeared in the recent Academy Award nominated documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life - which regular listeners know will be screening here in Melbourne on the 4th of July as part of THE WORLD'S FIRST AYN RAND FILM FESTIVAL! AND she's a marvellously inspirational professional Painter. Welcome to the show Sylvia Bokor!
Sylvia Bokor: Thank you.
Prodos: You're a Painter but you edit a philosophically oriented journal for Businesspeople. Most Artists that I know - even ones that I get along well with have a kind of contempt or at least suspicion about business and making money. On the other hand - perhaps not surprisingly - they're in awe of bureaucrats and the 'other worldly intrigue' of government grants. How do you reconcile your two interests?
Sylvia Bokor: Well I personally have always been interested in ideas and I think what's significant is the fact that I chose very early in life not to be a painter but to be a commercial illustrator. So I was always in the business of making money with my art. I've never found it to have any kind of dichotomy. Money AND Art to me is the way to go. That's the way most Artists have made their livelihood - by making money by painting. I don't see why an individual should consider making money through painting or through any Art as demeaning. To do so is symptomatic of a mind-body split.
Prodos: On this topic of commercial art I've noticed over the years that advertisements often have more artistic merit than many MOVIES that we see.
Sylvia Bokor: You're absolutely right. I'm in fact writing right now - beginning to do research on a history of American painting and one of my points has to do with the great influence that American commercial illustrators have had on American painting. The illustrators have - since the so-called 'Abstract Painters' have taken over predominantly what we use to call Fine Art - it's the illustrators who are more and more leading the way in terms of providing really interesting development in their work, their style, their content. And really giving you a dramatic, wonderful sense of living when you look at their work.
Prodos: Fascinating! According to Ayn Rand Art is a FUNDAMENTAL branch of Philosophy. It's on a par with Politics. According to Ayn Rand it seems that good art is as important to our well-being as a good social system. I don't think that's a commonly held view. How does Objectivism come to this conclusion about the importance, the fundamentality of Art?
Sylvia Bokor: Art is one of the five branches of Philosophy. Its fundamental importance lies in the fact that Art CONCRETIZES one's Metaphysics. By Metaphysics I mean the nature of reality as it is. For example: Is nature open to man? Is it good for me or bad or me? Is it going to be something that I can deal with or not?
Prodos: (joking) Like should we recycle our aluminium cans?
Sylvia Bokor: (laughing) That's not exactly Metaphysical!
Prodos: Well you were talking about Man and Nature. (both laugh)
Sylvia Bokor: Metaphysics deals with broad, general abstractions about the nature of reality. Art concretizes that. The Artist - whether he knows it or not, implicitly and subconsciously - will project his sense of life, his Metaphysics. And a "sense of life" as Miss Rand has defined it, is an emotional summation - a pre-conceptual Metaphysics as it were - and it's usually implicit. So when you have this sort of thing being concretized in your Art - whether you're a painter or a writer or a sculptor or whatever - you are going to be providing your view of man and your view of reality. A viewer comes along and he looks at that and he says "Oh yes! This is the way I feel about man! This is the way I feel about life!" It's extremely important to him and this leads me to my second point. Art provides him with FUEL, it gives him inspiration. If he likes the work and says "Yes, this is the way I see man, this is the way I see reality" then he's going to be inspired. He's going to have fuel to keep on going, to keep on working, and keep on enjoying his life and getting a kick out of it! If he doesn't like it then he's going to say "No, this is NOT how I see things. This is NOT the way I see man," this is not how I see things. Whichever the case, what's involved in Art is how you see man. That's why you go to it, that's why you seek out Art - movies, literature, paintings and so forth. That's why it's so important. Because it goes right up to the nitty-gritty of a man's soul.
Prodos: As an artist who is also an Objectivist I suppose you're able able to spell yours out aren't you?
Sylvia Bokor: I wish I could say I could entirely. I have a general idea but I'm not completely satisfied yet in terms of having made it totally explicit.
Prodos: At least you can say that it's there.
Sylvia Bokor: Oh yeah.
Prodos: In fact a lot of artists just do what they do. They can't really say what . . .
Sylvia Bokor: And they attribute what they do to their emotions or their instincts or their intuition. One of the significantly important things about the Objectivisit philosophy is that Miss Rand makes us aware of the importance of our own minds in our own life and work.
Prodos: I've been looking at some of your works which are on display at the Quent Cordair Fine Art Gallery on the Web. There's that one of your paintings which has been sold called "Thank You Mr Edison" and it's just beautiful. There's also another one which is available as a poster - you can buy it as a poster - or you can spend five or six thousand US dollars and buy the original! (laughs) It's called "Mind Over Matter". I find both of those paintings just completely inspirational - they just blow me away
Sylvia Bokor: Oh, thank you!
Prodos: My pleasure entirely! And I just wonder about - as the artist yourself - you know that you are creating something that's going to knock the socks off the viewer, that is going to re-fuel their SOUL. Are you aware of that as you're painting?
Sylvia Bokor: Oh no. Actually I don't even think about the audience while I'm painting! My main concern is - I have an idea - like in "Thank You Mr Edison" - and frankly my one concern is I really want to make this a tribute to Thomas Edison and I really, really want to say "Thanks a lot for all this ILLUMINATION!" and that's all I concentrated on.
Prodos: You may be one of the first in the world to ever do that - to thank Edison.
Sylvia Bokor: I don't think that I'm the first. I think what I do is I probably give pictorial representation to a feeling that a lot of people have but maybe they don't know it. Because once you see that picture you say "Oh yeah, that's how I feel about electricity! It's great!"
Prodos: That's exactly what I felt!
Sylvia Bokor: It (electricity) extends your life. And that's really what I wanted to get across. And that's what DOES come across. And the same thing for "Mind Over Matter" - I'm not concentrating on the audience. But I really want to get this idea across about this teensy-tinesy little aeroplane up there and what it represents going over these vast, rugged mountain tops. And that's all I have in mind. It really is great when someone like yourself says you get it.
Prodos: In fact we could probably spend a whole segment on the show discussing either one of these paintings. I'm going to avoid that temptation now - we may take that up at some future date Sylvia.
Sylvia Bokor: OK.
Prodos: We said that Politics and Art are on a par on the Hierarchy of Knowledge. So is a social system which is full of lame, unprincipled politicians also going to be full of lame and unprincipled artists in your view?
Sylvia Bokor: Oh sure.
Prodos: The same thing gives rise to both?
Sylvia Bokor: I think so - definitely. Because the main important branches of Philosophy are what direct your Esthetics and your Politics. Your Metaphysics and Epistemology. Well, Dr Leonard Peikoff, who is Ayn Rand's intellectual heir, one time said that Metaphysics is kind of easy - it's very broad, it's very general - just a few questions. But the main, important things are Epistemology and Ethics and the more you study it you realize - boy, is he right! And it's these that really determine and shape your Esthetics and your Politics.
But I have to add one other thing. Miss Rand said some time ago - I can't remember the article - oh, Philosophy and Sense of Life - she makes an observation that even before you get into Philosophy there are two basic premises that are completely antipodal to one another - completely at opposites - but they are at the ROOT of every Philosophical system - it's either one or the other - and that is either you start with Primacy of Existence - which means existence comes first - and then you have Consciousness which succeeds existence. In other words "before you could be conscious, you have to be conscious of something." So existence precedes consciousness. OR you go the other way and you say "my consciousness comes first and I create existence" which is called Primacy of Consciousness.
Well ,both of those basic premises - one or the other - whichever one you choose to live by - is going to determine EVERYTHING. It's going to determine your Metaphysics, your Epistemology, your Ethics, your Politics, your Esthetics. And that really is at the base of most Esthetics. Once you get the hang of what Primacy of Consciousness is or Primacy of Existence - that's one of the first things you can easily identify when you look at any work of Art whether it's painting or sculpture or literature and you can say - Well, this guy believes Reason is supreme and should be and man is good and Existence comes first. Or he believes that wishes and dreams and beliefs and faith should rule the roost and Existence was created by him. And you can see that very clearly in most all Art.
Prodos: I want to astound and provoke listeners with the TRUTH right now. The following truth is from Ayn Rand's definition of Romanticism:
"Romanticism" is a category of art based on" - now listen to this - "based on the recognition of the principle that man possesses the faculty of (pause) VOLITION" - or FREE WILL!
Now when I first read that many years ago I was shocked. The connection! For someone to connect this kind of passionate form of art which is known as Romanticism with this fundamental attribute of what makes a human, human - Free Will - Volition - is EXTRAORDINARY! Surely no-one has every coined that idea before Ayn Rand!
Sylvia Bokor: I'm glad you said that. I want to emphasize this to your listeners - that when you talk about or think about what Ayn Rand means by Romanticism and how she uses that term it has to be clearly differentiated from "Philosophical Romanticism". They're just totally at opposite poles - they're not the same
Prodos: It's unfortunate that the same word has been used for two opposite phenomena.
Sylvia Bokor: I was thinking that myself and I was wondering was there any way to get around it and I don't think there was because you probably know the word Romanticism evolved from a use of language which meant using the vulgar Roman not Latin. This was the language that Troubadours used when they spun their songs and their stories as they traveled. They sung their stories in what they called 'roman in the vulgate'. That's how the word romanticism evolved. Unfortunately the German Philosophers took over that term and ascribed to it living by your instincts, your blood, as distinct from living a life directed by the so-called "cold hand" of reason. Then the artists took that up the term as a revolt against classicism. But as Miss Rand uses Romantic Realism, the stress is on CONCEPTUALITY - as you pointed out - the faculty of VOLITION. The Philosophical Romanticists' stress NON-reason. Their view of romanticism is focused on emotion, on blood, on guts. It is very ANTI -reason.
Prodos: Very anti Free Will. It rejects the idea that we control where we're going.
Sylvia Bokor: Very deterministic - good point.
Prodos: So, let's take for example your painting "Thank You Mr Edison" - where you don't even have a picture of a human being in it. Sure, you've got human THINGS happening like you've got the city lights in the distance - some civilization but where does Volition come into that? What is it in that painting that shows the faculty of Volition?
Sylvia Bokor: That's an excellent question and I toiled with that for a very long time before I finally understood what Miss Rand was getting at. In this particular case this is an excellent example of Volition in painting for several reasons. The first - to answer your question directly - the issue of Volition comes into the fact that I as a painter have CHOSEN to make a pretty painting, a beautiful painting of a sky rather than a dreary, bleak, overcast sky with thunder coming up and we're going to have a devastating storm.
Prodos: So that's YOUR choice.
Sylvia Bokor: That's my choice.
Prodos: That's the ARTIST exercising volition.
Sylvia Bokor: Exactly. I've chosen to say that these lights are important for lighting up the dark - that it extends life. People are watching television - you can get an idea - the blue lights and the white lights - or they're in the kitchen. Or the yellow lights - they're in the study or whatever. And you can get an idea of what they're doing - that their life is being extended. That too is a choice on my part. To show you what can be done through electricity - that is volition.
Prodos: So Ayn Rand's idea on Romanticism refers as much to the ARTIST'S motivation as it does to what's expressed in the painting?
Sylvia Bokor: Exactly!
Prodos: Right! (with an 'aha' tone).
Sylvia Bokor: And that's what I had trouble understanding at first but that's exactly true. For example one day I happened to be at a seminar at Leonard's place while I was living in New York and Miss Rand had visited. During the seminar I asked her - I was struggling with this problem - and I said "Miss Rand do you liken composition in painting to plot in literature?" Now I asked that question because I thought if she said "Yes" then I could understand what she was saying about Volition in Romanticism. And she said "Yes"!
Prodos: Wow! Bingo!
Sylvia Bokor: And I realized - aha - so it means this is the choice of the artist as much as it is the character in a story who has will and choice to do one thing or to do another.
Prodos: Hey, you must have impressed Ayn Rand with such a good question.
Sylvia Bokor: (laughing) Oh no! I doubt it!
Prodos: Alright, modesty prevails. (both laugh)
Prodos: When IS Art? When are we entitled to call something Art in your opinion Sylvia?
Sylvia Bokor: When are we entitled to?
Prodos: Why can't I put a sledgehammer through my computer, put some glue over it and stick it on the wall and say "Hey, that's Art man!"
Sylvia Bokor: Because you have to consider - if you accept the definition of Art - it really goes back to concepts. And the definition of Art as Miss Rand has defined it - and through a series of essays showed WHY she defined it in this manner - says it has to do with metaphysical VALUE JUDGEMENTS. And this is the key - a lot of people miss it - and they ask such as you have asked - because they fail to recognize the importance of the EXPRESSION of metaphysical value judgements. Remember that Art is a selective re-creation of reality ACCORDING to artists' metaphysical value judgements. If for example an individual puts the sledge hammer on his computer, knocks it and hangs it on his wall - WHAT metaphysical value judgement is being EXPRESSED by these objects? None whatsoever.
Prodos: Probably that he's a bloody idiot that's what. (both laugh)
Sylvia Bokor: Actually it's not even that! Because a computer with a sledgehammer through it glued together does not express anything. Now it makes a difference if, say, you made a painting of something - say of the same object. Look, already you have a number of possibilities. Are you going to make that computer look as though it's brand new and that it has been bashed in on purpose by some idiot? Or are you going to make it look like it's down on its heels, it's ready to just completely go out on you, it's all rusty and corroded. Are you going to make the sledgehammer shiny or rusty? There's all kinds of choices involved and each one of those choices EXPRESS a metaphysical value judgement. And the whole of it put together say "This is how I see man". So you could paint that computer with the sledgehammer smashed through it and you could say "This is a terrible thing that's happened". And you could express it through paint. Or you could say "This is a WONDERFUL thing that's happened. Technology is awful, we should absolutely destroy it" and you could express DIFFERENT points of view through Art.
Prodos: You might be expressing a destructive idea but it still would qualify as Art. So what you're suggesting in a sense is that Art is a highly PURPOSEFUL activity. If you're doing it in an arbitrary kind of way without any effort then it can't be Art any more than this recording panel is an aeroplane.
Sylvia Bokor: Exactly, exactly! And take a look at one other thing that is clear in this example that you gave me. It's that Volition is THROUGHOUT in the painting or the work of Art and it is clearly Volitional whereas it is NOT when you just say "Well I'm going to stick this up on the wall". It doesn't say anything. It just says here's a bunch of junk up on the wall. It doesn't EXPRESS anything.
Prodos: If you DID actually treat that as Art then you're showing a kind of CONTEMPT for your audience and a contempt for the whole field of Art and what it's supposed to do. Would that be true Sylvia? After all if you go to the Art Gallery down here in Melbourne you can readily find the equivalent of that sledgehammer-through-a-computer.
Sylvia Bokor: Oh yeah. And they're called COLLAGES. (Prodos laughs). Yeah, they really are! I can't forgo this wonderful story. The Modern Museum of Art in New York were renovating and they put a bunch of 'stuff' (contemporary art works) outside on the sidewalk to make room for the work that was going on inside and the garbage collectors came by and picked it all up and hauled it away. Because it was garbage!
Prodos: (laughing) Well then is became performance art didn't it? (both laugh)
Sylvia Bokor: This is it. This is in answer to your question. Anybody who says that this is art - the first thing they're doing is they're EVADING an enormous quantity of knowledge and they ARE expressing a great contempt for men's minds and for their emotional needs.
Prodos: Well SHAME on them.
Sylvia Bokor: It's a fraud.
Prodos: It's a fraud yeah.
Prodos: If it's true then that Art is highly purposeful and has a very specific function which can be clearly defined then WHEN is an ARTIST? Is an Artist someone who purposefully pursues the creation of these kinds of objects? And why do YOU become an Artist but the next person does not? Why do YOU end up so passionate about it?
Sylvia Bokor: What you're trying to do right now - unless I misunderstand you - you're trying to get underneath an axiom. Volition is axiomatic. I chose to be something. You can't say well why did you CHOOSE it. You can say that was my choice. I looked at all these things available to me and I chose. In my particular case it happened so early that when I think about how come this field appealed to me I can see well this and this was in my attention span and I saw it and it was very important to me. It was a way of making my values visible. Now I didn't know that at the time. Miss Rand helped me to understand all this but the choice was certainly there. It was a choice amongst things that best expressed MY VALUES. And I think that's true in every case, every choice a person makes. You choose a certain way because it best expresses your values.
Prodos: My question in a sense was inspired by part of a passage by Ayn Rand from Art and Sense of Life from her book The Romantic Manifesto. She's not really talking about the artist but she says here: . . . "one's own sense of life is the pleasure of feeling what it would be like to live in one's ideal world". I just wonder whether an Artist is setting out to create a Universe - whether that's at the heart of being an Artist?
Sylvia Bokor: Miss Rand did say something like that. I know that she said that the purpose of HER writing - the goal of writing was to create an ideal man - and I am sure that was in order to have that experience of living in that kind of Universe. I cannot say that I was ever conscious that that was my purpose or motive because as I said most everything of value that I have learned I've learned from Miss Rand and her Philosophy. So that prior to learning Objectivism I was pretty dense.(Prodos: I doubt it) But I think in the earlier example that we discussed on "Thank You Mr Edison" or "Mind Over Matter" - I think you can see in paintings like that that there is - when you ask me well am I painting for an audience or whatever that question was - and I said "Well I don't even think about the audience" - I think when you're in the middle of your work - whatever kind of work you do and you reach that stage where you really forget yourself and you're so absorbed in the work itself and I think that experience is so precious and so fine a moment - even though you describe it as you lose a sense of yourself - in fact in reality you are never so much REALLY yourself as you are in those concentrated moments. It's a very individual, very private, very unique experience. I don't think it's experienced in any other way. I can't think of any other experience that's similar to it as when you lose yourself in your work. And if that is a very wonderful, joyous thing for you then I can see how Miss Rand or I would say "This is why I like to paint!" - because of that experience. You are living in your own self at that time when you feel like you've actually have forgotten yourself - you're actually really more concentrated in yourself than you ever are - at least that is how I see it.
Prodos: I must say talking about such an inspirational part of Philosophy (Esthetics) is itself very inspirational.
Sylvia Bokor: It's exciting for me too.
Prodos: What about a beautiful vase? Is that a work of Art? I'm referring here to the fact that - as I understand it - Art is not meant to be utilitarian - not meant to have a 'practical' function - that it's an end in itself.
Sylvia Bokor: It gets very tricky here because you have to hold in your mind a couple of things very tightly and understand them very clearly. The first thing is you have to understand Miss Rand's definition of Art very thoroughly. To understand what is art, it is extremely important to grasp that the distinguishing characteristic of Art is that it constitutes an EXPRESSION of metaphysical value judgements - that's the most important thing. Now you can have many objects that are artful.
For example there are many beautifully designed motorcars - they're very comfortable, they're very convenient, they provide great freedom of movement - or the vase you mentioned: it's very lovely, it's an original design. It goes with your decor and so forth. There are many things in your home - your chinaware, your lamps, your furniture that are beautifully designed. But those are lovely designs, they're beautifully crafted, but they do not in and of themselves express metaphysical value judgements. To express such a complex sum as a metaphysical value judgement it is necessary that one not merely re-arrange realitly but re-create it by re-presenting some aspect of reality according to your metaphysical views.
This means that a knowing, volitional, conceptual CONSCIOUSNESS is purposefully bringing things together in such a way that these concretes are going to express a statement. whether it's a single nude, such as a piece of sculpture, or a collection of things, as in a still life painting. Whatever the case, all the percepts chosen, selected, are bought together for the purpose of making a statement, express a particular theme or in other words, express one's metaphysical value judgements. That's the key.
So you can't say a vase is a work of art. It might be very ARTFUL but it doesn't in itself express anything other than it's very pretty. But WHAT is very pretty? Is life very pretty? Is man very pretty? Are animals very pretty? Or is it just IT is very pretty? That's all it says. It's very nice to have. It's lovely to have them in your home but it is NOT Art if it express no metaphysical value judgements. That is the key to figuring out what is or is not art within the context of a given artform's particular definition.
Prodos: Everyone gets something out of Art and you've said it's a fueling of the spirit and it's an essential aspect of life and living. But what about DOING Art? Would it be useful for people to take on doing some Art - even in an amateur capacity? Would that help them understand Art better? Even at a hobby level?
Sylvia Bokor: Oh I think so. Anytime you have a hands-on experience with any aspect of life you get to understand it and know it better. Even if you don't want to devote your time to it - and my own point of view is that any Art requires a lifetime's devotion - simply because to be really good at it - to get down into your self and pull out what you want and express it - it's time-consuming - you have to know and then you have to learn the skill and then you have to learn how to do it. There are a lot of aspects to it. BUT on a hobby or amateur level - just to learn it in order to help you understand it - it's IMMENSELY valuable. It's like if you want to learn how to write a story - to try doing it. You learn all the aspects that go into writing the story and the same thing is true in any of the Arts. If you want to learn how to drive a car you learn a lot about the car when you learn how to drive it. You may not be a mechanic but you learn that you have to have certain things. You have to have wheels, for example, that the auto requires gas, that there's a safe way of traveling at high speed, that a 2 cam engine is more powerful than a single cam and so forth. You do learn a great deal with a hands-on experience. You will also find that some people start off as amateurs and fall in love with it and they can't give it up and they become quite skilled artists. It's really up to the individual. But yes you learn a lot by doing it.
Prodos: So even if what you do you just throw out because you don't think it's very good the actual doing of it will be useful.
Sylvia Bokor: But what does it matter? There was Dwight Eisenhower - one of our Presidents - use to paint to relax himself and he became quite skilled. There were a lot of sneers made about his work. I saw some of his paintings that were reproduced. They were not bad. They were more or less commonplace but they were well done. He developed a very good skill. But what does it MATTER what other people think about them. What's important is that you get pleasure out of doing this. What does it matter if they don't sell for a hundred million dollars at the gallery? What's important is that YOU did it and that is more important than anything in my judgement.
Prodos: They say you can't judge a book by its cover but perhaps you can judge a culture by the covers it puts on its books. What do you think Sylvia?
Sylvia Bokor: (a good long laugh from Sylvia - which has been recorded for posterity)
Prodos: I mean do you think you can a judge a culture by the Artworks that it presents? If I gave you a set of photos of sculptures and paintings and buildings of a culture would you be able to tell me where that culture was heading? What it was all on about?
Sylvia Bokor: Oh sure. It's because of the nature of Art. Since Art deals with the most fundamental level of a man's life, his metaphysical view of man and reality - if you have a culture that continuously shows man the hero, man as a graceful, wonderful achieving human being where his mind is important, where the sculpture of him is beautiful, his paintings are artful and beautifully composed and say important things about living. For example the Art of Ancient Greece - a very man-worshipping civilization. If on the other hand you see nothing but art and sculpture and stories about depraved and degenerate people and people who are ordinary or irrational or psychotic - then you see a culture that is totally anti-reason. For example the Medieval Ages where you had a tremendous predominance of mysticism and of faith that ruled the known civilized world at the time then you have a different kind of culture. So if you look at the art of either of those two periods, Ancient Greece or Medieval Europe, and you consider just the art alone you can see what kind of culture that was to live in. Even though no one can live a life one hundred percent irrational what you do live - such as in Medieval Europe - is a very unhappy, suffering, terrible life because the culture is so anti-reason.
Prodos: Could you say a few words about how you first discovered Ayn Rand's philosophy.
Sylvia Bokor: Sure. I was travelling between Malaya and South Korea and I was working as a Cryptographer for the State Department at the time - that was in 1959 - and my books had not caught up with me and I went down the hall - I was staying in this kind of like a barrack until my quarters were ready for me - and I went down the hall to ask somebody if they had any books I could borrow . . .
Prodos: Oh God here we go . . .
Sylvia Bokor: . . . and I saw there The Fountainhead and I remembered that a movie had been made of it but I'd never seen it and I said "well I think I'll read that". And that was the beginning of an AVALANCHE of interest! (both laugh)
Prodos: Which cover did it have on it?
Sylvia Bokor: Actually it had the - let me see - the original Fountainhead cover was - it was a paperback - I remember that - and it was very - I think it was just blank. I think it just had "The Fountainhead" - the name on it. And I had to give it back - I could not keep it. (laughing) I was seriously thinking of STEALING it.
Prodos: That's an interesting one! (both laugh)
Sylvia Bokor: They put me up near a U.S.airbase in South Korea which had a PX. So, I went over there and found a book store and they had eight copies of The Fountainhead and I bought one of them! So, that's how it all started. I read that book 7 times in six months. At the end of which time, I came back to New York, to The States in March of 1960 and then of course it all started. I read Atlas Shrugged and it went on from there.
Prodos: And you've met Ayn Rand?
Sylvia Bokor: Yes I did. Actually I met her formally. I had known her by sight and she had known me by sight because I attended all those lectures and she was always there. She would come to these lectures and I would sit in front of her or in back of her.
Prodos: Ayn Rand would come to lectures? Which lectures are you referring to?
Sylvia Bokor: Oh, like Leonard Peikoff would give lectures on the History of Philosophy when he first started giving lectures. And she would come to those. And we would start talking to her at the intermission. I remember then that Leonard formally introduced me because there was a couple of jobs that she had. She wanted some research done on some stuff for a couple of speeches that she was going to be making and I did some research for her. And then I spoke with her. Leonard would have seminars at his apartment on various topics like on Grammar - things like that and Miss Rand would come and we would chat with her and she was EXTREMELY gracious. She was EXTREMELY fast-minded. One time I was so EXCITED by her presence and so in awe of how quick she was I said "Oh my God, you are SO SMART!" and she just lit up like a Christmas tree. She just smiled so broadly like a child - you know those big eyes - just childlike with enjoyment and she said "Thank you!" (both laugh with delight and amusement)
Prodos: That's cute.
Sylvia Bokor: She was always very, very proud of her intelligence. I really loved that about her. She never tried to say "Oh I don't know much" (laughing at the absurdity). She knew she was smart. She liked being smart. That was a lot of fun.
END OF TRANSCRIPT
Broadcast: On the 'Philosophically Speaking' segment of The PRODOS Connection on Wednesday 3rd February 1999 on Melbourne's 97.4 FM.