From Frontier to Paris, and Back Again: Isabel Paterson’s 1933 Novel „Never Ask the End“

Vojin Saša Vukadinovic, Free University Berlin

In 1943, American journalist and novelist Isabel Paterson publisher her groundbreaking defense of the triumphant individual, her political treatise “The God of the Machine”. Alongside with her companions Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand, who simultaneously made landmark analytical contributions with “The Discovery of Freedom” and “The Fountainhead” respectively, Paterson helped to incite the libertarian movement, which not only challenged the American Right from within, but changed the political landscape of the United States forever. Ten years prior, however, she had published her sixth novel, “Never Ask The End”, which told the story of two traveling American women, Marta and Pauline, while unfolding a love triangle completed by a businessman named Russ. Largely introspective, the scenario marked a significant geographical turn for the novelist, as she made her characters visit Paris. More than any other city on the continent, the French capital represented the European tradition, which Paterson contrasted with her figures’ past – a past ranging from the dust and the danger of the frontier of the 1880s to the then-present, the incipient age of the modern skyscrapers. But as “Never Ask The End” came out in 1933, the novel inevitably has to be contextualized in a broader political frame: After all, that year that was not only among the worst of the Great Depression, but also brought the NSDAP to power in Germany, setting the tracks for the most atrocious political system and war in human history. When being read with these two historical aspects in mind, Paterson’s novel reveals traces that her most impactful work would eventually unfold ten years later.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 224. American Individualist Women Writers and the Question of Europe