Wikipedia 10K Redux by Reagle from Starling archive. Bugs abound!!!

<-- Previous | Newer --> | Current: 980926836 at Wed, 31 Jan 2001 07:40:36 +0000.


A central characters in AtlasShrugged.  Francisco D'Anconia is, by all accounts, a worthless millionaire Playboy, owner by inheritance of the world's largest copper mining empire, the man behind the /SanSebastianMines, and a childhood friend of /DagnyTaggart.  As the book progresses we learn there is much more to this story.

Francisco D'Anconia appears or is mentioned in:
 - /SectioN132

According to [ Adam Reed] (see D'Anconia is the only Hero-class character who is recognizably Jewish (of course not in the religious, but in the historical sense, like Ayn Rand herself.) Adam Reed writes:

Who is Francisco D'Anconia?

Frank O'Connor

Ayn Rand was always in love with Frank O'Connor. Even during her
passionate intellectual and sexual involvement with Nathaniel Branden,
Frank O'Connor was always Ayn Rand's great lover.

As is frequent among actors, Frank O'Connor's personality was bland, a
blank canvas on which to paint his roles. His roles were of men born
to pleasure. Frank could stand in rags on a garbage dump and look like
he belonged in a ballroom. Ayn Rand was in love, not so much with
Frank O'Connor himself, as with the roles he could play. And she wrote
roles for him into every one of her books.

At first, it was easy for Ayn Rand to write Frank O'Connor into her
books. Frank had been born for the role of Lolya, Alissa Rosenbaum's
first lover, Leo of "We the Living", aristocratic, tragic, Dionysian
and Nitzschean. Unity5-3000, of Anthem, stands above the crowd in both
features and stature.

With "The Fountainhead", putting Frank into the novel became more
difficult. Ayn Rand was writing about "a man of self-made soul", so it
was necessary that Howard Roark come from nowhere, and Frank's
aristocratic presence was the opposite of that. To fit Frank O'Connor
into The Fountainhead Ayn Rand had to give Gail Wynand, also a
self-made man and therefore of proletarian birth, an obscure
aristocratic ancestry. As it turned out, Gail Wynand's tragic
character flaws were beyond Frank O'Connor's acting range, and Frank
missed out on the only role he could have had in Ayn Rand's film.

John Galt, in "Atlas Shrugged", was a follow-up on Howard Roark, and
had to come out of noplace for the same reason. But the plot required
that Galt stay under cover for the first two-thirds of the book. The
male lead would be there the whole time. It would be a man moving in
the same social circles as Dagny Taggart, so an aristocrat was a
plausible choice. Ayn Rand would write Frank O'Connor into the role of
his lifetime. And she would make sure that the male lead bore some
variation on Frank's name.

Ayn Rand's Father

The idea of the "Secret Striker" in the midst of Dagny's circle had,
as its essential figure, a man of singular ability to create wealth,
compelled by a crazy world to refrain from exercising that ability. At
some point, Ayn Rand realized that she knew the character of such as
man from her own life: her father.

Educated in chemistry and working in pharmacy, Ayn Rand's father made
his own way to Saint Petersburg, a city hundreds of versts beyond the
Pale, where no Jew was permitted to live unless he paid bribes greater
than the entire income of an ordinary man. Rosenbaum was wealthy
enough to settle his family in a Crimean resort for the duration of
the Russian Civil War. Then, after returning to Saint Petersburg,
Alissa Rosenbaum's father became, in words remembered by Nathaniel
Branden in Judgement Day, "unable to adapt, a self-made man now in an
impossible situation."

Alissa had no understanding of her father's character and predicament
until decades after she left home. Alissa was fascinated by
aristocracy, by men who believed themselves entitled, by birth, to a
life of pleasure and privilege - proper Nitzscheans, who had no qualms
taxing and terrorizing lesser beings into paying for the life of
pleasure that the aristocrat considered his birthright. Alissa's
father, who insisted that good life was to be earned by effort and
reason, was a living demonstration of what effort and reason led to in
a tragic world: a former industrialist living with his family in a
tenement room that smelled of their neighbors' cabbage.

An essential part of Rosenbaum's character was that he was an
alienated Jew, who saw in Communism the fulfillment of Russia's
Christian mysticism, of its insane cult of sacrifice, flagellation and
selflessness. He was a Jew who had lived by the creed of Sanhedrin 4:5
- (Every man and every woman should say to himself or herself every
day,) "The world was created for my sake" - and he saw his world
destroyed by the demented opposite of that creed, by the altruist's
belief that the world existed for everyone's sake except one's own.
Ayn Rand's challenge was to create a figure who was, simultaneously,
that alienated Jewish intellectual, and a man of natural joy, an
aristocrat whom Frank O'Connor could credibly play.

The Jewish Grandees

Until modern times, there were no Jewish aristocrats in Christendom,
and New Money just didn't look like Frank O'Connor. There was only one
exception: under Moslem rule in Spain and Portugal, a small number of
wealthy Jewish families had been promoted into the aristocracy. During
the expulsion of 1492, most of these families chose to convert to
Christianity rather than leave their estates. After that they
practiced Christianity in the open and Judaism in secret. The primary
job of the Inquisition was to investigate these "New Christians" and
test the sincerity of their conversion. The method was to torture
suspects until, guilty or not, they confessed. They were then burnt at
the stake. At this point, the Inquisitors believed, the sincere
Christians among them will have been done the favor of being sent to
the Bosom of Christ, while the secret Jews were expedited to "their
father the Devil".

To Jews living despised and discouraged in northern and eastern
Europe, Sepharadim - former Spanish Jews - had the status of a mythic
aristocracy, even those of them whose families were not particularly
distinguished in Spain itself. The highest cachet was attached to
descendants of former conversos who had fled from the Inquisition - to
Netherlands, England, Italy, South and North America - and resumed the
practice of Judaism once they were free. In their history, Ayn Rand
found the fusion she was looking for: Jew, aristocrat, hero. That hero
still needed a business and a name.

Anaconda, D'Ancona, D'Anconia

The secret striker for the plot of Atlas Shrugged needed a business
that had to be deliberately destroyed, and not just cease to function
when abandoned, like a railroad or a factory. Mineral mines, located
to bring their owner to New York (where the plot has him meet Dagny,
American businessmen, and American socialites) suggested South
American copper. The main company mining South American copper was
Anaconda, which sounds like an anagram of D'Ancona, the family name of
a distinguished line of Jewish Mediterranean intellectuals and
businessmen with several entries in the Encyclopedia Judaica. The
family looks of the D'Anconas are reminiscent of ancient Roman
nobility, and Ayn Rand first saw Frank O'Connor in the role of a Roman
centurion in "King of Kings".

The name D'Ancona sounded aristocratic enough (although in fact it
wasn't) and familiar to educated Jews, and yet not common enough to be
readily identified as Jewish by the typical non-Jewish reader. Ayn
Rand, at that point in her life, was beginning to write for Nathaniel
Branden, and for "the Collective", and may have enjoyed putting in a
secret gimmick just for her friends. Ancona, though, was a city in
Italy, not Spain, and Rand put in an "i", perhaps because she thought
"D'Anconia" sounded Spanish. It doesn't - to the Spanish ear
"D'Anconia" still sounds Italian - but the Mediterranean is a small
sea, and "Francisco D'Anconia" had the right ring to Ayn's ear.

A Grandee's Hannukah

Atlas Shrugged begins on September 2. One learns from Dagny's
flashbacks that Francisco's ancestor Sebastian had been a Spanish
aristocrat who fled from the Inquisition to the New World. This, and
the fact that he first established himself in Argentina, and only then
sent for his beloved - as so many Jewish immigrants to the New World
had done, well into the twentieth century - is a hint, to be confirmed
when we meet Francisco in person. By then it is the start of winter:
"A few snowflakes came down, past the dark windows of empty stores, to
melt in the mud of the sidewalks." Hannukah time.

"Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian D'Anconia sat on the floor,
playing marbles." Playing a child's game on the floor is a celebration
of the Maccabee revolt. The Maccabees were guerillas, and chose
carefully the few battles they fought. They hid for years in caves and
wadis, and fought boredom with games played on the ground. The reader
who knows the origin of this custom now also knows that Francisco must
be, in some sense, the soldier of a rebellion, fighting from cover
behind enemy lines.

In Jewish custom, one commemorates one's ancestors by re-enacting
their practice. Francisco's Converso ancestors could not keep Jewish
objects, such as spinning tops with Hebrew letters, since such objects
would have immediately marked them as secret Jews. They played,
instead, with marbles unstrung from a rosary. If a curious neighbor or
servant wandered in, all he would see would be an accidentally broken
rosary, and children helping to pick beads off the floor. Francisco is
hiding his true self, and things are not what they seem.

From this point on, whenever Francisco D'Anconia appears in the novel,
there is a pointedly Jewish, often specificly anti-altruist and
anti-Christianity subtext. Dagny, not being Jewish, clearly has no
idea why Francisco is playing with marbles, and is too well-brought-up
to ask. Frank O'Connor, Ayn Rand's non-Jewish spouse, must have been
in on many occasions when Ayn did something Jewish and _he_ didn't
have a clue. Thus, another perversely distinctive Randian joke: In the
role of Francisco D'Anconia Frank gets to play the role of a Jew, and
Dagny is the clueless one.