Never Ask the End By Isabel Paterson


Isabel Paterson is remembered as one of the three founding mothers of the libertarian movement, along with Ayn Rand and Rose Wilder Lane. In her own day, however, Paterson was feted primarily as a literary critic and a novelist. Her book reviews in the New York Herald Tribune — signed “”I.M.P.”” — commanded praise and fear for 25 years. Her nine novels were the legacy that literary friends and associates believed Paterson would pass onward. Instead, The God of the Machine became Paterson’s best-known work by far. This sweeping exploration of philosophy, history, and economics has cemented her image as a political figure. But unlike Rand, whom she mentored, Paterson did not write explicitly political novels. Moral and political themes surface, but they decidedly take second place to the development of character and the expression of style.

In Never Ask the End, Marta and Pauline are two American women traveling in Europe in the 1930s. The meet up with Marta’s old friend Russ in Paris and follow him to Antwerp, and then go on to London without him. All of them reminisce about their lives up to this point when their various adventures dredge up old memories. Marta is separated and Pauline is widowed, and both have their eyes on Russ, but Russ’s health is failing and it isn’t clear if he isn’t picking up on their hints or isn’t interested.

Wendy McElroy writes the foreword to this edition.

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