The most important principle of the esthetics of literature was formulated by Aristotle, who said that fiction is of greater philosophical importance than history, because "history represents things as they are, while fiction represents them as they might be and ought to be."In fact, Aristotle's account left out the "and ought to be". I and others had wondered, for some time, how she had gotten that quotation wrong. Had she read something misleading, or had her memory played a trick on her? Some even suggested she was purposely misquoting.
Jennifer Burns, in her new book on Rand, tracked down the original source of the error:
It appears that Rand drew this concept not from Aristotle, but from Albert Jay Nock. In Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1943), 191, Nock writes, ‘History, Aristotle says, represents things only as they are, while fiction represents them as they might be and ought to be.’ In her copy of the book, Rand marked this passage with six vertical lines.Note that Rand's Aristotle "quotation" actually comes word-for-word from the description Nock gives of Aristotle's position. She merely drops the "only".
So Burns has solved the mystery
of Rand's misquotation
of Aristotle's explanation
of why fiction is deeper than history!
UPDATE: Stephen Boydstun, in the comments, writes: "Robert Mayhew spoke of the Nock source in connection with his paper at the 2005 meeting of the Ayn Rand Society." Which would pre-date Burns, I guess!