Welcome to Objectivism Online, Carl Leduc. I was wondering, given your university, whether you are bilingual French/English. Also, if you read both well, would you say there has been a good translation of Atlas Shrugged into French?
This is only a sidebar to your question, Carl, but I do not agree with the idea that understanding Objectivism completely takes years. I know that the philosophy can go on and on, effectively endlessly, in the different traditional and new philosophical questions it can be developed to tackle. And on and on in detailed scholarly comparisons with other philosophies. And on and on in the ‘philosophy of x’, where x stands for the various special areas of knowledge such as mathematics and the various sciences.
Objectivism itself—considering Rand’s writings she chose to publish as well as subsequent works by competent expositors in this close period beyond Rand’s life—can be thought to be of various sizes it seems to me. The first size would be simply what all is in the novel Atlas Shrugged (mainly Galt’s Speech, with its organized conceptual progression). In my own estimation, anyone fully understanding what is said in that book alone understands Objectivism. Everything further, fine and fascinating as it is concerning the philosophy set out there, is inessential to Objectivism insofar as the further work delineates the philosophy at all beyond what was said in that book.
It has been my experience that people interested in learning more of the philosophy beyond what they could or did find in Atlas are somewhat above average general intelligence, usually at least one standard deviation above. Seekers of more, in my encounters with them, were seldom genuinely seeking to get something clarified they had found in Atlas nor figure out what good applications the book and its philosophy might have for making their own life. Rather, they were reaching for additional intellectual adventures and realms stemmed from aspects of the Atlas one.
There are two books beyond Atlas that present the philosophy, in its larger, more luxurious size, in an organized way. So to a great extent, these present the philosophy with the integration needed for integrated understanding of it. Those are Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand and The Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand.