We the Living

ISBN: 0451187849
ISBN 13: 9780451187840
By: Ayn Rand Leonard Peikoff

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Ayn Rand said of her fist novel, We the Living: "It is as near to an autobiography as I will ever write. The plot is invented, the background is not....The specific events of Kira's life were not mine; her ideas, her convictions, her values, were and are."First published in 1936, the theme of this classic novel is the struggle of the individual against the state. It portrays the impact of the Russian Revolution on three human beings who demand the right to live their own lives an pursue their own happiness. It tells of a young woman's passionate love, held like a fortress against the corrupting evil of a totalitarian state.We the Living is not a story of politics, but of the men and women who have to struggle for existence behind the Red banners and slogans. It is a picture of what those slogans do to human beings. What happens to the defiant ones? what happens to those who succumb.Against a vivid panorama of political revolution and personal revolt, Ayn Rand shows what the theory of socialism means in practice.This 60th Anniversary edition includes a new Introduction by Ayn Rand's heir, Leonard Peikoff.Description from back cover

Reader's Thoughts


Just be yourself.Hasn't that been parents' advice to kids since the dawn of time? Don't try to impress people by putting on a show. Don't just tell people what you think they want to hear. Be who you are, and those who appreciate your genuine character will be true friends. I think this is the only book where Ayn Rand is true to herself, without putting on the big überconservative show which makes her later works so irritating. What's that? You think maybe Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead represent Ayn's true self? Well, I can't prove you wrong, but I don't think that's the case. We the Living doesn't smack of ulterior motives the way those other books do. It contains no larger-than-life robberbaron supermen, no fifteen-page speeches, and no fortunes built on miracle inventions. Where Altas Shrugged was really just a platform to espouse Rand's "philosophy" of Objectivism, We the Living is refreshingly 100% Objectivism-free (see my review of Anthem for more details). Better still, it has authentic three-dimensional characters who seem like they might be actual people Ayn knew. This is historical fiction, after all. Many of these events actually happened.We the Living tells the semi-autobiographical story of college-aged Kira Argounova, whose upper middle class family flees St. Petersburg during the 1917 revolution, and then returns in 1922, trying to make a new life for themselves within the communist system. When they show up at the doorstep of their former townhouse off Nyevsky Prospekt, they discover it has been seized and divided into a multiple-family dwelling. They are advised to apply for a license to live in one of the units if they feel a particular attachment to the old homestead, but as part of the hated former petty bourgeoisie, they should be aware their chances are slim. A similar scene occurs in Doctor Zhivago (but in DZ, the family actually obtains residence in their old home). It seems either such occurances were common, or perhaps Pasternak was influenced by We the Living. Food is rationed. Work is obtained only through a state agency, once the applicant has jumped through the many hoops needed to obtain a work license. Since political loyalty is valued more than ability, Kira discovers that many of her least-promising former classmates have risen to positions of authority over her. They hang around the city's most fashionable bars, dressed to the nines in leather finery unavailable to citizens outside the Party. They smoke tobacco the proles could never get their hands on, and enjoy luxuries like fresh fruit, which Kira secretly covets. Reading through these parts, one can practically feel the resentment rising in Ayn's blood as she writes it. Through a paper-thin veneer of fiction, anybody can see this is her story, narrated very personally, with a ring of truth her other novels lack.Consider how Ayn's life closely mirrors Argounova's: Ayn's father had owned a profitable pharmacy in St Petersburg before the revolution, just as Kira's father owned a successful textiles factory. Both Ayn and Kira's families fled St. Petersburg to the Crimea in 1917, fearing for their daughters' safety. As I said, this novel contains events which actually happened to real people.Ayn and Kira both returned to St.Petersburg (now Petrograd) in 1922, to find the social and political changes described in this book. They each managed to enroll at Petrograd University, after considerable bureaucratic resistance, and both found their career prospects after graduation to be severely limited, due to the continued stigma of their fathers' pre-Revolutionary social status. While both tried to leave the Soviet Union, only Ayn made it to America. Kira died at the border, which demands some explanation. Why did Ayn make the choice as an author to deny Kira a life in the West? Ayn always had a weakness for melodrama; did she kill Kira for the pure intense tragedy of it? Did she think it would put greater empahsis on the injustices of the Soviet system? (view spoiler)[ Why else end the novel with a sympathetic character both bleeding and freezing to death, alone in the dark, in the middle of nowhere? (hide spoiler)] It seems a bit too cruel, even for a novel whose entire point is outrage and cruelty. If you enjoy deriding Ayn Rand's wooden characters or her preachy, didactic writing style, this book won't be much fun for you. But if you're a more thoughtful type, who is curious about where her ideas came from, this is the book that tells it all. Sure, We the Living has hints of the moral certitude that makes Atlas Shrugged so shrill and irksome, but the story is heartfelt and the characters believable. Unfortunately, this best of Rand's novels also happens to be her first, so maybe she should have quit while she was ahead.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Natalie Budesa

(Slight spoilers)This is probably one of my favorite books by Ayn Rand. It is also the most depressing one in my opinion. The story can be simply summarized to a few characters wanting to escape communist Russia. For those wholly unfamiliar with Rand and her writing style, expect sometimes dry description, seemingly inhuman personalities and exaggerated circumstances. Usually, this writing style is pretty effective in communicating Rand's philosophy moreso than a work of fiction. That being said, We the Living tones all this down and Rand's views don't seem as present and important to the plot as in her other works. The story seems more about the story - people who could have existed in the historical context of communist Russia. Her usual superhuman characters are toned down and more real-life. They aren't powerful societal or corporate figures and they don't achieve great things; no one even builds anything though the protagonist, Kira Argounova, is studying engineering. Because of all this, this book is a good introduction to Ayn Rand for those who are faintly aware or want to learn a little of her philosophy. The heroes of the story, who typically succeed in superhuman ways in her other books, surprisingly disappointed me. Not in that they were poorly written or imagined, but in that they were all only human in the end. Because of this, Rand's views probably are communicated in the best way possible - they are not preached for pages on end, but told more simply, in a story where not much happens plot-wise. But Rand's writing style communicates so much happening within the characters - lost hopes, loves, and freedoms. Instead of the reader learning what Rand supports and cherishes in life through dramatic victories or long speeches, it is told through loss. The sadness of the story did not make me feel like Rand was a boasting, hot-headed egoist, but someone who could have developed her views from honest, desperate circumstances (though the story isn't intended as autobiographical). One of the saddest scenes to me was the description of a character examining a drawer of clothes, and I think that says something about the powerfulness of the writing and story (as to why that's sad, you'll just have to read). What is good in life is not stuffed down the reader's throat, glorified in an utopia as in Atlas Shrugged; it is torn away, like a gaping wound, bleeding red (pun intended). I'm not a Rand enthusiast or full-fledged supporter, but the simpler circumstances of the setting and simpler goals of the characters communicate Rand's views in the most touching way out of all her works.


Here's the thing: this book is fucking awesome. I'm a big fan of this theme - the whole "individual vs. the state" story. I think most of the books I've read in this vein were descended from "1984", but this is without doubt my favorite execution of the familiar thematic focus. This book was just so evocative for me; it did an incredible job of capturing the crushing force of living under a sociopolitical regime that cares not for the wants or needs of the individual. I found something incredibly uplifting about this tale of unrelenting downward pressure. It was simply...beautiful.I've recommended it to i-don't-know-how-many people, and very few people I've ever met have read it, but this book is one of my top 3, no doubt. I've never even read any of Ayn Rand's other books, which I guess makes me weird, but if I had to choose one book to keep me company while I was tossed into some super maximum security prison in the depths of the belly of the beast, it would be this one.

Marn Mg

Being Ayn's first book, she was writing mostly about her own experiences and the USSR communist philosophy's that were killing so many people. She wanted to tell the world (although at the time, sadly, the world would not listen). You don't need to agree with her beliefs to see what horrific crimes were occurring. You can see from future writings that her beliefs are further and more strongly developed after this book. Hence, while future books are more of a story wound around a set of beliefs, We The Living is mostly story (of course, based on real life). We The Living is written in a different style than future books as well, although extremely well written. Gripping and sad, the story reveals a specific point and place in a real history from an insider's perspective - something we are not often privy to.The absolute tyrannical and brainwashing power of the communist government is illustrated in ways such as: you could not get food without a food card, you could not get a food card without being a student in the communist schools teaching their propaganda or without having a job. You couldn't get a job without selling your soul to the communist belief system, by joining a "union" or "club" preaching communist beliefs. You couldn't stay in those unions or clubs without making it known visibly to all around you, constantly, that you felt strongly and lived by those beliefs. Any deviation from such could cost you your membership. This entailed doing things such as "volunteering" after a long day's work to teach children the communist beliefs through propagandistic methods. Everything was documented on papers that you had to carry around. If you didn't have the right approvals or stamps, you weren't accepted by the system and couldn't survive. Although there were no video camera's back then, there were eyes everywhere. Nothing could be easily hidden. In the desperate race for survival, family member was turned against family member. You eventually became a one-thought robot, solely for the purpose of being able to stay alive, to receive a slice of bread or a half pound of mildewy millet for the week. No time or energy was left to be able to keep and maintain your core beliefs. At a certain point the only choice left was to concede your thoughts or concede your life. When one is starving or threatened with imminent instant death, the governmental idea is that one will do anything for any small amount of somewhat edible food or grasp on live. It is eventually easier to just give in to what the government wants. They create an easily controllable population. This was all controlled by endless detailed paperwork, citizen files and people turning against other people; and how easy it was for the USSR government. Imagine how many millions of times easier this would be in this present-day future, with the internet, computers, programming, coding, video cameras, and endless ways to keep track of everyone's beliefs, on goings and day-to-day lives. Endless ways to distribute propaganda. Endless ways to control food, water, shelter and life through already existing government control on farms, water, means of transportation and fuel, heat, energy, banks, corporations, etc. It would not take much in the world of today, and every day it gets easier and easier.

Charlie Schlangen

My first foray into Ayn Rand (I have chosen to read her four major works in chronological order). The pages drip with her horror at the changes wrought by the Russian Revolution, and you cannot blame her for feeling the way she does. To watch as talented, successful, intelligent people were marginalized from society and education and the government and commerce in a sick and destructive pattern of retribution, only to find themselves replaced with people as callow and impecunious as they were accused of being must have been sickening. She definitely makes you sympathize with the situation. But it is harder, somehow, to sympathize with her characters. The protagonist, while she has big questions and big goals, and you want to root for her, somehow foreclosed my unqualified support for her because she was so disengaged, somehow, from her fellow man and family (except for her self-destructive passion, not clear if it's love, for her husband).

Anna Chudnovsky

That book made me to experience two opposit feelings. First, it is very well done as a book. Second - all things described is disgasting. The second feeling increased all time while I was reading it because I experienced such soviet reality from my childhood. Noone fresh mind could survived. I felt all kinds of suffocation, from physical to mental and spiritual. Many times during reading I asked myself why I am still do it. For my personal taste I would like to drop the book and never be back finish it. But the point was my friend recommended it to read after "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" which was one of the best books I`ve ever read and really helpful even as it was depressive sometimes. So I was waiting to see resurrection of characters of "We the Living" and my hope was breating till last 5 pages.On the last page I realized everything finished in natural way. No miricle. Nobody creative could survive. My conclusion: if you are interesting in such novels from a distance, read it. If you know what exectly is it in real life, you don`t have to read it. That`s a time machine. So much better to stop at "Atlas Shragged" and "The Fountainhead" and use it as a kind of map to make real life better, more clear, more creative and more productive.

Kendra Kettelhut

I just finished this book. My soul has never been so pained by a novel. Very few books affect me like this one did. I cannot explain other than it was so beautifully horrific. I knew very little about Communism or what the USSR was like. It caused so much anger and frustration in me, but the pain comes from the truths that it enlightens about humanity. We are creatures of pain and suffering and joy and and triumph. And no matter what pain we are dealt...we still have the capacity within ourselves to find the beauty and will that makes us go on; life. This is the first Ayn Rand novel I have read. It is her first novel. I would highly recommend this. It is an inventment of your soul, so read this when you have the endurance to enjoy Ayn Rand's We The Living.

Daniel Stevens

I really liked this book. The fact that she shows the protagonist going for the villain over the hero is interesting. I know Rand's favorite was the villain, Kovalensky, but I could relate more to the hero, Andrei Taganov. I found that I could relate more with him in the end than even the protagonist, Kira. Kovalensky, I found to be a worthless scoundrel. It's defintely worth a read for both the story as well as the view of what life was like in the early Soviet Union by someone who had actually lived there.

Jack Gardner

I really don't know that there is much I can say about this novel that hasn't already been said. We The Living is the most tragic of Ayn Rand's novels and possibly the most under appreciated. While it is clearly an early effort for her - her use of English is occasionally off and her style is not consistent throughout the novel - the story line is the most (I hate to use this word, but I can't think of a better way to put it) realistic of all her novels. There are no amazing machines or amazing feats in We The Living, the most amazing thing that anyone does is survive under the early Communist rule. However, the survivors are the villains of the book. Rand never allows her heroes to exist under tyranny. Kira and Andrei struggle against it in their own individual ways, one choosing death over a life of lost ideals and the other dying in an attempt to escape. Holding on to the idea of the individual must have been impossible in early Communist Russia. Rand should know - she escaped Russia in 1926. We The Living is probably one of the most accurate pieces of literature we have to depict what life was like under the initial Communist regimes. The 'great idea' that fueled the Revolution of 1917 turned in to what can only be called a 'great mess' that lasted for nearly 80 years and has still not completely resolved itself. If you are interested in life in the 1920's, We the Living is a must read book. The people of Russia had a very different experience with this decade compared to those of Europe and the US. While for much of the decade the big cities of the Western world were the Land of Plenty, the general Russian population was suffering hardships that made the poorest mid-western farmer seem to be living the life of a King. We the Living is a testament to man's ability to survive. It is a testament to Rand and held the seeds to her philosophy. It is an encouragement to all of us to strive to be the best we can be - even when the world is against us. It is also a warning to reason before revolt and to express as opposed to repress. You can take away an mans home, you can take away his possessions, you can take away his family, you can take his life, but his mind and soul are his and his alone unless he chooses to give them to you. It is a reminder to all of us, that every individual has that choice to make every day.

Paris Reynolds

Scary, scary book stemming from Rand's hatred of socialism. I hate to think that this is the closest thing to an autobiography she ever wrote. All of Ayn Rand's books have had an impact on my life after reading them, but this one affected me the most. I have never had such strong emotions from reading, watching or listening to anything before. My inner libertarian broke out after I recovered from the depression and I am a rampant believer in capitalism. I cringe at the thought of socialism in any form and I am afraid for this country and the world if they slowly continue to embrace it (again). This book is a real eye opener and although I wish everyone would read it, including our President, I don't wish its immeadiate side effects on anyone.


The one great benefit of reading We the Living is that it encapsulates pretty exactly what Rand spends many hundreds more pages doing in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead: mainly, hating on the collective, venerating capitalism, and (God help us all) describing how free-thinking women shouldn't be slaves to anyone except their capitalist sexual partners.I find Rand's philosophy beyond problematic, but to my mind We the Living helps explain just how she arrived at the ideas she entertained and became the person she did. It's not precisely an autobiography (only, as she demurs, "in the intellectual sense") but her descriptions of life in Soviet Russia are drawn from personal experience, and it's not difficult to see how that kind of traumatic personal experience could drive someone to the opposite philosophical extreme. I offer no theories whatsoever on what makes her romantic relationships so ridiculously rape-tastic. (Because that way lies madness.) Frankly, your mileage may vary with Rand depending on your political beliefs, but if you have to read something just to be able to engage in a conversation about her, I'd say start here. It's an early work, but I can promise from painful experience that her writing style never improves, so you might as well go for the short one. (And avoid Anthem. For the love of all that's holy, avoid Anthem!)


This book has a nice storyline told from the perspective of a young woman named Kira,16-18 years old, in the 1920s in Russia. Her family once owned a well to do shop. Her uncle has undying optimism that things will change for the better, and communism will wear out. At first Kira believes in his optimism, but later she sees the futility.Kira's dreams are slowly chipped away. She is kicked out of college, with communism seeking to cleanse itself of anyone associated with wealth as all ownership belongs to the people. Those who began with nothing rise in the party, only to become corrupt.Kira endeavors to leave the country with a new love, Leo. They are caught, but pitied for their young love. They move in together with meager rations. They have three rooms which the state fills with random people. The imagery of poultry rations and random people moving in claiming new ownership is exquisite. I thought it interesting that Kira who is starving never gets pregnant though a communist lady who moves in and has more rations gets pregnant and has an abortion.Leo becomes sick with Tb and Kira's only chance at getting him into a sanatorium is by having an elusive affair with Andrei, a man high in the communist ranks. Leo goes to a sanatorium and survives Tb which makes one wonder about the therapy of sunshine and rest.The love triangle begins. Like many, I hoped Kira would leave Leo for Andrei, but Kira's heart remains with Leo.All characters in the book suffer, none succeed, and many perish. Efforts yield disappointment.If you're looking for a feel good novel, this is not for you, though you may be thankful to live in better circumstances than Kira.

Richard Houchin

If you ever want to acquire a keen appreciation for food, read any story about the USSR. History or fiction, doesn't matter. Mildewed millet and one loaf of bread a month is enough to break anyone!We The Living is an illustration of the loneliness that seems the unavoidable consequence of any who possess an Objectivist viewpoint. One passage in the book made me laugh in appreciation for how true it rang in my life. Kira says,"Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they'd never understand what I meant. It's a bad question. It can mean so much that it really means nothing. So I ask them if they believe in God. And if they say they do--then I know they don't believe in life."This is because no matter to whom you are speaking, no matter what religion they follow, God is always the highest conception of the highest possible. A believer in God has placed their highest conception above their own possibility, above their own life. Whatever such a person believes in, it isn't life."It's a rare gift," Kira says, "to feel reverence for your own life and to want the best, the greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own. To imagine a heaven and then not to dream of it, but to demand it."Just as celebrations are for those who have something to celebrate, life is for the living, not those who cherish the thoughts of their own death, and the after-life rewards which await them for their obedience.


Part VIII of a multi-part review series.Anti-communists in early Soviet Russia very astonishingly come to bad end. Introduced by Peikoff, who claims that Rand’s first novel was, instead of this one, almost “set in an airship orbiting the earth” (v) which would’ve been kinda cool, except now we have Against the Day, which likely would’ve embarrassed Rand’s hypothetical effort as much as Solzhenitsyn humiliates this one.Rand’s own forward contains the normal cacogogic posturing. For instance:“Writers are made, not born. To be exact, writers are self-made” (xiii);Neo-spenglerianism: “The rapid epistemological degeneration of our present age” (xiv);“The Naturalist school of writing consists of substituting statistics for one’s standard of value” (id.);A nice admission regarding the maturity of her ideas: “I am still a little astonished at times, that too many adult Americans do not understand the nature of the fight against Communism as clearly as I understood it at the age of twelve: they continue to believe that only Communist methods are evil, while Communist ideals are noble” (xv);To support her juvenile contention that the soviet system is unable to produce anything, she answers Sputnik and the Soviet nuclear program with “Read the story of ‘Project X’ in Atlas Shrugged“ (xvi). So, even here, in her first novel, we do not escape the constant refrain of spurious John Galt glossings.She concludes the forward with “The specific events of [protagonist’s] life were not mine; her ideas, her convictions, her values were and are” (xvii). This statement is stunning in two respects: the first discredits any and all “events” recorded in the novel--I was initially willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, as a Russian ex-pat, that some of the events described may have a factual basis. But she has thrown the “events” of the novel under the train. It accordingly lacks credibility as a document reflecting historicity.The second respect is that, even while distancing herself from the events described, she adopts protagonist’s ideology. Protagonist goes on to record the following observations, which should be considered as incorporated by reference in extenso to author’s ideology:Defining the relevant class position: protagonist’s family once owned a textile factory, which was nationalized (21), and protagonist once lived in a “vast mansion” and “had an English governess” (45);“From somewhere in the aristocratic Middle Ages, [protagonist] had inherited the conviction that labor and effort were ignoble” (49);Regarding the Russian Revolution: protagonist did depose and state that “It is an old and ugly fact that the masses exist and make their existence felt. This is a time when they make it felt with particular ugliness” (58) (my only question is how the Evil Bolsheviks held off on shooting her until page 460?);Affirmed that protagonist believes in “miracles” (61); Regarding the “Internationale”: “She tried not to listen to the words. The words spoke of the damned, the hungry, the slaves, of those who had been nothing and shall be all; in the magnificent goblet of the music, the words were not intoxicating as wine; they were not terrifying as blood; they were gray as dish water” (73);Protagonist adopts Rand’s comment from the preface regarding the distinction between methods and ideals: “I loathe your ideals” (89), said to a GPU agent, which inexplicably does not get her shot in this Evil Empire tale;Reveals herself to be a real peach: “Can you sacrifice the few? When those few are the best? Deny the best its right to the top--and you have no best left. What are your masses but millions of dull, shriveled, stagnant souls that have no thoughts of their own, no dreams of their own, no will of their own, who eat and sleep and chew helplessly the words others put into their brains? And for those who would sacrifice the few who know life, who are life? I loathe your ideals because I know no worse injustice than the giving of the undeserved. Because men are not equal in ability and one can’t treat them as if they were. And because I loathe most of them” (90)--we should compare Mussolini’s comments from a 1922 article (anthologized in Italian Fascisms From Pareto to Gentile): “The sun of the Russian myth has already set. Light is no longer shining from the East, where terrible news of death and famine is coming out of Russia; we are receiving desperate appeals by socialists and anarchists in Petrograd against Lenin's reactionary policies. Professor Ulianov is now a Tsar scrupulously following the internal and external policies of the Romanovs. The former Basle professor did not perhaps imagine that he would end up as a reactionary; but obviously governments have to suit themselves to those they govern and the enormous human army of Russians--patient, resigned, fatalistic and oriental--is incapable of living in freedom; they need a tyrant; now more than ever, they, like every other people in fact, even those in the West, are anxiously looking for something solid in their institutions, ideas, and men, havens where they can cast anchor for a while and rest their souls, tired out with much wandering.” Coupled with Mussolini’s concept that fascism is managed inequality, with rule by the elite, the triumph of the few over quantity, it is readily apparent that Rand’s politics are one-part fascistic, at least in their assumptions, if not in their overall policy preferences. She may rant about individualism, whereas fascism specifically opposes individualism, but conceptually the misanthropy is substantially identical, as is the basis for the opposition to left economics.In the midst of world historical occurrences, protagonist laments the lack of compliments for “her new dress” (98), obsesses over “lipstick and silk stockings” (119), and files a civil case over some converted home furnishings (180), which case is lost;She resents “novels by foreign authors in which a poor, honest worker was always sent to jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed the starving mother of his pretty young wife who had been raped by a capitalist and committed suicide thereafter, for which the all-powerful capitalist fired her husband from the factory, so that their child had to beg on the streets and was run over by the capitalist’s limousine with sparkling fenders and a chauffeur in uniform” (136-37) (does that book actually exist?);She is very proud of herself “that she was actually corrupting a stern Communist. She regretted that the corruption could go no further” (157); And on and on. There’re egregiously annoying bits on protagonist throughout, but do I need to report any more? Safe to conclude, rather , that she’s horrible (and that conclusion has nothing to do with maintaining two separate sexual relationships simultaneously), and that her ideas and convictions are author’s ideas and convictions, as stated in the forward, the misanthropic ideas and fascistic convictions. Good job!Novel otherwise has a number of amusing defects:The NEP is noted to be a “temporary compromise,” which appears to me to misstate the relationship between so-called war communism and the new economic policy (32) (and again at 308-09);Predicts with hope the fascist invasion of Russia: “Do you think Europe is blind? Watch Europe. She hasn’t said her last word yet. The day will come--soon--when these bloody assassins, these foul scoundrels, that Communist scum” (38);It is asserted that “Czar Alexander II had magnanimously freed” the Russian serfs (48);And so on. There’s plenty to criticize, and I lack the energy. Suffice it to say that the criticism of left policy here is less about its proper function (as alleged in Atlas Shrugged) and more about the deviation from policy, as noted in a “breach of party discipline” (104) and in a litany of abuses of non-doctrinal nature (321-22), and again in communist apparatchik conspiracy with aristocrat boyfriend later (394 ff.);Slavophile philosopher proclaims at one point that Russia “has lost [its future] in materialistic pursuits. Russia’s destiny has ever been of the spirit. Holy Russia has lost her God and her Soul” (154);Protagonist’s boyfriend tells her other boyfriend that “I’m studying philosophy […] because it’s a science that the proletariat of the RSFSR does not need at the moment” (155);A fairly dismissive attitude toward human suffering: “Petrograd had known sweeping epidemics of cholera; it had known epidemics of typhus, which were worse; the worst of its epidemics was that of ‘John Gray,’” which is apparently some form of popular dance (id.)—I’d’ve thought that the human suffering should be the point of an anti-communist writing;One of protagonist’s boyfriend’s alleges “the essential immutability of human nature,” a comical conceit (302);Has communists expressing their “idealism” (309), which is not a Marxist doctrine, of course (we could be charitable and assume that the commies doing the expressing are incorrect doctrinally, I suppose—but then that weakens the Atlas Shrugged critique that the failures of communism arise from its correct implementation);Novel misunderstands or misrepresents the Leninist theory of democratic centralism in such comments as “why do you think you are entitled to your own thoughts? Against those of the majority of your collective?” (311)—leninist centralism is not necessarily something that I’d endorse, but this is a bogtus caricature;Protagonist’s second boyfriend crumbles ideologically for no apparent reason, just up and throws in the towel, presumably after pre-reading Atlas Shrugged, considering that he has adopted part of Galt’s rant: “We were to raise men to our own level. But they don’t rise, the men we’re ruling, they don’t grow [this, merely in 1925!], they’re shrinking. They’re shrinking to a level no human creatures ever reached before [!!!]. And we’re sliding slowly down into their ranks. We’re crumbling, like a wall, one by one. Kira, I’ve never been afraid. I’m afraid, now. It’s a strange feeling. I’m afraid to think. Because…because I think, at times, that perhaps our ideals have had no other result” (334), which is a line of revelation not earned by any preparatory work in the novel whatsoever. Didn’t Rand state that she abhors the undeserved? This character reversal and recantation is one of the most undeserved that I can recall.Anyway: a more or less dull, tendentious, below average novel, made horrible by author’s marginal contributions. Full of laments from dispossessed Russian aristocrats, which we are apparently to take seriously--protagonist’s primary boyfriend is a dispossessed aristocrat. Presentations of Soviet propaganda items falls flat, insofar as they are not typically manifestly insane, but sound in the same register as any other state’s propaganda, which normally ranges from boringly true (“Just Say No to Drugs!”) to blatantly self-serving and thus readily identifiable and disregardable (“The Leader is Good!”). Problem is that the tendentious anti-communist conclusion is not well supported by the facts of the novel, which records deviations from communist party discipline and reinforces the communist propaganda that saboteurs, traitors, and speculators were fucking up the economy. That kind of inconsistency is less than persuasive. Recommended for those who miss their priceless pieces of antique porcelain, readers who smuggle human flesh out of this wolf trap, and Sir Galahads of the blackmail sword.


Erotica at its best. We the Living is about a young lady with a brilliant mind and a ferocious appetite for sex. The book begins with Kira, a hot little harlot who might have been working at a strip joint (if they weren't so damn bourgeois!), as she seeks to find a nightlife for herself in her newly Soviet city of Petrograd. Posing as a prostitute in a red light district, she quickly forms her first life-long sexual bond with the first guy who comes along. He happens to be a philosopher, and that's how this book meets its philosophy quota. Over time, her close personal friendship with a secret police agent (WTF?!?) becomes sexual, and the real story begins. Truly, trying to masquerade as faithful to multiple sexual partners is something we can all relate to. A must read for any hip cat.

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