We The Living by Ayn Rand

“This is as close as I will get to writing an autobiography”.
This is what critically acclaimed author Ayn Rand has to say about her first book We The Living. Ayn Rand was born in Russia and was a witness to the Bolshevik Revolution. The author’s objective of writing the book was to tell the world of the harsh realities that resulted from the communist philosophy as opposed to the promises by the Soviet Government of building a utopian Society for its people. The author denounced the concept practiced by the totalitarian state where the individual needs are sacrificed for the state.


The underlying theme of the book is that of the strength of the human spirit during times of crisis.


It provides a dual outlook to a Proletarian state; though it does not justify either. The life of a bourgeois capitalist and that of a member of the red army have been explained. The book revolves around the lives of three central characters: Kira Argounova- the female protagonist of the book is a representation of Rand’s outlook on life and her beliefs. Akin to the author, Kira is opposed to the Marxist philosophy of surrender of self to the state. She dreams of becoming an architect someday, which was an unconventional choice for women of that era. She does not have any social obligations and believes that the only obligation she has is to her own self. Another example of her non-conformist attitude is reflected in her decision of living with Leo as an unwed couple.


Leo Kovalensky- the love of Kira’s life is inspired by Ayn’s first love, whose name was also coincidentally, Leo. It is love at first sight when Leo and Kira meet each other for the first time. Ayn’s explanation of Leo at any juncture of the book describes him as a perfect man, who due to his situations falls short of fulfilling his true potential. He is described as an incarnation of Adonis and Rand goes into explaining the details of his masculine frame with such precision, it makes you visualize him at his best and understand why Kira is so helplessly in love with him.


The other man in Kira’s life is Andrei Taganov, a member of the Red Army. Andrei is described as a man of character and principles. Though Kira and Andrei have opposite beliefs and political philosophy, they are brought together in friendship by their underlying passion of surrendering life to their causes. Andrei’s for the Marxist philosophy and the belief that he is working to provide his fellow comrades with a better tomorrow and Kira’s for architecture and beautiful buildings. Andrei though initially is hinted to be the villain of the story turns out to be the real hero. He takes his life when he finds out that the cause he so intensely believed in and worked for has died and all that is left is just exploitation in the name of beliefs and philosophies he so dearly cherished.


For me, the book provides examples of strength and conviction in ones dream. It teaches that a certain amount of stubbornness is necessary to get you to survive in extreme situations. The Love of Kira for Leo and Andrei’s for Kira is an illustration of pure, unconditional love, the kind of love which does not desire to consume but just Love- for better or for worse. This book to me is an inspiration and provides an anchor in the face of various dilemmas in life.


Jyotika Marwah

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