We The Living- Ayn Rand
It was a rage among my group of friends. And I used to wonder what is so outrageous about this book. I set out to discover. Thus I got my copy of ‘We The Living’, the first one by Ayn Rand. The woman must have been quite headstrong herself to have written such a novel (for the lack of a stronger word).
(Warning: may contain spoilers)
This book holds within itself the lives of three people. But it has no intention of just holding them in because those three people are the embodiments of three characteristics attributable to the extremities of human race. The three characteristics are extreme love, extreme love and extreme love – though the recipient in each case is different. One is extreme love for freedom and life – that the protagonist Kira embodies. She wishes to be an engineer in a fighting country where her class is looked down upon. Amidst the hypocrisies of socialism, she gets into the institute. Her will to live freely is consummate, so is her perseverance against all odds. While in the institute, she becomes close friends with a fellow student, Andrei – who embodies extreme love for idealism and honesty. He is also a member of the socialist party. Both Kira and Andrei have the highest respect for each other despite their difference in political opinions.
Then comes Leo- who is the embodiment of extreme love for the self. Kira chances upon him one night and immediately falls in love. Both own a free spirit, which, it shows later, was much exaggerated in Leo. Both hated the socialist totalitarianism. By crook, they are able to escape the oppressed city. They are passionate in the beginning until differences start to creep in because of Leo’s extreme views, verging towards the foolhardy and Kira’s realist. Amidst all this Kira is expelled from the college because of her anti-party opinions which she was not afraid to voice. Cash starts to get extinct. To add to the woes, Leo develops tuberculosis. Kira wishes to turn to Andrei to help but Andrei avoids her for a reason that escapes her. She later confronts him and gets to know the reason – that he has fallen in love with her. Andrei knew nothing about Kira’s relationship with Leo, so with no intention of hurting him but rather for Leo’s sake, she accepts. She keeps visiting Andrei and each time they make love. Then one day Kira musters enough courage to ask for the money. He is more than happy to give.
Here Leo is cured and comes back – changed. With the help of some friends, he opens a shop that runs an illegal business and earns a lot of money. Kira is not happy with all this, she also tries to correct Leo. Incidentally, unaware of Leo’s identity, Andrei sets out to discover the truth about the shop he had been hearing bad things about. He solves it and on the day of the arrest, Andrei raids Leo’s house and finds, in the drawers, panties that Kira wore on the nights they made love. Things become clearer now. Kira explains to him that it was all for Leo’s sake as he was suffering. Andrei is hurt but her respect for her grows even more. Andrei goes against himself to get Leo out for Kira’s sake. Because of this, he gets expelled from the party he was so loyal about. He commits suicide.
Leo is free but suspicious about Kira’s relation with Andrei. Leo decides to go to another city to earn more money. He tells her about the Decision and asks if she had slept with Andrei. Kira confirms but asks him if he would still have taken the decision had she not slept with him, he says ‘Yes’. Kira feels no need to explain him the real reason. Now her ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ heart yearns to escape to her home, her country. She is just a step from the border when she is shot. Till the end she was faithful and loyal to Leo. And Leo, he goes ALONE to the other state and becomes a gigolo.
The story is so powerful that you start feeling so strongly for the characters. Kira, who had been the epitome of strength and the will to live, dies. Andrei, the idealist, the honest, commits suicide after he gives in to the corrupt. And Leo – one might think he lived, but I think living can not be worse. He probably just survived.
I fell in love with it and would love to see a HUUUGE fan-list of the book from those who love a good read.