The Intellectual Activist
An Objectivist Review
Ayn Rand: We the Living
Categories: Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand, the Russian-American author famous for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, began her career as a published author with We the Living. Released in 1936, Rand’s first novel was not a success in America but many attribute that to the lack of marketing by the hesitant publishing company. The publisher was unsure that an anti-communist book would do well at the time and destroyed the printing plates after only 3,000 copies of the book had been made. A British publishing company had picked up the book as well and the novel did considerably better in Europe. The novel remained in print until the 1940’s. Rand claimed that We the Living was as close to an autobiography as she would ever write. Stating that the setting was the backdrop of her early life, however, the details of the story being told was not.

We the Living

Taking place over the span of three years, We the Living addresses the life of Kira Argounova living in post-revolutionary Russia. The story begins with Kira returning to Petrograd along with her family after being exiled by the Bolsheviks. Kira begins attending school with the hopes of becoming an engineer where she meets Andrei Taganov. Andrei is also a student, an officer in the Soviet secret police, and a communist idealist. Despite their differences, they develop an admiration for one another.

One day Kira meets Leo, an attractive man of a like mind and she is immediately in love with him. They decide to run away together and escape the fate the state is trying to force upon them. Kira and Leo befall many twists that threaten to tear them apart. Caught while attempting to leave the country, they narrowly escape imprisonment. Kira, being of a bourgeois background, is expelled from school and loses her job. Leo, who has fallen ill, and Kira respond in dramatically different ways to the obstacles they face and a wedge has been driven between them.

Through it all Kira has maintained her friendship with Andrei and he eventually professes his love for her. Kira sees this as an opportunity to use Andrei and his money to get Leo the treatment he needs to live. Once Leo is well again things take a tragic turn as Andrei begins investigating Leo’s dealings on the black market. Through the course of his investigation, Andrei discovers that he has been lied to by Kira and, after securing Leo’s freedom, takes his own life. Leo leaves Kira for a more promiscuous lifestyle, and Kira decides to flee the country for freedom. Just as she is about to cross the border, she is shot and killed with freedom just beyond her reach.

In 1959, coming off of the success of Atlas Shrugged, Rand revised and republished her first novel, We the Living. Many have questioned some of the revisions Rand made to the second release, but all agree, her Objectivist ideals clearly show through as she seeks to expose the fallacies of communism. To date, more than three million copies have sold worldwide.

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