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We the Living

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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  17,598 ratings  ·  914 reviews
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 portra...more
Paperback, 60th Anniversary Edition, 464 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Signet (first published 1936)
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Community Reviews

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oliver
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 incredibl...more
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 un
...more
Amanda
I know its popular among American youth to essentially worship Ayn Rand. My main problems are two fold. Putting aside philosophical differences for a moment, i just think it was bland writing; i didnt feel for the characters, and i found the dialogue unbelievable.

Now, philosophically, i disagree with Rand greatly and I find her argument for 'objectivism' if you will, quite weak. she fails to make a fair connection between what happened in the USSR and why that should lead to such a undying love...more
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 ourselve...more
BirdBrian
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 rep...more
Sporkurai
May 05, 2007 Sporkurai rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Playas
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 tha...more
Lorrie Savoy
This book disturbs me and I don't quite know how to respond to it. On the one hand, the reality of Soviet Russia in the 1920's is haunting; the descriptions of food (or the lack of it) stayed with me, making me reflect on and enjoy my own meals while I was reading it and for a few days after. I also feel that it would work as a companion piece for 1984 because the tensions between the sordid details of daily life and the hypocrisy of the political system are clearly seen in both books. Rand's p...more
Mimi
If you liked Ayn Rand's other books, you'd like this one too.

If you like her politics and enjoy her writing, then this is a must-read because it's practically an autobiography.

If none of the above applies, then this would be an unpleasant experience.

*


More palatable than Atlas Shrugged and much less root-canal-y than Fountainhead is probably the most accurate way to describe my reaction upon finishing. And I did finish, much to my surprise. It wasn't as unpleasant as I thought. I'd expected to s...more
Пүрэвбазар
Би төвт үзэл буюу эгоизм, либерал үзлийн томоохон төлөөлөгч гэгддэг ширүүн дориун харцтай Еврэй эмэгтэйг дотроо ийм романтик хүн байх юм чинээ төсөөлсөнгүй. Айн Рэндийн анхны удаа хэвлүүлсэн "Бид амьд хүмүүс" гэх энэхүү романы үйл явдал 1922-25 онд тухайн үеийн ЗХУ-ын Петроград одоогийн Санкт-Петербург хотод ээдрээт хувь тавилангаар холбогдсон гурван залуугийн түүхээр өрнөнө.


Кира бол зохиолын гол баатар. Урьд өмнө нь бишгүй л роман уншиж байсан ч зохиолын гол дүрд ингэтлээ татагдаж байсан удаагү...more
Rob
This book helped clear up some of Rand's religious philosophy. At one point, the Heroin asks a friend if he believes in God. When the friend answers no, she says that was the right answer, because if you believe in God then you don't believe in life. She goes on to explain that when people believe in God they believe in something higher than themselves that they can never achieve, and she doesn't want to believe that there is something she can never achieve. I found her reason for being an athei...more
Chrissie
Where to start? How to explain why I like it so very much?

I like Ayn Rand's style of writing. Her language is strong, clear and not in the least subtle. I think I could recognize it in the future. The reader observes what the characters do. Very little introspection. The plot fits the language and the behavior of the characters. Strong, determined people - no not people, just one character, but she is the central character. Kira is her name. This book is autobiographical, but only in the sense t...more
sologdin
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:

“Writ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Ayn Rand is/was an interesting, intelligent woman. This is her first novel. If you're reading it simply for the novel then skip the introduction. If on the other hand you are interested in Ms. Rand's thought processes then by all means read the introduction. This is (of course) a newer edition (as the book was written in 1925. Ms. Rand wants us to understand that this is not a novel about the Soviet Union but a novel (in her words) of "man against the state".

While I am not a "student" or followe...more
Marts  (Thinker)
First published in 1936, the novel ‘We the Living’ by Ayn Rand is, as stated in the preface, ‘the closest she would ever come to writing an autobiography’. The novel follows three years in the life of a young girl, her family, and acquaintances, all of which must face the varied hardships of a post-revolutionary Russia.
Now Ayn Rand (born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum) was born, raised and educated in Russia. She came from a bourgeois family and in Saint Petersburg (later referred to on separate oc...more
Rebecca F.
Instantly as visceral as her more popular later work, Rand's first novel set in early 20th-century communist Russia can really stir you up -- that is, if you support her views on individualism and passion for life, which I do. Like her other novels, the characters are boldly drawn archetypes, strong and obvious, minus extraneous detail that could be distracting from the philosophical ideal overlaying the plot. While Rand experienced first-hand much of the life in Russia she portrays in We the Li...more
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 ac...more
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...more
Lo
I'm going to kind of branch out here and do a different review and talk just what I felt strongly about in this book. If you would like a brief summary, wikipedia does an excellent job.
Anyways, this book was one of the most devastatingly beautiful books I've ever read. The scene between Irina and Sascha broke my heart - it's one of the moments where, in typical Rand fashion, she weaves her characters into such real but horrendously tragic situations you just weep. I would recommend this book to...more
Debbie Petersen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Velvetink
".......My heart is a tractor raking the soil,
My soul is smoke from the factory oil..." = page 163

I just 're-found" this old paperback in my old backpack stashed under my parents house. I never finished it. I originally found it in the back seat pocket hold-it-all on a Garuda flight from Indonesia...wondering if we'd ever make it through the electrical storm- the plane kept suddenly dropping and the lights flickering & I was frantically searching for the map/plan of the planes exit doors (th...more
Carole
This is the most interesting and heartbreaking novel I've read in a very long time. I have thoroughly enjoyed anything I've ever read by Ayn Rand. Not because of her life philosophy, but because of her strong characters. This book is no different. However, it is set in 1920's communist Russia rather than 1940's United States like the others I've read. I have about 100 pages left to read, and I can barely bring myself to finish. I know it is all going to end badly. For everyone. And, unbeknownst...more
heather
While I enjoyed the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged for their unbending optimism in man's potential, Rand's didactic promotion of her philosophical ideals would overshadow the story in numerous places. Anthem was interesting in a 1984, Fahrenheit 451 type of way. Enjoyable.

However, We the Living offers a sucker-punch of a tale about cold war Soviet Union, with none of the laboriousness of the first two, and much better characterizations than Anthem. Not my all-time favorite book, but I felt I le...more
Walter
In the foreword that she wrote for the 1959 edition of her own novel "We the Living", Ayn Rand wrote, "I had not reread this novel as a whole, since the time of its first publication in 1936, until a few months ago. I had not expected to be as proud of it as I am." Well, I'm glad that Rand is so proud of her own first novel. As for me, I am less than impressed.

The novel takes place between 1922 and 1926, during the turbulent years after the Bolshevik Revolution. Most histories and novels that I...more
Jennifer
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...more
Hannah
Ayn Rand's controversial ideas and politics aside, I think this is a great novel. I don't find any of the characters very likable, except some of the supporting characters like Irina, and Andrei in his good moments. What I love about this book is the plot line and the portrait of Soviet Russia.

I read in the introduction by Leonard Peikoff that part of Rand's inspiration for the novel was to take a traditional love story plot line, that of a good woman giving herself to a villain for the sake of...more
David
This is my first rating. Now, this says a lot about the book because it made me anxious to maybe encourage you to read it (and if you've read it, give it a second read).

Ayn Rand said this book would be as much as an autobiography as she would write: “The specific events of Kira's life were not mine; her ideas, her convictions, her values were and are.”

Kira Argounova is tired of the same routine. She thinks there is nothing else in the world but her one and only conviction: studying at the Unive...more
Shanta Shastri
Mind blowing. Heartbreaking. Uncovers all effects when an impossible and irrational ideal is adapted by a country. The Communism.
Parkavi
My first book in 2014! I started this year with my favourite author Ayn Rand.

The book is as amazing as her every other book and is slightly different from her other best works as well. Unlike her other books its not about construction of a new world but the destruction of an old world.

Its about a war to put an end to the Exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, but it actually was a war against political power which exploited not just the citizens, but the comrades as well.

Its about...more
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...more
Magi
Aug 11, 2008 Magi rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: None
Shelves: not-good
Started this book with some enthusiasm. I liked 'The Fountainhead' and to some extent 'Atlas Shrugged' also. So started to read this book in an attempt to complete all of Ayn Rand's works. I was surprised to find the book empty. I mean she does not convey anything new other than 'objectivism'. Alright, the idea of 'objectivism' is to stay 'logically selfish' - I mean do not hurt or trouble others (to the maximum extent possible!) in your self-happiness-seeking process (may be by staying honest)...more
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The Book Addicts!: We the Living by Ayn Rand 1 7 Feb 07, 2014 10:02AM  
book review 2 37 Oct 26, 2012 11:38AM  
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Alisa Rosenbaum was born in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg to a prosperous Jewish family. When the Bolsheviks requisitioned the pharmacy owned by her father, Fronz, the Rosenbaums fled to the Crimea. Alisa returned to the city (renamed Leningrad) to attend the university, but in 1926 relatives who had already settled in America offered her the chance of joining them there. With money from the sa...more
More about Ayn Rand...
Atlas Shrugged The Fountainhead Anthem The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism Atlas Shrugged & The Fountainhead

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“She smiled. She knew she was dying. But it did not matter any longer. She had known something which no human words could ever tell and she knew it now. She had been awaiting it and she felt it, as if it had been, as if she had lived it. Life had been, if only because she had known it could be, and she felt it now as a hymn without sound, deep under the little whole that dripped red drops into the snow, deeper than that from which the red drops came. A moment or an eternity- did it matter? Life, undefeated, existed and could exist. She smiled, her last smile, to so much that had been possible.” 63 likes
“Because, you see, God—whatever anyone chooses to call God—is one's highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life. It's a rare gift, you know, 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.” 55 likes
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